Christianity: The Brand

Having worked in marketing and sales for most of my life, one thing that I've always encountered is the concept of the brand. Brands are powerful, they hold influence and passion in our lives. Think of the brands that affect you the most. Are you a Coke drinker? Do you only drive Chevy's? Will you never buy a Window's computer again? (Guilty…) 

What breeds this streak in us that is so loyal to a certain group, product, or lifestyle? It is because we have an inherent sense that we were designed to be worshippers who are totally devoted to God. Sadly, our sin nature has corrupted us so that we choose to devote ourselves to anything and everything but God. So we find these little false gods or idols that often come in the form of a brand. Don't believe me? Look at the behavior of anyone you know is totally sold out to a certain sports team or political party, and then compare their behavior to that of someone in a cult. Do you know anyone who has a shrine in their home that might look a little something like this?

Unfortunately, as CS Lewis said, "Idols always break the hearts of their worshippers." So eventually we become very fickle in our devotion, really only loving something until it lets us down somehow. Why else would people feel the need to buy a new car every couple of years even though their old one still runs great? How else could two people who were once passionately in love suddenly decide that they can no longer stand each other. The divorce statistics in this country alone should prove that we as a people have no idea what true devotion looks like.

The worst offense though is not that we are a fickle people easily swayed by brands and marketing. The real problem is that we have done this to our relationship with God. Consider for a minute that Christianity as a lifestyle and a religious preference is not synonymous with Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some people are converted to Christianity in the same way that some of you are converted to a brand or team. But just as being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys does not mean that you are going to suit up and play on Sunday, being converted to the brand of Christianity does not mean that you are on mission for God. 

So here's the scenario, Jack is in his 20's, fresh out of college and struggling to find a job, money, happiness, etc. He happens upon a church one Sunday. Everybody seems super nice and really happy. They are all dressed nicely. They look fairly successful, he sees a bunch of Prius' in the parking lot. He hears a message that tells him that God loves him and he can find real happiness, all he has to do is be a Christian. Jack says "Of course, that seems like quite a deal, sign me up!" 

So Jack says a little prayer that the pastor dictates for him. He goes home and starts to live a little differently. He stops going to the bar every night, throws out all his inappropriate movies and music, and even stops swearing. He even gets a bible that speaks plain English and he starts to read some Proverbs. He prays, goes to church every week, sings the songs, and even drops some cash in the bucket on his way out.

After that, things start looking up for Jack. A businessman in the church helps him get a job, he buys a few sets of those nice clothes, and even picks up a new car. He meets a pretty girl named Jill who seems very interested in him. They date for a while and eventually get married. This Christianity thing is really working out for Jack!

Fast forward a few years, Jack and Jill now have a little baby girl, a nice house, and a Prius. But then, Jack gets laid off. He and Jill are always fighting and now she's even going to have to go back to work. And to cap it all off, the Prius breaks down. Suddenly Jack is forced to evaluate his life and figure out where his hope is. Unfortunately, his hope for the last few years has been in a lifestyle and not in Jesus, and now this lifestyle has let him down. He's no longer sold on this brand.

1 Corinthians 10: 31 says "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." And similarly in Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." God has called us to a greater level of devotion than we have ever experienced. He wants more than just our external actions, he requires our hearts. Jack's problem was not that God had let him down, but that he had never had trust and faith in God. He had never given all of his thoughts, cares, and burdens to Jesus. Christianity, for him, was a lifestyle choice that brought some tangible benefits, much the same as a low-fat diet or a financial investment plan. None of those things hold any real truth, hope, or promise of eternal salvation, so they can be tossed aside the moment you start gaining weight or losing money again.

Now obviously a lot of the responsibility here lies with Jack. He is called to perseverance the same as we all are*. But imagine for a moment if the situation had gone just a little differently.

Jack is back in his 20's, looking for a church on one random Sunday. He passes the church with the lot full of Prius' and goes to the church next door. When he arrives, he sees people who seem to be very happy, but on the surface, there is nothing that sets them apart. He sees families worshipping together, he sees some people who look like they've been through a lot in life, he even sees some pretty young girls, but they are more interested in Jesus than they are in the guys in the church. The message is like nothing he has ever heard. The pastor tells him that if he loves his life he will lose it, but if he commits himself with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind to Jesus that he will achieve eternal life. Jack starts to realize that he is a self-centered sinner, and eventually he starts to pray on his own, read his whole Bible, and commune directly with God. He realizes that he has a true relationship with and faith in Jesus.

Maybe he does meet a nice girl who loves Jesus. Maybe they get married and have a nice house, with kids and a Prius. Maybe his life is everything that he always wanted it to be before. But it might not be, he will still face trials of every kind. He will still have to deal with loss and disappointment. But he knows that his only hope and security lies with the Creator of the Universe, and so when trials come he is strengthened in his faith and pursuit of Jesus. He knows true devotion because he saw it exemplified in the lives of the people around him. The gospel was presented to him in a light that didn't try to skip over the hard parts, but emphasized a total surrender and worship of Jesus. 

If you wouldn't call yourself a Christian, then you are Jack in this story, and you need to know that no matter what you see or hear about Christianity - IT IS NOT JUST A BRAND. It is not just a team or a lifestyle that will bring you only good and nothing bad. Christianity is all about Jesus. He is the only reason that you or I are even alive. He has already sacrificed more than you will ever have. And because of that, he is worth devoting yourself to. You need to search your heart and ask yourself if you haven't just been hopping from brand to brand all your life wondering where to find satisfaction and happiness. Jesus is the answer.

Now if you do call yourself a Christian, then you are the church in this story. How are you presenting the gospel to Jack? Are you trying to market and advertise the gospel to make it is appealing as possible? Are you watering down the stuff that you think is hard because you really want Jack to be in your church? If so, you are doing a disservice to Jack and you are dishonoring God. Jack needs to hear the whole truth of the Gospel. If your life is hard, he needs to know that. He needs to see how Christians walk through trials and pain if he is ever going to do it well himself. You need to get out of the way and point him always and only to the Bible and the truth of God's word. It's not your job to make Jesus attractive, it's your job to worship him well.

*Note-I'll have a blog posted soon regarding the subject of perseverance.


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