Friday, June 15, 2007

Something For Everyone

This morning I was thumbing through a local Christian bookstore catalog. I don't ever shop there, but I usually give them a look in order to see what's the latest craze in the Christian bubble, I mean circle. As I turn the pages I find, among many other things worth discussing, a book for everyone. Examples you ask? OK. How let's start with the hunter in your family - a book that's cover states "Hunting for the meaning of life". Perhaps baseball is your thing. Then try "Steal Away" that is "devotions for baseball fans". Oh, now here you go, in order to keep with the sporting theme - "The Golfer's Bible" - complete with slick golf clubs and ball graphics with the headline "Score a Hole in One with this Bible!" above the image. (sigh)

Do I think that the oversaturation we currently have in the Christian market is bad? Well, yes and no. We are without question the most media and material-ready Christian generation since the Creation of the world, making the Gospel accessible to virtually anyone with a computer or a couple of bucks to spare. But at what point does it stop being an avenue to place the Word into people's hands and start to become a major marketing tool generating millions. I mean come on people. It's the Word of the Living God, not some self help book that can be re-written in 500 versions and changed to fit everyone's lifestyle and hobbies. Need a version that's "homosexual-friendly"? I could have one sent to your house within 2 minutes. How about one that has been "revised" to question whether Jesus really died on the cross or if He was just "injured"? That would be no problem either.

Am I thankful that I have several Bibles translated so that I can actually comprehend them? Of course, but where do we draw the line? I guess I'm asking for some thoughts and opinions on this topic. Is this part of being "all things to all people" or is the "Christian" market just becoming another link in the chain that is the barrage of media overkill? While you talk it over, I think I'll browse the web and find out where I can get one of those bobble-head Jesus figurines for my dashboard.



Anonymous said...

Yeah so I totally agree with you. I noticed this same thing when looking for a Bible for my friend for Christmas. It's completely insane. I mean I understand wanting to reach people woth different lifestyles, but seriously, the hunters Bible. Its ok If its just a cover but if it has tips on how to shoot a deer better thats where I draw the line.

Heather said...

I agree with you to a point. There is a lot of media out there that some of it shouldn't be - however - I do believe that if a book is aimed at a person with certain interests and it speaks the truth and is correct than there's no harm in it if it will bring someone to The Bible or to Christianity that normally wouldn't have picked up a piece of religious material. Just a thought.

rave.n said...

I had a talk with my pastor recently that left me wondering about some of these things.

Dealing with the world of "Christian Rock" our pastor repeatedly asked why I'm not all about promoting all music that is "Christian Rock" to this little niche audience.

And my answer was along the lines of knowing what these kids want and what they will hear and what they will listen to. I know that's true but I also know the power of the Holy Spirit and now it makes me wonder where the line is.

Am I limiting the Spirit by saying you can only work when you're packaged like "this"? You know, shrinkwrapped and sparkly in your scene clothes. And Mr. Holy Spirit I'm sorry but your power is void if you come in playing something that sounds like Creed or Linkin Park.

I definitely feel conviction that this is a topic that can't be overlooked but I don't know if I feel condemned or a push to just throw everything and the kitchen sink at these kids.

The bible does say that we can identify with the crowd we're in just as long as we don't compromise who we are.

When the culture, or in this case subculture, language is uniquely different than mainstream or traditional church language. I don't think it's wrong to adapt. I do however wonder when are the times we need to just trust the Holy Spirit to allow all those that need to hear to hear despite the tongue the Truth is spoken in.

Ken said...

Good one.

I definitely can't stand much perusal of Christian book shops or catalogs due to this very thing, but perhaps it is in response to the way our culture actually already IS. If people won't pick up a dusty black book (I mean the marginal believer or some group of people we want to reach), but will get interested in a camoflauge cover, I think go ahead. I can't personally stand the chessy factor, but somebody buys a lot of "precious moment jesus" figurines, so I guess there is "a market." That is definitely not enough reason to pursue an idea. I think the question is whether to spend our time doing the thing before us, be it commerce or missions.

I have had commercial ideas of products that "would" sell to Christians, but should I do it? No benefit for the church, but money in my pocket? Then, no, I will not pursue Christian Graham crackers in Noah's ark shapes. Will it bring kids to investigate the Bible? Then, yes, with all my effort, I will do it, but I always look at the time, effort, and profit motive I have and examine it before God. (Even that "all the money I'll make will go to the kingdom" one).

I work in Christian music, so I consider this often and I personally always go back to calling and relational accountability. Equip people for their calling, use the methods and resources of God in the most impacting way possible, and be accountable to one another for what time and money you spend doing a thing. Motive is hard to hide from a spouse or real friend or pastoral helper.

I stave off cynicism this way and do hope the folks with the Flyfishing Bible really are reaching someone who I could not reach. I kind of doubt it, but have to go on with what God gave me to do - the new Jesus 2 Liter Bottle Resealer.

Fun topic.

Joel Spencer said...

Great points so far. Well said rave.n - we are responsible to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit always as each situation is uniquely different. Maybe He might even want me to buy some Testamints one day (gasp).

The Hoov said...

Well as a pretty much life long believer, I have noticed these things before. Like when you go to the Christian book store and there is a shirt that says something Christian but taken in the form of a wrestling logo, lord of the rings theme. Or any of the pop culture things that Christians seem to want to water down and make other Christians included into the club. I believe the idea is the result of the church talking and preaching about how you should not be of the world. Which as Raven says is a good thing. But is imitating the world not being the same thing. Is wearing a shirt to be boastful, and proud you are “cool” cause you witty shirt says something about Jesus and it looks like Lord of The Rings. I don’t understand this. I never have. I worked in a Family Christian Store for a while, I enjoyed the wonderful people who would come in. Typically older women but they were delightful. But I noticed this semblance of trying to “be cool” is coming from gen Xers. 35 40 yrs old, the ones who make the children feel bad cause they have normal human thoughts and desires. They make the children feel like I cannot like Batman, I must like Bibleman (which is a complete and total rip off of batman). Bibleman is totally aweful and lame. That’s why children don’t like it. But the new parents of today think that the kids need to be about if cause it is “Christian.” Look at the things that are “Christian” that have done well, in the market place. For children is was what, VeggieTales. Wanna know why, cause it was different. Granted it was a little lame but put a kid in front of it and watch how he/she loves it. Now take that same kid and put them in front of Bibleman. They will be bored and not be interested. Because a copy of something is never as good as the original. VeggieTales was original, that’s why it was successful. And I am tired of hearing all these people talk about things being awesome, then they have to throw in “well you know it is good, it’s Christian.” Look that means it is someone who created something that is like something we love but all cheesy, lame and Christianized. I will never understand why “Christians” have to show up the “secular” culture. It is maddening, I understand trying to reach out to others and be loving and good, but don’t make Jesus and the whole message look like something that the senior class could make on their senior t-shirt. That’s why a lot of people do NOT respect Christians, when you start talking to them they assume you are one of those Bibleman supporting type people. I am going to end this here for I could go on and on and I have work to do. Good blog Joel, you may have inspired me to write one about this too.

Joel Spencer said...

I agree ken and the hoov. There is surely a great attempt to "sell" to the Christian culture. Do we need to be set apart? Most definetely. I've recently become the last person you'll hear promote "relevance theology". When I read the Bible, I see account after account of people that stood up, stood out and redefined their culture, never adapting to it or conforming.

Great responses guys (and gals).

elcid7 said...

Right on Joel,

The best Bible translation is the one that is translated from your very life. What about the Living
Bible ... the best Living Bible is the life you're living. The real Bible is the Word of God written on the pages of our hearts. I've searched the Scriptures and Jesus never sold anything in the Kingdom.
It was all free for whosoever will.
He paid the price for it all ... His very life. The secular and spiritual has become so well mixed that it's very difficult to tell the difference. I can't wait til
the rage in America will be to go to another worldwide amusement park .."Jesus World". Laying all things aside ... let's all focus on the "Good News"...Daddy God loves us ... Jesus died for us ... and the Holy Spirit is waiting to fill us and empower us ... All this stuff ... it's small stuff.
What the world really needs is His Love!!! Blessings and peace

The Hoov said...

I personally like testiments. They are tasty, and now i get to go to heaven with holy fresh breathe.

Steve Neff said...

Good subject Joel.Didn't Jesus throw the merchandisers out of the temple? You bet he did. There is way too much merchandising going on in the Christian arena.Rather than teach the truth, another product comes out so people can "better relate".Rather than having so many marketers and merchandisers out there,we need leaders who teach and guide with the truth of the gospel.If Jesus didn't need to market any of his products,do we believers need to market his products.WWJD merchandise has been very profitable over the years.It's funny however that for so many who wear the "What Would Jesus Do" merchandise,how many do what Jesus really did?We as believers should be able to reach the lost by them seeing the fruit of a life given over to Christ alone.Products don't reach people,consecrated lives reach people.

Steve & Cheryl

Joel Spencer said...

So true elcid7 and steve. We are to be the Living Word - our lives being the thing that draws people to Him. I must confess, in days passed I too have been guilty of taking the easy (and generally unproductive) road that gives someone a book rather than the Jesus that is living within me here and now. No longer!

Steve Neff said...

Hey Joel,as I was thinking about this thread I was reminded of what I read in Matthew (Complete Jewish Bible) when Jesus sent the disciples out in chapter 10:7-10.He gave them the power to heal the sick,raise the dead,cleanse those with leprosy,and cast out demons,all while proclaiming the gospel.In this particular translation,Jesus tells the disciples that they have received this power for the above without paying anything for it and therefore they should give what they have received for the good of others without asking for payment.They weren't marketing a product,they were giving His touch and Presence to those who needed it.Much if not most of the marketing strategy that is going on today starts with the teaching people receive from those behind the pulpit and then they take it out to the marketplace.There's nothing wrong with having a business and making money.However, it shouldn't be a priority. Manifesting His Presence to others should be the priority. Unfortunately,since 99.9% of the teaching that comes from behind the pulpit is useless (psychotherepy sermons and pump you up messages), people want to market a material product rather than offer His fruit in them to others.If God were to show us how many of the products out there were actually conceived in His Throne room,there wouldn't be many products on the market.Most at best are a cloned idea from someone else's original (hmm,sounds like some of those sermons we hear all the time).Let's all commit to stepping up and be one of His originals instead of someone else's clones.
Steve & Cheryl

A.D. said...

Having worked for a while in a Christian book store that sold all kinds of "Christian" gadgets and gizmos with catchy phrases on them, I guess I became a bit what? cynical? skeptical? disillusioned? about the motives behind both the manufacturer and the consumer.
On the one hand there are a lot of good books that address specific problems with helpful scripture passages that shed light on a problem that one may be going through, and feel that there is no one that he or she can talk to, and hence a book becomes a helpful tool and catalyst for change. And who hasn't looked for an inspirational gift - a picture or a paper weight for a friend or family member to remind them that God loves them and is present?
On the other hand I have witnessed first hand ugly arguments between Christians on which translation was the "correct" bible to read. I've stood and listened in amazement as these "spiritually knowledgeable" people tried to give me all these "proven" reasons for not reading this translation or that translation. It is our responsibility to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the knowledge that is specifically aimed at us as individuals. What the Holy Spirit has to say to me about my need is custom designed for my need at the time I need it....just as Jesus tailored his messages for those He came into contact with. He knew their needs before they did and did not give them patented answers that should fit everyone. It continues to amaze me that while celebrating diversity is encouraged, in many areas we are more than likely expected to think, act and believe alike.
However, my biggest peeve is bumper stickers and those ridiculous tags on the front of cars....
"Honk if you love Jesus" - just honk and see how much of Jesus' love is returned to you.
"God is my Co-pilot" -- I'd prefer God to be the pilot particularly since he designed the one who designed the vehicle in the first place.
"Jesus Saves" - I saw this first hand on a car in front of a convenience store when the owner came out with a case of beer under each arm, lottery tickets in his shirt pocket and a smoke hanging out of his mouth. That testimony spoke volumns to me --- about what I'm still unsure of.
And don't even get me started on the stink regarding the battle between the Ten Commandments and the county courthouses... around here Ten Commandment signs went up in yards all over... yards whose owners would just as soon cuss you out as look at you...(and that was the nice ones -- others would shoot first!)
Bottom line - there is a market for religious merchandising and it can be used to help spread a message... but everyone has seen someone whose desk was piled with picture frames of scriptures, little angel figurines, pens and pencils with catchy sayings on them, and even breath mints with a daily devotional on them ...belonging to people who are so unpleasant and miserable to be around.

I still think the best advertising for God comes from the life we live in front of others, as simple as that may sound. Everything else is pretty much eye candy - looking good and tasty but not much good for one in the long run.