I’m a pretty good salesman. I’m also a horrible salesman. It depends on what you’re measuring, I suppose. When we first followed God’s call & relocated closer to family, I took a couple different sales jobs. I volunteered at a small church in town, and learned what it was like working 9-5 (or 8-6, as it often was). A few months was spent in Radio Advertising, and almost a year was with Pitney Bowes, selling “postage meters/folding machines/etc”. I was pretty good at connecting relationally with my customers. I even closed deals. I could talk excitedly about what I had to offer them, and honestly believed I could help them out. But when they asked me for the best deal – I’d usually give it to them. So even though I made sales, I wasn’t the profit-generating machine that was celebrated in the sales realm.
Because of working on the world of advertising/ROI and the like, my radar picks up on sales-pitchy things much more than it used to. I shrink back quickly from anything that smells like being a “salesman for Jesus/Heaven/Youth Group/Church”. Unfortunately, that’s a large percentage of what’s out there for people seeking Christ to consume. Bible studies, self-help books, and small group curriculum all geared toward convincing/reminding humanity that to come to Christ is to come to the end to all of your problems. To arrive at the doors of the church is to arrive at an oasis of plenty. To believe in Jesus Christ is to have all your prayers answered, every day is a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.
In a broken world, that sounds awesome. We’re in debt, and even credit is running out fast. We realize that something better than what we’re experiencing must be out there. So when the man with the Bible, the nice smile and smooth words tells us that coming to church (and perhaps buying his book) will help fill the void we’ve got, and open doors of potential we previously thought were closed….we’re quick to follow. The problem comes after some time of believing. Time of offering our devout faith to a God/Genie, and becoming frustrated when nothing we ask for happens.
You might be nodding while reading this, agreeing that yes – we need to be honest about our expectations. We need to remember that a call to follow Christ, is a call to the cross. That we’re not promised what we want will work out the way we plan, by simply “trusting really really hard”. But at the same time, I want my children to know the Hope we have in Christ. I want them to experience putting their faith in Him, and having a life transformed. I suppose it all depends on what we emphasize:
1 – We could emphasize the wrong things to our 5 year old. Tell her that God wants everything to go perfect for her, and if she invites Jesus into her heart, it will enable all her dreams to come true (Jeremiah 29:11, right?). Or, we could take the threatening route and tell her that someday she’ll either spend forever in flames or in golden streets and whipped cream. If she asks Jesus into her heart, she won’t have to burn. Sure, these spiritual things are bigger/different, but it’s important to speak in a language they simply understand, right?
2 – We could be honest with our 5 year old from the very start. Tell her that people have made some really bad choices, that make this world a hard place to live sometimes. But tell her how God has moved in our family already, and how He’s calling & enabling us to be different. That we can choose to love/forgive, even when it’s hard. We can be humble, and look for ways to serve others & love our neighbors globally. We can pray, and know that spending time in God’s presence changes us. We ask him to fill us with His love, so that in the simple ways we live, God is changing the world.
Sometimes that will lead us down paths where people know our name and smile or applaud. Other times it may lead us down paths where people know our name and angrily yell. Still many more times it may mean know one knows our name, but God is with us.
We are never alone, and that seems to be a pretty big point to a savior who was called
“Immanuel – which means ‘God with us’. “
But in a culture where more and more churches and youth ministries are selling the fun/loud/exciting/blessing/health/prosperity/nice teeth/etc…it may become increasingly difficult to be heard. Still…this is what we speak.