Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Mass" Marketing

The Fourth Sunday of Lent
"Laetare" Sunday

Today's Word:
2 Chronicles 36:14-23 (The Babylonian dispersion; King Cyrus of Persia sends home those still exiled)
Psalm 137:1-6 (How can we sing a song to the Lord in a foreign land?)
Ephesians 2:4-10 (You are God's work of art, created to receive in Christ what God has prepared in advance)
John 3:14-21 (God so loved the world...that all who believe in Christ will have eternal life)

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Samuel anoints David, Jesse's youngest, as the future king of Israel)
Psalm 23:1-6 (The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want)
Ephesians 5:8-14 (Live as children of light)
John 9:1-41 (Jesus gives sight to a man blind from birth; "If you were blind you would have no sin; but now you are saying 'We see,' so your sin remains!")

I own a few of those 'witnessing' T-shirts that can be bought from Christian retailers. One of them has printed on the front:
The Numbers of Hope

(Pastor Paul, I see a concept in this for the summer series you're planning. It took me awhile to get to what 6:33 referred at the time you used it.)

And on the back, the text of John 3:16, summarized briefly above.

It's marketing merchandise for the gospel message, to be sure. But it's also tied to a book written by Max Lucado with the same title.

When the movie "Fireproof" hit theaters last fall, and again when it was released to DVD this past January, a host of merchandise accompanied it. The retailers ate this up, hoping to cash in on the popularity of a film and book with an important (and Christian-themed) message.

There's no question that God loves us, has done and will do every good thing for anyone seeking Him in sincerity and truth.

My question is, just how far should we go with that? Is it really okay for just anyone to profit from marketing the Word of God? Does He love the world that much that he would let us 'sell' his only begotten Son; to use Jesus as a marketing tool?

I realize I am treading dangerous water in breaching this subject. I believe that many who earn their living spreading the Word of God (such as Pastor Paul, other pastors and priests, publishers of the Bible, even me in the compensated role I have) would still do that, even if it were not compensated; it would be a lot harder, but I see it apparent in the dedication they display while on the job.

Truth be told, I appreciate having the items, and having them available. It serves to tell others what I believe. It should serve as a reminder to me as well - but sometimes it doesn't.

So it's one question to ask how far someone can go to profit by serving the Lord. Now comes another: Do I live up to the witness I have hanging on my body?

Where do you stand
What is your statement
What is it you're trying to say
What's in your hand
What's in your basement
What's in the cards you don't play
Are you holding the key
Or are you intending
To pick the lock of heaven's gate
It's confusing to me
The message you're sending
And I don't know if I can relate

What's your line
Tell me why you wear your cross of gold
State of mind
Or does it find a way into your soul

Is it a flame
Is it a passion
A symbol of love living in you
Or is it a game
Religious in fashion
Some kind of phase you're going thru
We all travel the extremes
From cellar to rafter
Looking for a place in the sun
So I'm trying to see
What you're headed after
But I don't know where you're coming from

What's your line
Tell me why you wear your cross of gold
State of mind
Or does it find a way into your soul

--Cross of Gold
Michael W. Smith

The question really goes both ways.

Marketing is one thing. There are many consumers out there who, like me, see the abundance of merchandise saying succinctly what we may have trouble putting in our own words. But if you're going to become a billboard for Christ, you better be prepared to live up to what you silently proclaim. When the observer sees an obvious oxymoron, what does it cause them to think and believe about Christians in general? Or in Jesus Christ, for that matter?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

Big thing, that love. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication, so a song goes. But it witnessed a type of love that had never before been carried on the shoulders of one person. And it has not been carried in quite the same way since. Jesus didn't have T-shirts or coffee mugs or keychains or iPod covers or cell phone holders that read "Up With People" or even "I'm with Stupid" (pointing perhaps to Peter?)"

His love - God's perfect love - found its way to person after person after person. In that love rests our eternal hope.

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