30 May 2007

The Value Based Gospel - Selling the goods!

I've been in 'sales training' at work. I like to say I'm a consultant, but in reality I sell stuff; namely curriculum to churches. Which is okay and it's a great place to work. My job, although demanding, doesn't require cold calls, hard sells, in your face rebuttals and the like. In that respect, I am more of a consultant. Listen lots, provide feedback, and support.

In training we use this term called "Value Based Selling". Basically it means, find out what their needs are and meet that need as best as you can.
It's more complicated than that, but you get the idea. And as a 'consultant' that's what I do - listen and help.

But it struck me today - in between watching scenes from "Facing the Giants" (that's another post) that we do indeed sell a "Value Based Gospel"?

On the surface I don't want to rail against the concept. Let's take a couple examples,

first from curriculum -

You have boring Sunday School material. You need something to attract and engage kids, while still teaching them about God. Here's how I can help you... yada yada yada.

Now from sharing the gospel (I know you see this coming)-

You have sin. You need something to take that sin away. I can help you find Jesus.

You have no purpose in life. You need something that gives you purpose. I can help you find Jesus.

You have hurt. You need a healer. I can help you find Jesus.

You are lonely. You need a friend. I can help you find Jesus.

Notice how it's all about us. It's about our needs.

It's about Joel Olsteen, and Rick Warren, and the mega-church down the street making us feel better, meeting our needs, and giving us warm fuzzy happy shiny people feelings.

That's not all bad.
But it's not the whole story. It's not the whole picture.

I would argue, that it's missing the point almost entirely. It meets us where we are at, but when does it stop being about us and start being about Him?
I would argue that it should start being about Him from the beginning.

Shouldn't the Alpha and Omega be the Alpha and Omega in our lives?

Let's leave the "Value Based Selling" to cell phones, cars, canned fruit, and even curriculum.
But let us not be tempted to value base Jesus to a mere commodity that meets our needs, even if He meets all of them.
Let us worship God not because He provides a service to us, but because He simply is.

The Great I Am.


Jeff said...

David - Nice look at this issue. I came to ministry from banking, with a BA in Econ and an MBA, and am frequently disturbed by what I see as the "sales" culture in our American way of doing church.

But, and I do understand that there is an element of exploration going on here, how do we eliminate this "sales" aspect without reverting to an even less enlightened method of sharing the gospel?

Let me ask this a different way - when I share the gospel, there are three stakeholders: me, the person with whom I am sharing, and God.

Evangelism used to be about my reasons - "you're a filthy rotten sinner and you're going to hell because of it." It is all about my judgment.

Now evangelism is all about their reasons - "where do you hurt, where have you failed?". We ask the seeker to identify the sin in their own lives. There is still judgment from which they need to be saved, but now it is them judging themselves.

Ideally, and this is where I think you were headed, that evangelistic process should be all about God. In theory, I agree. But I need a "how" here.

People do everything they do for reasons. The reasons might not be very good, but they still are reasons. How do you suggest that the seeker adopt God's reasons BEFORE they've even accepted God?

David said...

Hi Jeff,
You bring up a good point, and I don't think it's about 'how' to bring people to Christ, because God always meets us where we are at, and at first, our need for him is, not always, but many times, about us.
Paul talks about growing beyond spiritual milk, which means at one point we need spiritual milk, as a baby.
And with a baby, it is all about them.
But that's why Jesus came. We love Him because He first loved us.

So I'm not discounting a spiritual experience where it is 'about us', but we do need to grow up into more spiritual meat.

So, my beef (pun not intended, but rather timely!) is that we stay in the 'about us' place.

And I admit, in walking with God for 15 years, it's been more about me than it has about him, but I want to continue to move to a place where it is about Him...or at least my heart is to head that direction, even if I don't get there.

But for so many, we keep it about us and stay there. We are happy to keep drinking milk. And we foster that environment in so many churches.

So, as a pastor friend of mine says, "The American Church is 100 miles wide and 2 inches deep."

paul said...

yesterday i sat in the car for 4 hours to visit my newly borne neice, who is hospital having under gone some surgery - and of course to see my sis and bro-in-law.

I passed the time listening to some sermon cds my father in law had ripped for me - all about grace. The guy who was preaching was v pentecostal and a lot his framing i disagreed with but i 100% agreed with his message of grace he was preaching.

The problem with value preaching - heh we've all done it - is it puts the focus on us and our own emotional state. It's one of the most powerful things is that people don't need to be told they are wrong, or sad, or lonely - they know it and no doubt even if they become a christian they will still feel those emotions - but when we begin to realise that it is not about our own right-ness, our own feelings, our ability to stay sin free, to fail - that we are embraced by grace and liberation...

maybe we need to help people encounter Jesus - rather than our own values/cures?

David said...

Well said Paul.