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Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
Merchandising The Gospel

 

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Merchandising The Gospel/Selling Faith

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Selling Faith [Below]

 

Merchandising The Gospel
By Ken Matteo

Recently, I have been receiving some offers via e-mail from Christians introducing their ministries to me. I read the e-mails and then all of a sudden I get to the bottom of the e-mail, and find that if I want to receive their ministry material it will cost me a sum of money. It is obvious they are selling, and not ministering. These e-mails got me to thinking that we are in the midst of a great "Religious Retailing Era." In these last days there is such a horrendous effort to sell the gospel. I believe this is due in part to another satanic plan to flood society with so-called Christian items, thus making the true gospel a common everyday matter to neutralize it. It is also being done by Christians who have so little regard for the holiness and reverence of God that they use the gospel to make money. This has been done in the music industry, as we see the charismatic long haired, bearded, earring wearing, tattooed freaks, trying to convince us they are "decreasing so Christ would increase." (John 3:30) Yes, and they are doing it all the way to the bank. If they were truthful in their witness, the men would look like Christian men, and not Black Sabbath wannabe’s.


WWJD

As we look around we see the "gospel gainsayers" everywhere. Just look at the WWJD marketing ploy. How can a mere human being know what the mind of God is in any situation:

    (Romans 11:34 KJV) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

The WWJD movement is another attempt at bringing Christ down to the level of human thinking and reasoning and this is a sin. How can anyone make a decision concerning anything by merely placing a piece of jewelry on ourselves or looking at it? If we are going to discover God’s will for our life, then, we need to be saturated with Scripture not cheap, overpriced costume jewelry:

(Psalm 48:14 KJV) For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.


Christian Book Stores

There is probably no other place in Christendom which is more guilty than the religious charlatans who run these book stores. If you can stick the name of Jesus on anything, they will sell it. If you walk into the average Christian bookstore, you will see an ecumenical nightmare. You will encounter the following, and if you don’t, then the owner might be saved:

    Predominantly Charismatic

    Roman Catholic friendly books and their Bibles (You will know you are in a pro Roman Catholic book store if you go to the tract rack and find that all the Tracts relating to Roman Catholicism are missing)

    Psychology

    Charismatic rock & roll freak bands for music (of course for $10 and up per single cassette)

    Pictures of Jesus

    Outrageous prices on everything

There will also be everything from pencils to precious moments figurines which you can spend several hundred dollars on while your church’s missionaries can’t raise support. I have warned Christians, both new and veterans, in the faith to stay away from these Midianite merchantmen unless you need to pick something up like a Bible cover, highlighters, or some other innocuous thing but stay away from all the corrupted theology. I bought a Bible carrying case for a new Bible I purchased and I paid $27 for it. For a Bible jacket!!!!!!!!!!!!


What is God’s Command about the dissemination of the Gospel?

    (Matthew 10:7-8 KJV) And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

    (Romans 3:24 KJV) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

    (Romans 8:32 KJV) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

    (1 Corinthians 2:12 KJV) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    (2 Corinthians 11:7 KJV) Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

    (Revelation 21:6 KJV) And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

    (Revelation 22:17 KJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

What point am I trying to make here in giving all these Scriptures? I am not saying that those who publish books and Bibles are merchandising since there are legitimate costs involved in production and shipping of the materials. However, when a publisher prints, publishes, and markets books which obscure the gospel, or makes jokes about it, then that is merchandising. Anything that draws the real meaning of the gospel away is merchandising. Preachers can also merchandise the gospel. The following I would classify as merchandising the gospel:

    · Preachers who charge a set amount to come and preach - What about trusting God for an offering?

    · Ministries which sell their materials instead of giving them free - What about a suggested donation? Most Christians I know would send in $20 for a $10 item which would cover the expenses for those who wanted the materials but could not afford them.

    · Preachers who use their programs to market their books - Why use air time, instead, follow up with a list of materials the ministry offers.

    · Ministries which charge a fee for subscription materials - Are these preachers or speakers so profound they need to charge for THEIR wisdom and knowledge? Look at the so-called Prophetic Ministries, as they all say the same thing. Yet, you need to subscribe to get THEIR unique point of view. If God gives His wisdom away free, what makes ours so valuable we have to put a price on it?

    · Churches which sell cassette tapes of the pastor’s sermon even to their own people - This ministry should be as much a free part of the church’s ministry as the morning worship service. Maybe your offerings are down because you sell instead of give!

    · The marketing of innocuous Christian materials - The gospel was not given as something to make pretty pictures out of, or pencils with the name of Jesus on them. The gospel is a serious entity, and it represents 2 things: Heaven or Hell. If we are going to be consistent, then why not make lighters with the name of Hell on them. We are to use materials which present the full counsel of God and not materials which put people into a false spiritual euphoria.

These are some of the ways in which the gospel is merchandised. Ever since the Charismatic movement has taken over or affected 98% of all churches, the name of Christ was never so profaned or bantered about. This movement has created the most false view of Christianity since Satan founded the Church of Rome. The Gospel is to be preached and taught in all its full counsel. What we see happening to the true gospel today, via publishers, and the so-called contemporary music scene, is an affront to what the gospel was meant to do and that is to search out God’s elect.

Our responsibility is to send out that gospel and we are not to charge anything for it. When you became saved, did anyone charge you? Then we better not charge others.

    (Matthew 10:8 KJV) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

 It is not just a suggestion, it is the Word of God.

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Selling Faith
by David White

In a recent edition of the Reader’s Digest Melinda Henneberger, in an article entitled “Selling Faith,” writes about a rising trend in the mass marketing of “Christian oriented” products. The term “Christian oriented” is defined as anything associated in any way with the Bible or Christian worldview. Christian oriented products include diet books and plans, nutritional supplements, clothing, consumer electronics, and music, all of which purport to be, at least in some way, associated with the God of the Bible. A quick search of the Internet confirms Mrs. Hennberger's article. Christians can buy Christian video games, hire Christian private investigators, and purchase Christian skin care products. According to an article by Lynn Harris, writing for Salon.com, Christians can even buy goats from a Christian goat breeder, if they should happen to find themselves in the market (Harris, 2005). The plethora of Christian products and services for sale is simply astounding. Perusing the offerings of the various vendors, obviously geared toward people wanting to associate themselves with the values of orthodox Christianity, one has to wonder what issues are driving this market and what the implications of those issues are for Christianity.

One might be tempted to see this as old news. Items have been specifically marketed both by and for Christians since medieval clergy began selling off its excess righteousness, in the form of indulgences, to those concerned they might come up a little short. The Bible has been published in huge volumes for years. Little plaques quoting Joshua 24:15 adorn millions of homes; numerous bumper stickers exist informing fellow commuters of the hazard a particular vehicle may present should the rapture occur while in transit, and vocalists of every stripe have recorded gospel songs. Is there really anything new about Christian oriented material? Both Hennebeger and Harris think so. So new in fact that big business such as Walmart and even the Hollywood movie industry are scrambling to get a piece of this pie. According to Henneberger, “The market for Christian merchandise is growing between 4 and 8 percent a year” and currently “accounts for more than $4 billion in annual sales” (p. 182).

Henneberger offers several possible explanations for the surge in popularity of Christian oriented products. These include a retreat from an ever increasingly sexually explicit culture, heightened awareness of political strength on the part of evangelicals, and a desire on the part of “Christian activists” to pull the culture back to a life more in tune with their own Christian worldview. As Lynn Harris also points out (Salon, 2005), many of the faithful wish to patronize Christian businesses because they feel their money will go to a company representing their own belief system, thereby contributing financially to the advancement of it, or at least not contributing to philosophies or activities opposed to it.

These explanations seem perfectly valid. One need only follow a national political race to hear the concerns from both camps, religious and secularist, about the more vulgar aspects of modern entertainment. Material once viewed by our culture as obscene is now being mass produced via television and other media and marketed to all elements of society. Not long ago, one retailer of teen oriented clothing came under considerable national scrutiny due to the graphic nature of some of the poses portrayed by models in its annual catalog. A steady stream of lament comes from many sources about the violence, degradation, and despair found in much of today’s popular music. Even Congress has gotten in on the action, holding court over the content of popular video games. Clearly, there is ample reason to be concerned about modern culture.

Perhaps the media emphasis on the allegedly instrumental role that evangelical Christians played in the 2004 election has had some part in this market surge. Evangelicals are, it would seem, under the impression they are increasingly being marginalized by the mainstream of society. However, after the most recent presidential election, much speculation was made of the effect of the “Christian right” and its influence on the outcome. In the eyes of more than one pundit Christians were the primary source of the recent Republican victory. If that is indeed the case, perhaps the Christian philosophy is more significant than suspected. No one doubts that the U.S. is in the midst of a culture war; perhaps Christians, suddenly aware of the influence they wield in mass, should seize the opportunity to identify themselves publicly via Christian themed t-shirts and coffee mugs, thereby encouraging still more Christians to “come forth and be recognized.” Activists for reforming the culture to a Christian standard may see potential here as well. If a foothold can be gained in the marketing arena, perhaps that can be used somehow to lend authority to the Christian position. With enough authority backing them, perhaps these social warriors can drag our society back from the brink of the secular abyss it seems to be perched upon.

It is difficult to fault any of these positions. After all, Scripture commands Christians to be an influence in their culture. If purchasing Christian oriented material can help to edify the church, or turn the culture toward morality, it would seem foolish not to do so. Viewed from another perspective, however, one aspect of all of this might give Christians some pause. Most if not all of the products being marketed to Christians, are simply repackaged versions of what is already available to the culture at large. Christian musical trends follow closely on the heels of emerging trends in secular music. Christians have their own Christian psychology, toned down somewhat to be sure, but still following closely the latest novel ideal sweeping its secular counterpart. Hip Christian clothing, Christian weight loss regimens, and even a Christian Rubik’s cube await discriminating Christians on the cutting edge of society. All joking aside, Molly Henneberger accurately describes the possibility of Christians creating their own little “parallel universe” (p.182) in which everything available to the culture at large is cleaned up, repackaged, and presented in a Christian version, so that Christians can have the same things everybody else does, only different. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this, but it is important to keep in mind that at its heart Christianity is not about having a cleaner version of what the world has. It is about being fundamentally different.

The crux of Christianity is that God Himself has paid the penalty necessary to satisfy His holy justice on behalf of rebellious usurpers who could never satisfy that justice in and of themselves. He does this on the condition that those same rebels turn from their rebellion and, in accordance with a newly created nature, begin the long, sometimes arduously slow, process of sanctification. Along this road to sanctification, these rebels-turned-collaborators, exercise their new natures in what sometimes seems like pathetically feeble attempts to accomplish various things for God. However, the things Christians do, the way they live, the way they dress and speak, are all results of who they are; they do not comprise what they are.

Christians like to talk about the number of people they have “led to Christ,” or how much money they have contributed, in order to show their level of commitment, their relative value to the cause. In reality things like this have nothing to do with the essence of Christianity. “Blasphemy” you say, “the sole reason we are here is to witness for Him.” It is true that Christians are called to witness; they are called to witness whether people come to Christ through their witness or not. They are called to give, but their giving is to be the byproduct of a grateful and loving heart. The essence of Christianity is not the acts performed, but the motivation for their performance, a motivation that should spring from a love for the Savior, and a desire to obey Him. In the same way, the products Christians purchase and the services they subscribe to have nothing to do with the essential aspects of being a Christian.

The apostle Paul admonishes Christians not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. My fear is that the trend in Christian oriented marketing is the result of a Christian oriented consumerism that is, at its core, an attempt to conform Christianity to the world. Taken as a whole it reminds one of a people who, confused and unsure of themselves, are searching for significance and relevance in a culture that continues to diverge from whatever common elements both once held. In attempting to copy every element of contemporary culture and rework it into a Christianized context, we run the risk of becoming so relevant that we are irrelevant.

The point here is that there is nothing Christian, tacitly or otherwise, about wearing Christian clothing or starting a Christian diet. While there may indeed be some value in these things, the danger Christians face in pursuing these items and services from a strictly Christian perspective is that they may begin to equate these items with the properties of righteousness. The mark of a Christian is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). These are the attributes for which Christians are to strive; these are the characteristics by which Christians should seek to be identified. If Christians allow themselves to become just another market segment for all things pop, they run the risk of being reduced to that segment. Additionally, given the never-ending desire of human nature to reduce spirituality to a set of ordinances with which to comply, Christians run the risk of substituting the “elementary principles” (Col 2:8) of what they wear, how they vote, or how much they weigh for the justification they have in Christ. When that happens, the possibility of truly righteous living has been lost.

While it is admirable that Christians may wish to advertise for their faith on their favorite coffee-cup or golf balls, it is important that Christians realize that they are called out from society, they are not simply a subset of a society, but as strangers and foreigners living among a people unlike themselves. If Christians are really that concerned about being a force in our culture perhaps they would be more effective by presenting not a more prudish version of what society already possesses but something radically different. Instead of fighting tooth and nail to win a culture war with a fallen culture, staking their hopes on any politician that will tell them what they want to hear, Christians might consider living their lives in calm and quiet contrast to that culture, confident in a victory already won. Instead of emulating every little outward nuance of hip society, perhaps Christians might focus their energy on developing characteristics in contrast to society, such as those mentioned earlier. Instead of striving to show society that Christians can be successful by society’s standards and still be Christian, they might consider redefining what success is in the first place, spending some time contemplating why they are here and how that answer might affect the way they live. Maybe then they would not need to identify themselves by the slogans on their clothing or the stickers on their cars. Maybe then they would not need to wonder what vitamin supplements Jesus would have used.


REFERENCES

Harris, L. (2005, August 4). Verily, I Sell Unto You. Salon. Retrieved August 29, 2005, from http://www.salon.com.mwt/feature/2005/08/04/christian_business/.

Henneberger, M. (2005, August). Selling Faith. Readers Digest, 181-185.

Waxman, S. (2005, July 20). Hollywood’s newfound passion for Christ. International Herald Tribune, The IHT Online. Retrieved August, 29, 2005 from http://www.iht.com/articles.

Bible1-Bar

The Picture at The Top of The Page Includes (Please note these items may not be advertised or available any more)

    Anointing Oil from TBN

    Diet information from Joyce Meyer Ministries

    A statue of the Ark of the Covenant from Marilyn Hickey Ministries.

    Two books... Lifestyles of the Rich and Faithful’ and The Purpose Of Prosperity by Fred Price.

     TBN’s Glow In The Dark coffee mugs.

    A mouse pad by the Presidential Prayer team.

    A Cosmetic Case from the Juanita Bynum Ministries. (The case reads Women! Weapons Of Power “Pray” )

    A Prophecy Bible from Jack Van Impe (priced at $59.00)
     

Whoop! I forgot to include the Crystal Cathedral’s “Pozzy Bear” ... The Possibility Thinking Bear. Embroidered with the Crystal Cathedral logo on his chest, The slogan God Loves ... Do I on his back, and a silver cross on his foot”. [See Robert Schuller.. the epitome of the wolf that Paul spoke about in Acts 20:29-30]

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Merchandising The Gospel

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