Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Selling Jesus, Marketing Sheep and Doves

I wanted a Biblically-oriented greeting card so I went to the Jesus merchandise store, part of a national chain. Why do I do this? Maybe I’ve learned my lesson.

As I browsed the cards I overhead an interchange between a cashier and a customer.

Cashier, “Would you like to purchase this CD with excerpts from Christopher Christian’s ten top-selling books?”

Customer, “No thanks.”

Cashier, “We also have this great CD on sale with music inspired by Christine Christian’s latest speaking tour?”

Customer, “No thanks.”

Cashier, “And then there is this CD, available today, of inspirational thoughts to draw you closer to God recorded by well-known preachers, teachers, and vocal artists.”

Customer, “No thanks.”

Cashier, “Can we put you on our email list?”

Customer, “Sure.”

I thought about leaving the store without purchasing a card. “Am I at McDonald’s?” I wondered. Talk about selling. I expect the folks at the Hallmark store to offer me one item on “special” when I checkout, but three items? That’s over the top.

I made it through the sales transaction, knowing what to expect and saying “no” to everything – other than a pitch to purchase a Bible for a prison ministry, I did do that after I read about the ministry.

I realize that stores have to make money to stay in business, but really, pitching numerous “special” items at a checkout register at a Christian bookstore is one of the many things that turns such a bookstore into a Jesus merchandise shop.

Is there much difference between a Jesus merchandise shop and an NFL store? They are both about logos, favorite players (popular Christian authors, preachers, singers, etc.), excitement, and what’s trendy.

Trend with the world, die with the world. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

German Johnson Tomatoes

About a week ago I saw a large pink tomato at the bottom of one of our plants; its size was perfect for BLTs, just perfect. Since it wasn’t red I was afraid to pick it – better to let it fully ripen. A couple of days ago I asked Vickie to check it to see what she thought. She looked at it, noticed it was beginning to rot on the bottom, and went online to see what German Johnson tomatoes look like when they are ripe…they look pink.

I harvested the tomato and after cutting away the rotten part we had enough for two BLTs. Now we know to look for pink and not red on our German Johnson tomato plants.

How often do we expect people to look the same as they mature? How often do we fail to appreciate the nuances and differences in people and thereby fail to appreciate the gifts and graces and insights that others may bring to our congregations, communities, and business organizations? Had Vickie not checked to see what German Johnson tomatoes look like when ripe we would have allowed much fruit to rot on the vine. How much fruit do we allow to rot in the lives of others because we expect everyone to look the same, act the same, respond the same? How much fruit does God produce in the lives of others that we disregard? 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fruit and Blossoms

We’ve been picking pole beans the past few weeks, along with squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. Hopefully we’ll soon be harvesting various varieties of full-sized tomatoes.

As I was picking pole beans yesterday I was mindful not to disturb the blossoms adjacent to the mature fruit, something easy to do. Rough handling when picking fruit can dislodge blossoms and falling blossoms represent lost fruit.

I thought about caring for people. Just as a tower of pole beans (we use rectangular towers to grow our pole beans) contains fruit in various stages of maturation, so congregations, small groups, and Sunday schools contain people in various stages of growth. A wise gardener is aware of mature fruit, blossoms, and every stage of growth in-between. A foolish gardener only pays attention to mature fruit, by doing so he or she forfeits future fruit. The firstfruit of a plant is exactly that, the firstfruit; it is not the full harvest. Yet, how many times do we settle for immediate fruit, take what we can get, damage blossoms in the process, and then wonder why there isn’t greater result in ministry?

I need to pay attention to the blossoms, I need to pay attention to areas of the plant that have yet to blossom, I need to harvest the mature fruit (harvesting encourages growth) and I need to be aware of maturing fruit – not picking it too early and not picking it too late. A healthy tower of pole beans will have, at some point, parts of the plant in each area of growth.