Yesterday, I wrote a bit about Brand Jesus and commented that Christians, especially in America, have a Christian alternative for so many different things. I know it might bother a few readers, but I don’t think this is Christianity at all. Jesus didn’t tell us to create our own little world and shut ourselves off from reality.
We don’t need an alternative to the world for us, we need to be an alternative to the world for others.
This is one of the reasons I led a Bible study on music a while back. I didn’t include one Christian contemporary band in the mix. Why? Because nobody listens to that. Well, people in church do, but we already market church to ourselves too much as it is. You simply can’t find many opportunities to turn the conversation to faith by approaching someone with a Christian alternative to popular music. They won’t give it a shot (some of it is very good, by the way). However, if you have a friend or family member who is struggling with faith and they listen to Coldplay, for example, you can easily start up a conversation about God with their music.
Brand Jesus is all about selling church to church people.
A few years ago, I was on vacation and was asked to speak to a youth group. As I tried to get my thoughts together on the topic of purpose, I stopped into a local coffee shop in Orange Beach. As I approached the counter, the barista (for lack of a better word) greeted me with a smile and said they were just opening but they would take my order and bring it to me as soon as it was ready. I paid for my coffee and took a seat.
As more people came in, the one person working there greeted everyone the same way—with a pleasant attitude and a smile. I looked around and noticed all of the standard beach decorations you might expect in a resort town but, in one corner of the room, I also noticed a cross on a bookshelf. It made me think of scripture.
Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people. Colossians 3:23
I don’t know anything about the person working at the shop, but it made me wonder if they were pleasant because of faith. They were not wearing anything from Brand Jesus—no shirts with scripture taken out of context, no overly repetitive praise music was playing and the shop was not named Jesus Java or anything like that either. They were simply pleasant people. Christians could reach a lot more people by keeping Colossians 3:23 in mind.
I got my coffee and turned back to my thoughts about the devotional I was writing. A stranger approached me and asked if he could sit down with me. This happens to me from time to time. The young man started talking to me. He told me he was a college graduate but was torn between going to work for the money or going back to school to do what he had really wanted to do.
A stranger poured out his feelings about purpose to me right there before my lesson on purpose. I couldn’t help but smile.
Whatever you do, do it for God.
I told him not to eliminate any options. He could certainly go to work and pay off his college debt while learning to do something he felt called to do. If you ignore your calling, you will never find happiness—sort of like the Ecclesiastes/Coldplay lesson I wrote about.
All things work for our good, as the Bible tells us.
As the stranger smiled and walked away, I wondered what made him seek me out. As I mentioned earlier, it has happened to me many times. I wasn’t wearing Brand Jesus attire (although I do have a few church t-shirts). I wasn’t reading a Bible and looking self important. I was just sipping coffee and looking at an iPad. I wonder if I had been dressed as a stereotype if he would have spoken at all.
Be approachable. People looking for answers in life are looking for truth, not a slogan.