Saturday, April 5, 2014

Marketing Jesus and the Gospel

The other day I checked the blog of a young friend. By young, I mean my son's age – in her twenties. She enjoys dabbling in art and was asked by her mother-in-law to create a logo for her mother-in-law's new venture, a Christian weight loss program. As I sat there looking at some of the sketches which she had posted, several thoughts came to mind. The first was, what exactly does this woman mean by Christian weight loss program? Is this a business venture where she is going to collect money from clients or just a free community class that she is volunteering to oversee? If it is a business venture in which she plans on collecting money, I would have to ask, why is Christ being used to market this new business venture? If she needs a logo, then it would seem that this is more than just a bunch of people from the church getting together to use the same diet technique, have weigh-ins, and possibly exercise together under her instruction. One does not need a logo for that. An announcement in the church bulletin would suffice. From the need for the business logo, I suspect it might be one of those adult education classes that are offered all over the place for fees, like basket weaving or cake decorating. Or possibly she is opening a weight loss center.

Then I have to follow up that question with, what makes this weight loss program “Christian?” Losing weight is not a concept taught in the Scriptures as a part of our living and abiding in the Lord. It is not mentioned anywhere. Does part of this program require that people have to pray and use Scriptures to encourage their effort? This is not a bad thing in and of itself. Or is it a weight loss program only for Christians and others are not being welcomed or at least expected to come, which would make sense if she does require prayer and Scripture reading as part of the program, for non-Christians would be offended by this. That would, however, be a serious curtailment to any monetary gains as a business, if this is what she has planned. If the idea is that this is to be a ministry, does that not defeat the purpose, by ostracizing non-Christians right at the start by prominently announcing that it is essentially a “closed” club for Christians? Have we become an elitist country club rather than followers of Christ?

Finally I have to ask, why does she want a logo in which, according to my young friend's post, she required the cross as part of the logo? Could she not imply the Christian atmosphere by giving it a name which conveyed that idea? The sketches, which I found very offensive, included things such as a cross with a tape measure wrapped around it and a cross on top of some scales.

I don't know how you, the reader, feels about this, but I am terribly offended. I do not care to see my Lord used as a marketing tool for someone's business, whether it is lucrative (which makes it even worse) or not. I am not a big fan of using the cross to represent our Lord to begin with, for it was an instrument of torture. Would we so proudly display a guillotine around our neck or in our ears, if that were how our Savior died? I doubt it. Why do we so proudly display a graven image of the instrument of His horrible death? This has puzzled me for a long time. But that is another topic for another time. The fact is, Christianity does use this logo, and if it is going to use it, should it not be treated with a modicum of respect and not used as a cutesy picture to combine with some other object to market a business venture? That just seems blasphemous to me. In my eyes it is treating it with at least flippancy, if not mockery, just as the world does.

People may convince themselves that by putting the cross on or with something in a picture or logo, it is a witness of that person's faith. I do not believe it is. I see it as cheapening the great sacrifice that was made on that cross by combining it with some marketable venture, making the cross of Christ a part of the god, mammon. What does a tape measure have to do with our salvation? Will losing inches save your soul? Will bringing the number on the scale down a few or more pounds give you eternal life? How dare we try to sell our merchandise with our faith as its companion.

This brings us to the real problem. Why are so many people marketing the gospel? When did God's Word become merchandise? Some of the biggest businesses going are these mega churches. The pastors of these churches, in many cases, live like millionaires. Who has not heard of the gold-plated faucets in the home of one former so-called Christian TV preacher? How many of these televangelists ask you to send in your money for this, that, or something else, which has nothing to do with bringing the gospel to the world, but fills their pockets, while making the sender feel that they will have their prayers for miracles of either perfect health, or financial success beyond their wildest dreams answered as a result? Even those who are not the well-known TV personalities, the little guys with their blogs and self-published Bible commentary e-books, want a little piece of the pie. (I can understand having to charge for printed books to cover the cost of printing. Unless you are a millionaire and can afford to give them away, it is necessary.) Instead of freely giving, because God has freely given to us, they ask you to sign up and pay a fee to access their opinions and teachings. Where does it say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel, but make sure they pay up front before you tell them what you think I had to say.” Quite honestly if a person charges to access their “truths,” online, I make a quick and hasty retreat. I know where I can get the truth free of charge. It's called the Bible. You don't even have to buy one these days. The Bible is online for all to access. And there are some ministries that still hand out Bibles for free. Are we so money hungry and driven that we feel we need to charge people for our views of what the Bible says? And in many cases I am sure that many of these people are not giving the truth anyhow, for if they were truly only concerned about getting out God's truth, would they feel comfortable charging for it? The excuse is, Paul said the shepherd is worthy of his hire.

1 Corinthians 9:11-14 “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the alter are partakers with the alter? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”

1 Timothy 5:17-18 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”

When Paul wrote that, he was speaking of people who are in full-time ministry in the sense that they are either pastors, missionaries, or the like. He meant people who spend all their time taking care of the needs of the flock spiritually and otherwise, people who are shepherds and who have personal relationships with the people to whom they minister. People with blogs, like myself, or people who write e-books (Bible commentary types, not fiction), no matter how much time they may spend at it, (and I have spent a great deal of time studying and researching) are not shepherds of flocks. We are merely sharing the gospel or other of our insights or information on God's Word. Most of us do it simply because we enjoy sharing what we have learned about God and His Word. That does not merit being paid for our service. And it certainly does not merit us putting a price on our knowledge and forcing people to buy it if they want to know it. Some people's “knowledge” is most certainly not worth a penny, as it is completely unScriptural. Nor do I think we should set up a store of merchandise to accompany our Bible teachings. Is that any different from putting a bookstore in the church? We are still trying to make a penny off the Lord's Word by hoping that those that come for our “words of wisdom” will also spend money at our shop. Should we really be combining our ministry with a business venture? Is that any different from the woman above who wants to combine her weight loss program with Christianity to market it? Will the Lord bless our ministry if we do that?

When did we stop depending on the Lord to supply our needs by being faithful, and feel we need to supply our needs all by ourselves by marketing Him? Have we forgotten what God's Word says?

Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

Before you place a cross on a logo, or advertise your business or self as a Christian (some people plaster stickers on their cars advertising their Christianity then drive like maniacs), think about two things - 1) are you using the Lord to sell something and 2) will people really see Christ in what you are doing and how you are presenting yourself and your business or whatever you are connecting Him to? Or will you bring shame upon the name of Christ? Remember what Jesus did to the merchandisers in the temple and what He said to them.

Matthew 21:12-13 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

We are presently the temple of God.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

Have we made ourselves dens of thieves? What does God say He will do to those who defile the temple? It's something to consider.

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