Are You Trying to Market God?

megaphone-1381104_1920Sharing our faith is tough. We want to be sensitive to our listener, and more than anything, we long to see them experience the deep love of Christ. But so often, our efforts are filtered through a heavy lens of self. This can result in an effort to market God and to love others on an agenda. Today, fellow ACFW member Emilie Hendrix

Are You Trying to Market God? 

by Emilie Hendryx

In today’s media-saturated culture we are in tune with marketing in a way that no one has been before. It’s everywhere we look, whether we’re at the grocery store, mall, bookstore, fitness center, or just driving down the road. We market pretty much everything from objects, food, thought processes, books, people, and faith.

But has this marketing-centric culture negatively affected us as Christians? I think it has, and I’d like point out three things that we can fall prey to when we try to “market God”.

Marketing tells you why “they” think you need it

At first glance this could sound like a good thing. And I agree, we do need to tell others about God! But, how we go about doing that is what’s important here. When we try to “market God” to those around us we can often pinpoint an “issue” (maybe this is an obvious sin etc.) and then make it our job to make sure that person knows why they need God.

The issue here isn’t in the sharing (that’s the good part) it’s in the heart of those who share and how they share. Do we share the gospel from a heart that overflows with love for others? Or a heart that shares in arrogance and condemnation?

Marketing tells why the “product” is the best, but leaves things out

I believe that a relationship with Christ is the only way to heaven. Sharing that is easy and personal. But, part of the difficulty when we try to “market God”, is that we can be tempted to leave out the hard parts. Sometimes it’s hard to stand up for what you believe in, especially in today’s culture. I know there are things I believe that set me apart from others. The temptation here is to gloss over, ignore, or not address these things when talking about the gospel.

Jesus is the perfect example of what to do in order to resist the temptation to “market God”. He took no effort to hide His affiliation with those who were considered unloved, forgotten, despised, or labeled as sinners in His day. But what did He do while he spent time with them? He spoke the truth. Just like when He had a conversation with the woman at the well (John 4). He told her to “go and sin no more” – so, to walk away from her sinful lifestyle – but He didn’t ignore her.

In our culture, it’s almost assured that we’ll be faced with someone challenging our beliefs. Don’t give in to the temptation to “market God” to make Him look “better” or “more accepting” or less “judgmental” just because you’re afraid you’ll make Him look bad (or afraid you’ll look bad). If your faith and understanding is rooted in Biblical truth and you’re speaking from a place of love and peace, then His truth will be conveyed.

Marketing is incentivized

 In our current culture it is almost a guarantee that any major brand you see worn by a celebrity is most likely due to the fact they got it in exchange to talk about/show real-estate-agents-1537461_1920off/or represent that product. I run an Etsy shop and have a Society6 shop where I create bookish products to sell and I choose “Reps” for my brand. These are people who pledge to represent my brand and my products on their Instagram accounts. I don’t pay them to say nice things about my products, but they choose to Rep for me because they like my products and believe in them. This is not the case all the time however. There are many companies who pay people to Rep for them in addition to giving them products for free.

I can’t help but feel a little cheated when I see a celebrity talking about something they “love” only to find out they are getting paid to say those things. Doesn’t it make it seem as if all of their kind words, though probably drawn from real experiences with the product, are tainted?

I think the same can happen with Christians who “market God”. This comes to the heart of it all. To the why of sharing the gospel with others. Are we trying to “market God” because we a) think He needs our help b) think its “the right thing to do” c) feel pressure or guilt to do it d) like the attention we get when we look smart in front of others or e) another answer I haven’t thought of…?

The reasons we should share the gospel (and not market it) come from His commands to us to go and spread the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20, Acts1:8) paired with a heart that overflows with love for our Savior and the overwhelming realization that we cannot keep this Good News to ourselves.

I don’t know you (most likely), so what I say here is largely taken from what I see myself falling prey to. In March on my blog I focus on Marketing and Social Media for writers and authors and, as I contemplated what I wanted this post to be about, I realized that I may do a good job at marketing products and books, but I cannot let that negatively affect my faith.

west-826947_1920I can’t expect to go out “into the world” and arrogantly tell others why they are wrong and need the Lord, but I can share my personal experiences with them and pray for the Holy Spirits conviction in their hearts. I can’t try and make Christianity look “better” or gloss over the heavy issues because I serve a Big God who handles the tough questions. And I can’t have any other motivations aside from desiring to share the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15) with those around me.

Have you struggled with trying to “market God”? Which of these three things can you relate with most? What other things (positive or negative) do you see that have been influenced by this “marketing society” we live in?

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Emilie is a freelance writer and photographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She’s a member of ACFW and writes romantic square-mesuspense while dreaming up YA Sci-Fi worlds on the side. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time you can find her designing fun bookish items for her Etsy and Society6 shops all while drinking too much coffee.

Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest, and visit her online at her blog, Thinking Thoughts.

 

 

 

4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two

As I mentioned yesterday, relationships are hard. Tanya wrote about two relationships God wanted us to cultivate–our relationship with Him, and our relationship with our spouse–and how we can do that. But there are two more relationships we must nurture: our relationship with…well, read on to see what Tanya says.

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4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two 
By Tanya Eavenson

Yesterday, I wrote about cultivating our relationships with God and with our spouses here. Today, there are two more relationships God calls us to cultivate.

3) Cultivate your relationships within the church.

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One way you can cultivate relationships within the church is through regular attendance and getting plugged in.

  • There are many areas in your church that need helpers, like teaching a Sunday school class, helping out in the nursery, designing a church website, answering phones, or even being a part of the clean-up crew after events. You’ll never know the needs a church has until you ask.
  • Be active. Have you ever considered joining a women’s ministry? Do you participate in a Bible study? Attend conferences that encourage and refresh your soul? As Hebrews 10:24-25 says above, we gather together to encourage one another. So be active.
  • Pray for the staff and ministries. One of the most crucial and most powerful acts of love a church can offer is prayer for their church staff, ministries within the church, and those who serve in those ministries.
  • Reach out to others. Whether it’s a card, text, or phone call, reach out to others for their birthday, bereavement, thinking of you, or any occasion. It means a lot to know someone cares and is lifting you up in prayer.

4) Cultivate your relationships with those who don’t know Jesus Christ.

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Did you know that if you claim to be a Christian, you’re a testimony of God? It may or may not surprise you, but people are observing us. How we handle heartaches and difficulties, the way we love our spouses, how we talk, how we treat others, and even our joys, accomplishments, and blessings represent who God is. Not that we must worry about being perfect. We all make mistakes. The Lord knows we aren’t perfect, but while we strive to follow Him in this imperfect world, there are several things we can do to reach the lost.

  • Pray for God to give you opportunities to share the Gospel with someone as you go along your day. Ask Him to give you boldness to proclaim the joy of God’s word.
  • Give forgiveness. Forgiveness is what sets Christianity apart from other faiths. If someone has offended you, treat them kindly, with love, regardless of how they’ve mistreated you. We truly don’t know what others are going through. Perhaps what they need to hear is they aren’t alone and there is One who will be with them through it all.
  • Share your testimony of what God has done in your life. It doesn’t have to sound professional: just honest. Sometimes our testimonies can bless others and be an encouragement to those who now walk where we’ve walked.
  • Show love to the lost. The Bible also clearly states in James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

The Lord has called us to share who He is with the world, and this often requires tangible actions. He calls us to go and love others by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans, visiting those who are sick and those in prison. Find a need within your community, your neighborhood or in another country and fill that need. How? It’s up to you. Contact your local church to see what ministries they offer, but most importantly, tell people about Jesus. It could be something as simple as passing out a Bible to a co-worker or to a stranger at the mall that leads people to Jesus and eternal life.

I’ve listed several practical ways to grow your relationships with the Lord, your spouse, your church, and with the lost, but it takes action. Cultivating anything takes time, energy, and a desire for something to grow, including our relationships. So why not start today?

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Restored_1400x2100 (1)Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Buy Links:
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

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Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

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Where I’ve been: Please join me over on Stitches Thru Time with Crystal L. Barnes today!

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Let’s talk about this:
 Over the past two days, Tanya has shared  four relationships God wants us to cultivate. Yesterday’s were God and our spouses, and today’s were the church and those who don’t know Christ. How do you cultivate your relationship with the church? What about those in your community? What keeps you from tending these relationships? What motivates you to seek these relationships out? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Forgiving the Unforgivable by Martha Rogers

I’ll admit, today’s story is very difficult for me to post. As I read Martha Rogers’ testimony, numerous emotions surfaced and to be honest, I strongly contemplated sending her an email telling her I couldn’t post her story. I believe to do so would cause her pain, yet I am equally concerned her testimony may hurt some of my readers. Her testimony raises a key question well worth addressing: Is anyone beyond grace? Now, before you answer the evangelically correct, “Yes, for God’s arm is mighty to save!” let me color it with the added question: What about the serial killer or pedophile? Now the question becomes more difficult, doesn’t it? Not because our view of God has changed, but because our emotions are charged.

Someone I care about very deeply was forever changed by a pedophile, and although this individual has experienced great healing thanks to God’s mercy and grace, many of her wounds remain, thirty-five to forty years later. As I read today’s submission, she was the one I thought of. Yet, I need to remember the truth that launched the series–there is freedom in forgiveness. As I mentioned in Freedom in Forgiveness, yes, we forgive out of obedience for God, as an active demonstration of our love for Him and in gratitude for all He’s done, but we also forgive to free ourselves from the root of bitterness that threatens to destroy us.

Another reason I chose to post this testimony is because it reveals an even greater truth: God’s grace extends to all, even the “worst of these”. No one is beyond forgiveness and no life is beyond hope. And when God gets hold of a life and a heart, that person experiences radical transformation. He doesn’t just help them “do better”. He changes them from the inside out, taking away their old heart and replacing it with a new heart.  I look forward to hearing your comments, and welcome all, even the angry ones. I know many of you may be greatly offended by this post, and for those of you standing on the other side as the offended, I am so very sorry. Please know it is not my intent in any way to hurt you.

Forgive As the Father Forgave by Martha Rogers

Forgiving others for wrongs they do is one of the most difficult things that many Christians have to do. When we or those we love have been deeply hurt, embarrassed, or humiliated by another, forgiving is the last thing on our minds. God’s forgiveness is unconditional, and quick to be given when we ask Him, so why then is it difficult for us to do the same?

I had this lesson brought home to me in a very real and meaningful way with my brother. Ever since he was a teenager, he’d been in trouble with the law. He was in and out of juvenile institutions until he reached adulthood. What happened to him in those places is too horrible to even describe now, but we didn’t know those things then.

When I married, he was at my wedding, but not many months later, at age fifteen, he was once again in detention. When he was finally arrested as an adult on drug charges and sexual crimes, I gave up on him and turned my back on him.

Off and on for the next ten years he tried to rehabilitate, and we’d once again have contact, but I didn’t want him around my sons. His lifestyle led him in the wrong direction that completely alienated me from him. My mother and father were deeply hurt by his actions, but they never gave up on him and supported him whenever they could.

However, at one point I decided I’d had enough and wrote him out of my life. I no longer had a brother and never talked about or mentioned him to anyone. To me, he no longer existed. That went on for many, many years until the year our oldest son planned to be married. Two weeks before the wedding, my mother called to tell me that he had been arrested again. This time he’d taken a young boy and left town with my dad’s credit cards.

 His name, crimes, and arrest were all over the front pages of the newspapers and on TV news reports. I was thankful my last name was now different and no one would connect him to me. No one did, but God knew.

Very early one morning, mother called to tell me that he’d been visited in prison by her pastor and that Johnny had made a confession of faith and asked forgiveness from the Lord. I told her that was impossible and didn’t want to talk about it.

Later, as I was praying and getting ready for my day, a feeling came over me that I cannot describe. It was as though I was suddenly completely alone. After seeking out our chaplain at school and telling him about my brother, he handed me his Bible, open to a verse in Matthew, and simply said, “Martha, you know what you have to do.”

I read the words of Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Tears filled my eyes and I sobbed to my Heavenly Father and asked his forgiveness for my actions, and then forgave my brother and let all the bitterness flow from me.

That feeling of being so alone disappeared and once again the arms of our Lord wrapped around me and assured me that no matter what my brother had done, he had been forgiven. I wrote a letter to him and told him what had happened. He was convicted as a pedophile and sentenced to sixty years in prison. Since that time we have corresponded regularly and since our parents’ deaths, I’ve been the one to support him and make sure he has what he needs while in prison.

The ironic thing is that my friends didn’t turn away from me in disgust when they learned about John, but surrounded me with love and compassion and admiration. My testimony in the months since then has touched many lives and became the basis for my writing theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. Johnny is still in prison, but he is also a son of our Lord Jesus Christ and my brother.

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Martha’s book credits include the novella, Sugar and Grits and A River Walk Christmas, as well as the historical romance series, Winds Across the Prairie. She had also written seven Bible studies, contributed to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Karen O’Conner, and Debbie White Smith. Martha has also written devotionals in several anthologies including recently released Blissfully Blended, Devotionals for Step-moms from Barbour. Martha is currently working on another series, Seasons of the Heart.  Book one, Summer Dream, will released in the summer of 2011.  Martha sings in the choir at her church and is a co-leader for a First Place 4 Health group. She loves to scrapbook when she has the time. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending football and baseball games when one of them is playing.

Her latest release, Caroline’s Choice, is about a young woman trying to move forward after a painful past:

At age twenty-six, Caroline Frankston is certain life is passing her by in the town of Barton Creek. Matthew Haynes has made no indication of his feelings for her, so she decides the time has come for her to move away from her family and friends for a fresh start. Once in Oklahoma City, Caroline is fascinated by the many opportunities there and begins moving on with her life. Meanwhile, Matt realizes his true feelings for Caroline and plans to tell her on her next trip home. When Caroline’s train has an accident and she goes missing, Matt sets out in search of her, wondering if any chance of spending his life with Caroline has disappeared.

Visit Martha’s website and blogs to find out more about her and her powerful writing. Martha Rogers: Touching Hearts…Changing Lives
Her other books include: Becoming Lucy (January 2010); Morning for Dove (May 2010)  Finding Becky (September 2010) Realms;  Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas (September 2010) Barbour; Summer Dream (Summer 2011) Realms