We usually hear about churches embracing lasers, fog machines, and other gimmicks and experiencing massive swelling in attendance. We occasionally hear about other churches that have grown tired of such gimmicks. In many of those cases the tendency is to pirate older practices from stable traditions and turn them into new gimmicks: this is why we see megachurches celebrating Lent or painting icons, for example. In the long run, however, the observant observer may see the cynicism in such an approach: catering church doctrine and/or church practice to the appetites of unbelievers in exchange for earthly gain has been with us since the days of Simon Magus. Whether the sale of indulgences or the Purpose Driven Church, man-centered religion we will always have with us.
It is surprising, however, when mainline churches do it too. As told in this article by Dustin Messer on The Gospel Coalition, even liberals are succumbing to the appeal of the cynical customer retention strategies of the mid-1990’s.