Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Commercials and Christianity

Professional football has started up again, and you know what that means: thousands of people have begun the countdown to the biggest event of the year, the Super Bowl.  They’re not counting down because this year has a very cool Roman Numeral (L).  They’re counting down because they can’t wait to see—the outstanding teams take the field?  No.  The impressive halftime show?  No.  The fans who paint themselves unnatural colors and drink a lot of beer in the name of encouraging their players?  No.  (Aside, the song playing in the background right now on my computer is “Colors of the Wind,” which is startling appropriate given that last sentence)
No, people everywhere are counting down to the Super Bowl so they can watch the commercials.  Ok, ok.  Let me go ahead and grant you that the commercials aren’t what they used to be, though I’m not sure why because they pay just as much or even more for the time.  Still, they’ve lost their luster. 
What makes a good commercial anyway?  Is it just a memorable hook?  I don’t think so.  I’ve seen plenty of commercials that I would have said, “Wow that was awesome,” and then promptly forget what it was advertising.  Was it a luxury car or a jeweler or a cologne.  Aw crud I can’t remember.
This is why I am a HUGE fan of Geico commercials.  I don’t know who they have writing over there, but she isn’t paid nearly enough.  Why?  Because every time I see a Geico commercial, I remember not just the commercial itself but also that it’s a commercial for Geico!  Cave Men.  The Gecko.  Celebrity Assist Commercials.  And lately the Golf Announcer Commercials (I love the one with the Kraken.  “Looks like he’s going to go with a 9-iron here, I don’t think that’s going to be enough club.”).
Anyway, the point is that for a commercial to be really good, it can’t just be entertaining or memorable.  People have to associate the commercial with your product so that when they are looking for something like your product they already know your name.  They think, “I need to save 15% or more on my car insurance...who could I call...oh, Geico of course!”
So I’ve been continuing to think about our church’s decision to focus on mission and what this means for those of us who are already here.  In the coming months we’ll gain a clearer and clearer understanding of the future into which God is calling us.  One way or another, though, I feel confident we’re going to have to consider how we interact in the world around us.
Seems to me like we can learn something from the commercials here.  First, we have to live a life that is memorable to others.  Not memorable like we dress up like Taylor Swift and sing sea chanties on the square or anything.  Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  People will never forget that you made them laugh (Geico).  People will never forget that you held their hand.  As Janice said a month or two ago in her sermon, people will never forget when you listened and said nothing more than, “Me too.”  In short, you make them feel whole.  You don’t have to shout it from the mountaintops.  In fact, in the world of today, a lot of the unchurched have grown to mistrust the folks who shout the loudest.  And we have to do this for everyone.  Not just our friends and family, but the people we encounter all the time in the routine of daily life.
But there’s more to it than that.  People will remember you made them feel whole.  At some point, though, you’ll need to tell them why.  Why did you treat them in that way?  It wasn’t because you wanted them to become a member of the church.  It wasn’t because you wanted them to come and contribute.  It was because being a Christian, to us, means that we love our God, our neighbors, and ourselves.  Living into that call authentically means reaching out and making people feel whole.  Making disciples means helping them understand why—and helping them understand that even in their brokenness, (or as Janice suggested, especially because of their brokenness), they can make people feel whole too.  And our church is a haven for people who believe answering Christ’s call means doing just that.

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