“Yada, yada, yada” or “…”

What is it about pretty much everything that drives me nuts…in a bad way? I suppose everything is too strong a word, so lets just start with most things "Christian" and most things "marketing." I know I won’t be able to, but I’d love to vomit right on the next magazine ad I see that claims it will make your walk with God more intimate, or lead you to higher levels of faith, or help you discover Christ in a new way.

This could very well just be a reaction to my job–which is marketing for a Christian organization where I have to contrive tricky words, phrases, images and designs that make us sound as alluring as possible–but come ON…did Christ really mean us to order every other Max Lucado book, or listen to all the Vineyard CDs, or attend a conference a year, or even church twice a week for that matter… Is this what the Christian walk is all about?

I know most would say that these things are simply tools at our disposal–things we can choose to or not to use. The publishers don’t intend for them to take the place of the Bible and don’t claim they are our source of salvation. Pastors don’t claim you’ll miss the last bus to heaven if you sleep through part four of the nine-installment series on the fruit of the spirit.

But something about the whole industry just doesn’t sit right with me.

Triggering this rant was my initial browse through Relevant Magazine, a publication I respect a ton. I didn’t find anything wrong with the magazine’s own content–at least not yet–but I was sick of all the ads and their call for my dollars and time by the third-way point.

I know as well as anyone that ads are just that: advertisements. And advertisements are supposed to call attention to a product or service and create a sense of need for it in the viewer. But geeze-louise: I’m not smart enough to know God if I don’t go to seminary, I’m not on-fire enough to truly, honestly relate with God if I don’t invest $$$ in a conference, I’m not hip and edgy enough to understand the God-of-today if I don’t own the latest tunes that praise his name and I’m not dedicated enough to take up my cross and follow God if I don’t pour time, energy and devotion into the latest revelations penned by a big-name author.

And those are just the flashy, in-your-face ads. I’ve also noticed a reversed marketing and communication approach being used on an increased scale. I suppose I’m being borderline judgmental here, but I sniff an awful lot of posed authenticity in some of the recent stuff being created. With America shifting so heavily toward the postmodern emotion-rules-the-day posture, publishers are starting to feed that dog as much as it can eat. Everything is becoming the most raw, intimate, vulnurable, authentic thing ever created–and it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

I’ve succumbed to the pressure as much as anyone–both in my consumption and creation of the medium. I’ll binge on books from CBD, buying into the jackets’ testimonies that so-and-so’s insights will stretch me like never before and make me more like God. And then I’ll sit down at this very computer screen and feel like I don’t have anything to blog about because I don’t have some tricky, contrived Biblical insight to share with people that will reveal to readers my raw intimacy with the Creator.

And I suppose that’s another reason I’m fired up about it. I’m sick of being told how to meet God. I’m sick of being offered the ticket to the abundant life. I’m tired of feeling bad for not doing enough to know God intimately. And I know others out there feel the same way. But his yoke is easy…and I don’t think we were meant to toil in our relationship with Him like we do.

I blogged what you just read Wednesday night…but never finished. I didn’t really arrive anywhere with my rant, but I guess that’s the nature of rants vs. developed arguments. One is thought out and strategic and the other isn’t. So now we’re left with a discussion that arrives nowhere.

I guess my final thought on the topic, as it relates to creativity as ministry, is this: I often fret about my chances of succeeding as an author or photographer or just plain communicator because of the pressure to package it like everything I just ripped on above. "How am I going to express truth about God is some snappy, relevant way?" I ask myself. "What’s going to make my pictures different and appealing? What’s going to make people want to read what I have to say?"

After coming up with no answers, I’m left with one alternative–the one I think God’s wanted me to land on: it’s not really up to me to create anointed art. That’s the work of the Father. It’s up to him to draw people’s hearts to it and be changed on the inside. If impact on people’s lives relied solely on our wisdom, knowledge and craftiness, most everyone would probably be in mental hospitals because we’d mess them up.

I need to faithfully follow the passions he lays on my heart without expecting to see the end of the trail before even stepping onto it.

Joel Maust

Joel Maust is a blogger, marketer and photographer living in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.

2 Comments

James Hakim

about 12 years ago

Dear sir, from a 1998 SAC grad... if you believe that the products that you advertise truly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, then please by all means make them as enticing as possible. I personally am not a huge fan of Max, and I'm most pleased with Vineyard when they are putting the Psalms to music that appropriately conveys the emotions of the text, but remember that Paul himself was willing to interact with what in his day would have passed for "marketing" in the Areopagus (Acts 17), even willing to preach the gospel for free--although that was unheard of for someone offering something of spiritual value in his day--in order to (his words not mine) "take [the Corinthians] in by deceit" (2Co 12:15-16). Even when others were preaching the gospel only to make trouble for him, he delighted that Christ was preached (Phil 1:15-18). So take heart, brother, and do your work with all your heart while God still gives light to your eyes (Eccl 11:7-12:14). And whenever it comes to efforts to bring others into contact with the gospel, though not using this as an excuse to justify sin, still use whatever marketing skills you know to do so. After all, God uses means. Even Paul and Barnabus in Iconium didn't just preach the gospel but did so IN SUCH A MANNER that a large number of people believed (Acts 14:1). As for your feeling like you are being yanked around by Christian advertisements promising to change your life. I invite you to my humble little blog at http://treasuresfromthecloset.blogspot.com where you will find no googleads, no amazon associates links, just daily expositions of the Scriptures. Anyway... I wandered in here on the umpteenth page after googling "i see love" (can you believe it's not available anywhere as a single download?), and I have spent too much time already. Grace and peace of Christ to you as He increases you in the things that matter... faith, hope, and love.

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Joel

about 12 years ago

James: Thanks for visiting my site. And certainly thanks for taking the time to read some of my entries and offer thoughtful feedback. It’s good to know Wading Through Life is starting to pop up in search queries–even if people aren’t finding what they’re looking for! About your thoughts: I appreciated the scriptures and arguments you offered in support of your ideas. You obviously thought through your response more than I thought through my rant. And I guess that’s my point. While I feel a certain responsibility to stay away from throwing out blatant lies and falsities on my Web site, I don’t feel a responsibility to screen tangents and refrain from blowing off steam once in a while. And I certainly feel I have the liberty to make over-the-top statements such as “I’d love to vomit right on the next magazine ad I see that claims it will make your walk with God more intimate…” Generally speaking, it’s where I’m at in my walk right now. That evening, I was particularly frustrated with all the voices telling me how to be a Christian. I have this tendency to give more weight to those voices than the Holy Spirit’s, and it’s been a struggle to beat them down. It’s been a call I’ve wrestled with for close to a year now and I think I’m finally starting to tip the balance in favor of the Lord's voice–not the third-party, telephone-game version of the Lord’s voice. Rest assured, I haven’t turned completely cynical on my career, or Christian marketing for that matter. Though it is understandable that a person like you who doesn’t know me well could come to that conclusion reading the blog entry. I believe the gospel should be promoted in creative ways. People need to understand it is relevant to their everyday lives. My frustrations with the world are often reflections of frustrations I have with my own life. I got annoyed with Christian marketing because I realized it has worked well to a fault in my life. Honestly, I don’t want to be the person telling others how to do their relationship with Christ. I want to be a visible example of what an intimate relationship with Jesus looks like. And if people can learn something based on my living “case study,” I say mission accomplished for the most part. I hope and pray Christian marketing isn’t as effective in other’s lives as it has been in mine. I’ll qualify that with this: may it not steer people from the source of truth–Christ; may they not respond to it in a way that distracts them from the source of true life; and may they not buy into the message that their life is incomplete in some way without resource x, y and z. Lastly, I couldn’t take all your scripture references at face value. I had to think about them a bit, and look at their surrounding context. And while I don’t claim to be a theologian, haven’t a religion degree, and lead only a small group and not an entire congregation, I found myself struggling with your use of them in supporting your ideas. Jesus certainly doesn’t advocate deceit. While Paul did make the statement you quoted, looking at the larger context (surrounding verses, other translations, Biblical commentary...), it seems to me that it was a sarcastic statement meant to make light of the fact that the Corinthians thought Paul was deceiving them. Look at his next statements: “Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you? … Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?” Also, see the Message, Amplified and New Living translations, which capture the essence of the passages rather than exact wording. Your defense of God using means to accomplish his agenda is well supported with Philippians 1:15-19. But we all know that Jesus taught during his sermon on the mount that the heart is the root of life and death, not actions. Maybe God uses those preaching the gospel with wrong motives, but I certainly wouldn’t want to use the argument “But you used me in spite of my motives” come judgment day. He used Pharaoh, Judas, Satan and a bunch of other Biblical pawns as well. And the saints must have delivered a dynamic message in Acts 14, as you pointed out. Probably something along the lines of a Billy Graham, for thousands came to know the Lord because of its effectiveness. But let’s not forget who draws people to God. Is it not Yahweh himself? Do you think 1,000 words of man would be more effective than 10 anointed by the Holy Spirit? Doesn’t Acts 14 go on to say that the Jews poisoned the Gentiles’ minds following Paul and Barnabas' message and the Lord “…confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Paul and Barnabas’ message was subject to superior “marketing” by the Jews. Talk is cheap. Their message needed to be accompanied by the power of God to be effective and have a lasting impact. Peter and the rest of the disciples were to wait for the Holy Spirit to arrive before they began to preach the Word and establish the Church. They knew the gospel through and through. They didn’t need more knowledge or understanding or tricky techniques for delivering a powerful, effective message. But words fall on dead ears without the work of the Holy Spirit. People tend to get caught up preaching their word and trying to draw men to God on their own accord, by their own power, using their own means and understanding. May that not be us. Blessings.

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