Category Archives: Church

Gillette 3:16? The SimGospel According to Procter & Gamble

Recently the most famous razor company Gillette made an advertisement that, at length, participates in the drama of our culture’s tensions on important issues. I have seen the commercial. There is a lot of good content there. There is also a lot of crap there too. Depending on your focus, you will see what you want (or don’t want) to see.
The “crap” opinion regarding aspects of the commercial can immediately (possibly) make a couple of you reading this to shudder, re-question your opinion of me, and think you have me pegged religiously and politically.
The positive elements of the commercial involve the apparent call to men to be more than stereotypes, not evil, and stand up for the truth and the underdog. “Have some freaking morality!” it screams at the viewer while rattling the conservative and liberal buttons positively and negatively simultaneously. It calls men everywhere to have some deep convictions and ethics in society. Who can be against that? It is a very brilliant ad.

The crap part of it all, however, is that it is solely about money (I know you thought I was going to jump on it against the “#metoo” issue, (that too, in this commercial is about the end-goal of money)… I have seen how many of my Christian friends (who I respect the snot out of) have jumped in to praise the ethical message interwoven around the other messages within the commercial. Church culture has long used commercials within their worship services/sermons to make an illustrative point. The reason commercials grab us is due to their attractive nature. The people who create commercials are not stupid. They have to grab our hearts in a short amount of time in order for us to cough up the treasure that’s connected.

Ford sells Trucks, Pharmaceutical companies sell drugs, and Gillette sells razors. That’s what they sell. Gillette has felt recent pressures from other companies such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. One of these have an advertisement where they talk about how they are “disrupting the billion-dollar industry” (men’s razors and grooming products). Gillette has been criticized over overpriced products their “best ever” slogan is put forth so they can give the consumer the perception that their product is worth it. These other company’s creative destruction was simple… Be better and be cheaper. With the threat of competition, maybe Gillette became desperate and took a cue from the Nike playbook. The reality is that the issues they attempt to address are the flavor of the week. This is an observation, not a declaration that I am happy or excited about. Ethics, morality, love for neighbor, care for the marginalized, mercy, justice, love of enemy, embrace of the outsider, dignity, humility, etc… etc… is a duh if you are a follower of Christ (not to say that you have to be a follower of Jesus to practice these things).
Now before you damn me (if you are still reading). I will give my main point to offer a couple of thoughts from a Christian participant in this conversation. In his book “On Earth as it is in Advertising”, Sam Van Eman convincingly makes the point that most advertising (including mediums beyond commercials) pulls at our soul strings in order to get our money. Sam’s starting presupposition (Christian perspective) is that all of humanity (men and women) are broken due to sin. I am owning my presuppositions as much as possible to let the reader know that I obviously know that for some “sin” is not only not true, but a dangerous belief due to damage to a person’s self-worth. This, however, is not a post about that. It seems that every blog post that could cause offense, however, needs to die the death of a thousand qualifications so that a person realizes we are talking about ideas in an attempt to consider many angles and not just trying to tick people of the opposite opinion off. Our time is a time of reactionary absurdity of being offended by things that should not be given the air time that they do (when no loving and philosophical conversation is possible to ensue).
Sam’s book offers the illustration of the SimGospel. Because humanity longs for God, meaning, worth, value, life-to-the-full we will try to find remedies. We in our sinful experience are drawn to things that simulate the Gospel (Good news about our hopeless evil situation). We long to be saved. We long to be redeemed and live in a world where love and peace flow exhaustively (especially toward ourselves). The world/creation, however, does suffer due to wicked choices done by humans.
SO… my thoughts (which that is all they are) is that Gillette’s gospel is not sustainable since its purpose is derived from it’s end-goal of money. I believe that ethics are derivative of something or someone. For me, that is that ethics and morality are derived from a response of a human to a/the Holy God (To unpack “Holy” here is too big of a task for this post, but acknowledging this since it is a word that one might think I am using loosely in order to further Christian-Godspeak which isn’t necessarily helpful… or my point!).
The mediums, stories, and emotions that companies use to sell their products achieve their purposes. Profit. Profit is not, in my opinion, the problem. It is how we are moved in such a manner by the content that reaches for our souls to get to our wallets. Gillette cannot provide what human suffering/evil needs in order to address the problem. It is commend worthy to note the positive humanitarian call in the commercial. Those who bear the name of Jesus might remember to discern the reality that all truth is God’s truth and can be found throughout the creation. Jesus followers must remember that we often should not fit into a ditch of cultural or political assumptions. We must prophetically stand in a third stream to try and be a voice that points to the person full of Grace and Truth. Jesus. The Gospel is the Gospel. We must think through what the New Testament writers tell us about our identity before we quickly and completely baptize a SimGospel.
Instead of Gillette 3:16, I believe the Apostle Paul reminds what the Holy Spirit produces in those who are in a surrendered relationship with Jesus Christ: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This is the real Gospel and ironically is too quickly characterized, misunderstood, or rejected. And then out of nowhere… occasionally it can be popular for a season when it is presented through a slick medium.

GOD NEEDS YOUR MONEY! (just kidding)

Ministry is the only profession that retains nothing to itself, gives away all its knowledge free, and invites those served to do the same work“. -Klyne Snodgrass

I often encounter people in my American culture that once they find out that I am a pastor/Christian/associated with church (or in their understanding “organized religion”) they usually have a pre-packaged opinion of who I am, what I am a part of/believe, and possibly a fear of what I may attempt to “shove down their throat” (In Jesus’ loving name of course).

I love talking about belief and faith. I do have a Christian identity, and that can sometimes be a difficult reality when connecting with people that do not share that identification. There are many reasons for the potential disconnects between me and others when my Christian identity is known, but one of the main ones is the church’s reputation with money.

From creepy pastors and/or priests who betray God, their congregants, (and the watching world) trust through inappropriate/sexual misconduct to sketchy-but-slick-talking tele-evangelists’ pyramid schemes who dupe lonely T.V. watchers with their “magic” anointed hanker-chief type antics… the church’s reputation remains in critical condition in 2019.

Most priest and pastors of Christian churches are not those described above. Although all humans (including the spiritual leaders) are capable of evil, many are decent, honest, caring individuals that want to better the world from their deepest convictions often stemming from their love for God and neighbor. Most pastors are not the name-it-claim-it-rather-than-exegete-it types. Many pastors hate asking for money, but realize that it is a part of keeping the ministry going and helping people respond to God with their lives (I am also not saying that they are against faith in God’s provision).

This post is mainly to reflect on “the elephant” too often in the room when it comes to many people’s objection to church… giving money (or more particularly being asked for money). Most Americans have been in a worship setting where a plate or basket was passed to everyone for a collection of tithes and offerings. This can be perceived by many as a medium or act of worship (rightly so). Others who might have second thought opinions about how a church uses the money gathered and still others feel that the church only exists for financial gain.

Unless an individual becomes popular through media, books, or building a large church, most do not become wealthy from ministry (Most churches are smaller congregations, not mega with the mega bucks). On top of the potential low pay that comes with pastoral positions, Bible college and Seminary can be an expensive investment when many must take loans out in order to get the schooling needed for their vocation.

The church has a lot to overcome with its reputation in our culture concerning money. Church attendance continues to decline and the entertainment church, I believe, has a shelf life. As the older generations that were/are faithful to institutions decline, churches will have to be creative (but faithful) in their attaining and usage of funds (hopefully it is attained as a result of healthy discipleship).

The scriptures say a lot about money. Jesus said a lot about money.

 The irony is that ministry is done with money and often used to show tangible love through the meeting of other’s needs. This must not be forgotten. So there is this both/and reality to the church and money. We should be known by our love… not by our requests for money. The church’s reputation needs a money makeover.

Churches, however, if they continue to function like franchises of denominations (in my opinion) will have an uphill battle. Pastors currently function similar to that of general managers of a local food chain. Seasonally many put out the newest product-type-program/gimmick-media-décor to attract, retain, and impress attendees (and hope they tithe or at best TIP). This too is a both/and in my opinion. Communication mediums should be done well. They should also be evaluated for their purposes and where they point the attention to.

It is expected that people who connect, get involved, and love God want to express and respond with the most tangible ways like giving. The issue arises when the bills roll in and the building projects are too often funded by things hoped for but likely to be borrowed that the watching world gets distant. “Attractive church” is usually pitched/advertised as fun, safe, and sterile. In order to keep up the hype, however, big wheels need to keep on turning. The world gets reminded to get distant because burned out people talk… (a.k.a. they social media). When a church burns people out through expectation and exhaustion the bad news of money need (rather than the good news) spreads like a wildfire.

I “get” the attractive attempts by churches, but this too requires massive amounts of time, money, and volunteer energy. The issues are complex and many churches that do ministry like this do it well. The answer is not necessarily to boycott this approach (I don’t think anyway). The answer is also not to be so boring and waste people’s time through careless, thoughtless, boring homilies from the Bible and do music mediums poorly while still begging for money to keep an old ship floating.

The reality is that the Church (in all its forms) has done much good in each community to add value and meet the needs of people who would often be forgotten. This post cannot begin to highlight (and is not the purpose here) the mammoth ways that people who come to faith in Jesus end up changing the world for the better (through the generosity of the church).

This includes churches of all sizes and approaches to reach out to their world. It is a reminder to the Church to be the best steward as possible with their reputation through their use of people’s worship (giving). It is a reminder to those mad at the church for asking people to give money to be fair/reflective and also acknowledge how much churches help their local community (even if some are more obnoxious than they should be). Giving is not a sad thing. What is sad is that too many object going to a church for fear of feeling obligated or guilted into giving. Nobody should ever feel that God needs their money.

the reality is more  intense than money… God wants their life.

The good news is that God is a good steward and has a great reputation when it comes to giving grace and eternal life.

 

Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 224.