Church and Tupperware Parties

First off, I review Bill Maher’s comedy, Religulous, over at the Jesus Manifesto zine.  Check them (the review and the movie) out if you get a chance.  On a related note, it’s interesting that apparently, folks associated with the film’s production created a fake Christian rock band to call for a fake Christian boycott of the movie in order to create more of a buzz around the film.  Check out the funny call to arms here.

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We’ve all known him or her at one point in our life, perhaps at this moment.  S/he is a regional salesperson of [insert product name here] for [Tupperware / Pampered Chef / Mary Kay / etc].  Remember the first few weeks s/he was selling the stuff?  How s/he kept inviting you to that sales event s/he was having at his/her house?  How everyone would receive the complimentary gift, and there would be no pressure to commit to buying anything?  How you either went to the party, bought something, and that was the end of that … or you didn’t go, haven’t bought anything, and subsequently dread every conversation with said friend since then?

Sound familiar?

I wonder if this is how many outside of Christian circles feel about their Christian friends, especially those who are super evangelistic.  You know, always feeling like they are trying to get them to buy something.  Trying to get them to come to some introductory meeting at their church building or house, where they may even receive a complimentary gift just for showing up. (a Bible, a CD of worship music, the Jesus Video…)  Like many “regional salespeople” of those catchy kitchen products, one begins to wonder if s/he is my friend because s/he cares about me, or if s/he is just trying to sell me something.  In way too many relationships, the agenda is painfully obvious, and the “potential buyer” is usually the one who gets flogged by it.

I’m finding it more and more difficult to “close the deal” in this way as it relates to my faith, instead just desiring to love people and be their friend for no other reason than to love them and be their friend.  (because Jesus said this was the sum of the law and the prophets)  On the other side of the coin, I want all my friends to experience the joy of life under the reign of loving Jesus and be assimilated into his mission.

This is perhaps my/our biggest tension right now.  Suggestions?

*my apologies to any of my readers who are “regional salespeople.”  My intention is not to knock your profession, but to underscore the difficulty of forming authentic friendships while trying to sell a product.  In the same way that not all Christians are “salespeople for Jesus,” clearly not all “regional salespeople” fit my description above.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by miller on October 11, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    i really resonate with your post steve. i feel the very thing you are describing intensely here in this over-churched city. there are literally gangs of “evangelists” that “roam the streets” lurking around the entrances to bars and such to pounce on the unsuspecting lost.

    i’d be willing to bet that there’s not a single resident of this city that hasn’t been invited to church and there are few that haven’t been offered the “peace and joy and fellowship” of the Lord only to find it comes at great cost or lasts not at all.

    attempting to invite others to Jesus in these circumstances is just frustrating! i wish i had answers for you bro but i don’t…

    right now i’m thinking i need to be less apologetic for the behavior of my pushy bretheren and less cryptic about what i’m inviting people to. but all of this within the bounds of a relationship that gives permission to offer the invite.

    i also think i have to be a member of the physical community to which i extend the invite… no drive-by evangelism, no lobbing gospel grenades and running back to safety!

    thanks for the post, i hope it gets some conversation going. my guess is that there are many readers who are feeling pretty put off or convicted or shocked after having read the post (if they even finished it), i hope they get past it and jump into the conversation.

    peace

    Reply

  2. This is the way I have felt for years. Maybe we are trying to “sell” the wrong thing. Are we selling the love of Jesus or are we selling “church?” I sometimes feel like I’m trying to get people into church instead of Jesus. Somehow, I have always felt that if I could just show people Jesus, by the way that I love them, they would give me the opportunity to tell them about why I love them and the ONE who made it possible.

    Terry

    Reply

  3. this has always been my tension, also. as an MK who has seen much i’ve never felt comfortable evangelizing, i’d much rather live a compelling life and have it intrigue people even to ask me about it, so i can tell them the source of it, which is basically alien. but i also recognize that i am afraid of scaring people away, mainly not away from christ but from me.

    Reply

  4. “I wonder if this is how many outside of Christian circles feel about their Christian friends,”

    yes, yes we do.

    Reply

  5. Hey, I came across your blog via your dad. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

    For me, there is sort of a lingering embarrassment in admitting my connection to church – not because I’m ashamed of associating myself with the values of Christ, but because I’m afraid my interactions with people will be stereotyped as being completely motivated by a “sales pitch” agenda.

    Maybe evangelism should be less like a sales pitch and more like a meal. Inviting someone to a meal is an invitation to share in something together. A meal promotes two-way interaction, unlike a sales pitch, which is primarily one sided. A meal doesn’t require an immediate decision to be made, but instead fosters long term trust and honest dialogue. A meal creates community, a sales pitch creates religious consumers.

    In my opinion, we need more sharing and less selling.

    Thanks for provoking thought.

    Reply

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