Monday, December 10

Advertisements vs. Salespeople

I was reading Frequently Avoided Questions by Chuck Smith Jr. and Matt Whitlock on the train this morning, and came across this thought: "Every Christian is at all times and in every place an advertisement for Jesus, not a salesperson or a telemarketer but a reflection of Christ, the lover of humans." (p. 197).

That thought literally stopped me in my tracks. I had never thought of it that way before. The difference between those two things is incredible. An advertisement invites the audience in and makes the product attractive. In fact, a good advertisement can be enjoyable and make you think positively about a company even if you have no interest in their products. For example, Cheryl and I just recently consolidated our cell phone service and signed a new contract with U.S. Cellular, so we have no interest in new cell phones or cell phone service. In spite of that, I love the AT&T Wireless Philaware Pragueicago commercial and T-Mobile's "Maybe you should get uglier friends" ad. I have no interest in the products those commercials are selling, but they have a positive effect on me. If an advertisement is well done, it can create interest in what is being advertised, and will help convince people that they need it.

People are more skeptical of salespeople, however. While a salesperson may very well be trying to help me find something I need or want, there is always an undercurrent that they are really in it for themselves. I always find myself wondering what they are not telling me. I'm enough of a cynic to think that they are telling me what they think I want to hear so that I will make the purchase. An advertisement may show me the best features of a product, but it leaves me free to make up my own mind. A salesperson is trying to force me into making a decision.

Often, I think Christians are too much like salespeople and not enough like advertisements. We often treat people who are not Christ followers like they are targets, and that we need to sell them Jesus. And when we do that, far too often we turn to high-pressure sales tactics ("if you don't accept Christ, you're going to go to hell"). Sometimes it works (just like sometimes I buy a car after talking with a car salesman), but even when it does work it makes many people uncomfortable with the process.

On the other hand, if we could live our lives more like an advertisement, we wouldn't have to tell people about the attractive features of Jesus. They would see those things in us every day. It would serve as an invitation to talk about the things we are advertising.

Often, a salesperson only gets one crack at making the sale. If the person doesn't buy right then, the likelihood is that they won't come back to deal with that person again. That's not true with an advertisement. If we truly are an advertisement for Jesus, and a person doesn't want what we are advertising today, that's okay. Because we'll be on again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that...

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