Have you ever heard someone use this phrase before: “You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar”?
I’ve never actually “field tested” this, but I think the point is that if you want to attract people you will be more successful with something sweet rather than with something bitter.
Who doesn’t like a kind word over a rude word? Truthful words are always helpful, but when are harsh, cruel, spiteful tones in a conversation ever helpful? I think this is likely the origin of a phrase like this. (I want to, first of all, say, “why do you want to waste your honey on flies?”)
But what happens when one applies a phrase that means one thing in a particular situation to an altogether different situation?
For example, today, while I was watering my garden, I noticed both flies and bees flying around and remembered being told once in my early ministry that if we want to attract people to our churches, we have better success with “honey” rather than “vinegar”.
This may be true in how we speak to people, all people. Be kind, sweet, gentle, friendly, etc. If you want to turn people away then just be rude, crude, harsh, brutal, etc.
But when we apply this to methodologies I think we can run into a risky, unintended conclusion.
Here’s what I mean: We may likely be able to attract a bigger crowd with flashy activity. It’s a proven fact that churches across the land are doing a lot of things and it appears to be attracting more people.
There runs a problem with employing this kind of thinking to church growth. When we begin thinking that the current gathering crowd is here because we’ve done something “sweet” for them, we’ve pulled a “bait and switch.” It may well be that we gave them what they want, but is what we’re giving them that which is the sweetest?
Now, I don’t know of any church that would dare say that the word of God is like vinegar. However, I know many churches that treat the word of God like vinegar. This is the unintended conclusion that is implied when we use this American proverb to the church.
But what if there was something sweeter than honey? Wouldn’t it make sense then, that churches would use what is sweeter than honey and begin treating what we call “honey” like vinegar?
Reader, if you’re employing worldly philosophy that treats God as anything but the highest pleasure imaginable, then you are nursing on vinegar.
Churches of the Magic Valley, if you are employing trickery to gather a people because you don’t think the word of God is the most helpful thing for people, then you are keeping people from the most valuable, pleasurable thing God has ever given us.
This is how God puts it:
7. The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.