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Tag: Marketing Jesus

Buying What Evangelicals Are Selling

evangelism

Evangelicalism is a product that must be sold on the market of ideas. Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and garden-variety church members are the salespeople and the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world are the prospective customers. Within the Evangelical mall, there are all sorts of stores (churches), each selling their “unique” brand of the one true faith. Much like prostitutes advertising their wares in front of brothels, Evangelicals advertise why their store is the best one in town. It is up to the Philistines of the world to decide which, if any, Evangelical sect or church is for them.

In our consumer-oriented world, we know there is a big difference between product advertisement and the actual product itself. All of us, at one time or another, have bought a product based on its advertising claims, only to get it home and find out that the product does not deliver as advertised.

What does Evangelicalism advertise to the world? Salvation. Forgiveness of sins. Eternal life. Meaning. Purpose. Joy. Community. Most of all, Evangelicalism offers transformation. New life in Christ, old things are passed away and all things become new.

Evangelicalism creates a “need” by telling prospective customers that they are sinful, broken, and alienated from the company’s CEO. They also create a “solution” by selling the only product that will fix the “need” — salvation. Each store has its own version of salvation, but the goal is one and the same for all: salvation and new life in Christ.

If customers will buy what Evangelicals are selling, the advertising says that they will be granted a lifetime warranty that extends beyond the grave. Further, all sorts of promises are made as far as product performance is concerned. Yet, buried deep within the terms of service that says “your mileage may vary.” Extra costs and conditions apply: weekly church attendance, tithing, obedience to an ancient religious text, conformity to church standards, rules, and regulations, and giving your time, talent, and money to the church.

Most of the people who read this blog have bought what Evangelicals are selling, yet somewhere in the life of the product, we determined that it was not delivering as promised. Many of us returned the product to its seller, never to buy another one again. When asked by customer service why we returned the product, we told them about how God/Christianity/Church was not as advertised. We found that the product looked nice and people really admired it, but when put to use, it failed. Evangelical salespeople talked a great line, but when it came time for Jesus and the church to deliver, they failed miserably. Some of us went looking for different brands and models, sure that there was a better product out there for us if we just looked for it. Some of the rest of us decided that no “better” product was to be had, so we donated it to Goodwill or threw it in the trash.

Evangelical salespeople continue to pester us. When told of the problems we had with their product, we are told that we shopped at the wrong store, bought the wrong model, or didn’t follow the directions. The failure of the product is always our fault. If only we had bought the blue one instead of the yellow one or shopped at John Calvin’s instead of Jacob Arminius’ store, we would still be happy, satisfied customers. If only we had carefully read every word in the owner’s manual 666 times and spent hours each day pondering its words, we would still be Christians. If only we had fasted and prayed without ceasing. If only we had committed our whole hearts, souls, and minds to the one true CEO.

If only . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Living in the Land of God, Guns, and the GOP: Local Evangelical Car Repair Ad

god guns trump

We live in rural Northwest Ohio, fifty miles west of Toledo and forty-five miles east of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is our home, even though we have lived in central Ohio, Southeast Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, California, and Texas. I was born in nearby Bryan, Ohio. My Hungarian grandparents owned a one-hundred-acre farm three miles north of my home. Since 2007, we have lived in the one-stoplight town of Ney, population 356. Over the years, I worked for two local churches, one in Montpelier, another in West Unity.

As a young man, I couldn’t wait to get away from rural Northwest Ohio with its flat land (an overpass is a hill) and social and cultural monoculture. Yet, time after time over the years, I returned to my home, finally making peace with its bland, boring, slow way of life. Now that pervasive health problems have boxed me in, I know I am “stuck,” with no other option than to live out my days in the land of God, Guns, and the GOP.

Lest I leave readers with the impression that I am just sitting around waiting to die, let me be clear, I love living in rural Northwest Ohio. I am a homegrown boy, intimately familiar with my surroundings. I love the watch-the-corn-grow rhythm of life. Yet, wanderlust is ever with me, calling me to waters and hills far beyond my home. I know I am living in the last home I will ever inhabit, so I have to content myself with road trips and vacations to other places. My six children and thirteen grandchildren live nearby, allowing me to be involved in their lives as much as I physically can. Yet, I can’t help but hope that my grandchildren will leave this place we call home and explore the world.

I am an atheist in a place where few people are. I have met fewer than ten locals over the past fourteen years who identify as atheists or agnostics (and some of them are still in the closet). I am sure there are more atheists around me, but the economic and social costs are such that atheists often keep their unbelief to themselves. Evangelicalism rules the roost, even at mainline churches. There are three hundred churches within thirty or so minutes from our home. Jesus is everywhere (yet nowhere because he’s dead) — literally. And the local culture reflects this. People assume you are a Christian. People assume you attend church. People assume you believe the Bible is the Word of God. People assume you believe God created everything. The pressure to conform to religious norms can be overwhelming. While I refuse to conform, I totally understand why some local atheists choose to play the “game” instead of being tarred and feathered as an unbeliever.

Let me give you a good example of how pervasive Evangelical Christianity is in rural Northwest Ohio. What follows is a front-page ad on the Defiance Crescent-News’ website for Auto Servant, a Christian car repair business in Defiance.

auto servant ad

Auto Servant has a Facebook page for its business. Here are some of the posts made on the page:

Christmas

Merry Christmas! From all of us at Auto Servant! We are so thankful for God our father to send His son Jesus Christ! And to lead us all with the Holy Spirit! We are so thankful for all our friends and family and customers! You are the best people in the world! We truly appreciate you all and all you do. For all your prayers and support! We are very grateful for you all! God bless you!

Thanksgiving

We are so thankful for God our father! Our Lord Jesus Christ! Our guidance Holy Spirit! Thank you Lord for all you have done for us and our families! You are the center of who we are! Thank you to all our wonderful family and employees. You are the best! Thank you to all of our wonderful customers and friends! We truly appreciate you all so much! God has put amazing people in our lives! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

Easter

Praise God- though the last few days- we were unsure/ now we know/ God has risen! Death has been defeated! Jesus you change everything! Chains fall- fear gone- Jesus you change everything!

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! Thank you Lord for your sacrifice and for the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for us! We pray for Your protection over the USA!

Easter

Celebrating the greatest comeback in HISTORY! God bless you all! Thank you Lord Jesus for sacrificing so much for us!

It’s clear from its newspaper ad and Facebook page that the owner of Auto Servant has a certain demographic in mind for its services — Christians. On one hand, this is a smart business model. Using words and imagery that says to local Christians: “Hey, I am part of the same tribe. Get your car fixed here,” is smart and likely profitable. Auto Servant is not the only local business that uses this model. Crosses, fish symbols, and Bible quotations are common. Go to these businesses and you will find Christian kitsch everywhere. Again, these things say to Christian customers: “Hey, I am one of you. Spend your money here.”

On the other hand, the United States is becoming increasingly non-religious. The fastest-growing religious demographic in the U.S. is the “nones” — those who self-identify as atheist, agnostic, or indifferent towards religion. People in this demographic are less likely to frequent businesses that use religion as a marketing tool (even if these businesses think they have a higher motive or purpose for doing so). As godless heathens, my wife and I deliberately avoid businesses that use Jesus to promote their stores. That’s why we don’t eat at Chik-fil-A or shop at Hobby Lobby. That’s why we don’t shop at some local businesses and would never take our car in for repair at Auto Servant. We simply won’t do business with stores that lead with the Cross.

We certainly frequent businesses owned by Christians. We have no problem with an owner’s personal religious beliefs as long she keeps her beliefs to herself. When we go to a business, we are there to fulfill our wants and needs. If we wanted to hear about Jesus, we would go to a church. Several years ago, an appliance repairman came to our home to fix our dryer. We knew he was a Christian, but he was known for providing excellent service, so we decided to have him repair our dryer. During the course of repairing our dryer, he took it upon himself — unprompted — to witness to us and invite us to his church. We said nothing. However, we will never do business with this man again.

We rarely shop locally these days. The reasons are many, but one reason is that we are tired of the constant Jesus-in-your-face business practices. Typically, we do most of our shopping in Fort Wayne, Toledo, or online. By doing so, we use our dollars as a protest to the practice of using Jesus/Christianity as a marketing tool. Will this choice of ours make any difference locally? Nope. And that doesn’t matter. This is a personal choice for us, one that reflects our values. A generation from now, I suspect local businesses will be less likely to parade Jesus and Christianity before potential customers. For now, Jesus is good for business.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser