Tim Sinclair is trying to shake up the way we do evangelism in his book Branded: Sharing Jesus With a Consumer Culture. He, along with most of us, has noticed that many of our age old methods of sharing the gospel, just aren't as effective as they once were. We still have the Romans road memorized and answers for all of their possible objections ready to be fired at will, but still they aren't buying what we have to say.
What are we doing wrong?
He suggests that a couple of things are going on. For one thing, times have changed. Christianity isn't the only option out there any more. Today, there are many possibilities for the spiritually minded. Buddhism, Islam, and every belief or unbelief system in between is available for today's religious consumer. All of them are trying to win converts for their side. So why should they believe us, over them?
Which leads into his next observation. What are we telling them and how are we telling it? With so many choices, are we still presenting Christianity as their only option? Do we expect potential converts to come pre-washed and well versed in our religious language? As if they already know the truth, but were simply waiting for our personal invitation before responding. Are we presenting ourselves as someone they would ever want to be like?
Up front I want to let you know that many of us will be uncomfortable with some of the terms Tim uses in this book. Just reading the words "marketing Jesus" makes me cringe. Don't let this stop you from finishing. The problem isn't what he says, it's all of the baggage and negative connotations you associate with these words. We are all wary of those telling us to change the message to be more appealing. This isn't the case here. He doesn't suggest we change the message, just to re-examine how we tell it.
One of the first things Tim hits on, is the image or testimony we as Christians try to portray. We go so far out of our way to make it look as though Jesus has made us, and everything in our lives perfect. No more sin, not even a struggle, we are always on time, our marriages are filled with love, and our kids respect and obey us. Now that we're saved, life is wonderful, and once you repent and trust in Jesus, your life will be too.
The problem with this is, it's a lie and they see right through it. Yes, trusting in Jesus can give us peace and forgiveness, but life is always a struggle. We may think that by showing them a perfectly blessed life they will desire to trust Jesus as well, but the truth is they know it's a show. Rather than trying to make them envious of our lives, we should be open and honest about our struggles and failures, sharing with them that even in the midst of such trials Jesus gives us hope and loves us through it. We need to make them envious of our Savior, and the love and hope that he gives. They need to see that he loves the failures and screw ups, because we all are.
Our methods of evangelism are another area of concern. We have grown so accustomed to following methods and quoting verses, that we have forgotten to just love people. Sharing the gospel needs to be more than just completing a transaction. There needs to be a willingness to invest in a relationship, to approach them as friends and not just customers. Every moment doesn't have to spent hitting them with our Bibles. We can show the love of Christ, by our genuine love for them. Which leads to the next point.
If we aren't passionate about Jesus in our own lives, how can we ask others to be? Do our lives show that we are Christians? In what ways is your life different because of your faith? If we are going to ask others to trust Jesus, we need to trust him first. In a way, seeking to strengthen our relationship with Christ, is the first step in leading others to him. If we are excited about Jesus, others will be too.
Why are you hiding?
So how much time do you spend with unbelievers? As Christians we can sometimes seclude ourselves away in our churches, prayer meetings, and bible studies, to the point that we seldom get to interact with those who most need what we have. Often, this is done so that no one gets the wrong idea. What would people think if they saw us out and about, mixing with those of the world? With the people and places that Jesus hung out, he was accused of being "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."(Matt 11:19) Why do we feel the need to do better?
Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture may be easy to read and sprinkled with humor, but it's also loaded with challenges. You may suffer conviction, but there is hope for those willing to examine themselves, their motives, and methods. I recommend this book to all who are wanting to take a fresh look at reaching the lost in today's culture.
I'd like to thank Kregel Publications for sending me this free copy for review.