Has this ever happened to you?
You are strolling through a bookstore or shopping mall and you are approached by a random stranger. This person is very bubbly, smiling, sharp dressed and sorta creepy. They begin to introduce themselves to you and then without skipping a beat, they get uncomfortably personal: "Hey, I have been watching you awhile and I think you would make a great member for my team. Would you like to join a select group of entrepreneurs that are looking for sharp people like you to join us in an up-and-coming enterprise? The earning potential of this opportunity is limitless. And I can tell, you are the type of guy that has enormous talent and skill that is just waiting to be tapped." You ask them about their team, and they hem and haw all the while trying to get you to allow them to come over to your house for a meeting.
So you ask them, "Are you selling Amway?"
They don't answer this question directly, but their nervous eye twitch and jingling of pocket change instantly gives away their true motives. "Yep, just what I thought - - no thanks, I would like to hang on to my friends... and my money."
This scenario has happened to me more times than I can count: Sitting next to a slick guy at a bible college class, while perusing a book about George Washington at Barnes & Nobles Bookstore, and it actually occurred once as I was selling suits at J. Riggins. To top it all off, I was even approached after I preached a sermon at church; a guy came up to me and said he would like to take me out to lunch and talk. I naively thought he wanted to talk about a spiritual topic like "Justification by Faith" or the "Eschatological Destiny of the Unbeliever"; when to my surprise he only wanted to try convincing me to join his money making pyramid scheme. He had the gumption to say to me, "Don't you realize, God gave you these communication skills for more than just preaching on Sunday and telling people about Jesus?"
I was reading an article about some of the standard Amway tactics (and other pyramid schemes). They are strikingly similar to the average evangelical church's approach to evangelism:
(1) The first thing is to get people to dream big dreams. Motivate people by their innate desire for personal gain and enrichment. "Wouldn't you like a 40 foot sail boat, new cars in the garage, and seeing all your mom's debt paid off?" The Christian approach is similar: "Did you know God has a wonderful plan for your life?"
(2) Secondly, they sell you on having things "your way", breaking free from the iron grip of authority. They promise you the freedom of being your own boss; determining your own hours; working from your home. "And just think, it will only require a few hours a week?" Evangelical Christianity has it's own libertine sales line as well: "Through a relationship with Jesus, you can pray in his name and he will get you whatever you want. Name it, claim it. Just believe."
(3) Thirdly, they manipulate the sale through urgency; they convince you of a perceived benefit if you join the group immediately. "Sign up today, and you will receive a one-time only sizable discount on the sales kit, and just think you will get a huge percentage of the sales for signing anyone else up. But this offer will not be available tomorrow -- so you must join now! Don't let this pass you by." Christianity and soul winning churches have mastered this technique as well: "If you come forward, accept Jesus in your heart, eternal life is yours! But be careful, if you leave without believing, you could get hit by a car? And what then?"
(4) And finally, to keep the ones who signed-up committed, they are inundated with mind-numbing propaganda and layers of guilt if they don't continue on in the path. Members are required to participate in constant 'recruitment rallys', they tell you that you NEED to buy the necessary 'motivational & training tapes' and they encourage you to regularly listen to the 'success stories and inspiring mega- rich speakers.' Many evangelical churches have mastered this as well through Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and soul winning Saturdays. Keep working, keep committing, stay pumped up! Charismatics are great at this too through Holy Spirit Sunday revivals to keep the troops emotionally connected.
After these techniques are properly followed, you have yourself an army of committed (and often broke) Amway evangelists. In the same way, evangelicalism has mastered this lock step approach to following Jesus. But is this biblical? Is that the goal? Are we trying to get people committed to a movement where everyone is thinking alike and shouting slogans in Sunday gospel rallys? Is success the goal, where the more people you get signed up the more significant your particular movement is?
JOHN 21: the work of Christ continued
In the last chapter of John, Jesus appears one last time to his group of disciples. He is preparing them for his departure. His focus is on one man in particular, Peter. Only days before Peter denied his Lord three times and Jesus has come first and foremost to reinstate him, and then commission him to continue the work of "spreading the gospel."
But how does Jesus motivate Peter and the other disciples to continue on? Does he promise them that all their dreams will come true? Not really - - in fact, he promises Peter a future of suffering where he will be "stretched out (referring to his future death of crucifixion) and he will be led around by others (indicating imprisonment)." Does he promises them success by making money off other people? No, in fact he wants Peter to "feed his sheep" which means to give his life for other people. Peter isn't sent out to use people for his gain, he is to die for theirs.
So why would they do this? What would motivate any man to continue on when a life of service and suffering is promised? Why would you follow the pattern of a man who lost everything, even his clothes, and was killed on a cross? What kind of success story is that?
It all stems from Jesus' question in this chapter; a question he asks Peter three times. It is a question that you must answer as well, because how you answer this will determine if you will continue on and follow Jesus without a promise of getting rich. Here it is, are you ready for it?
Jesus asks, "Do you truly love me?" - - "Do you truly love me?" - - "Do you LOVE me?"
What say you? This is not a sales technique, this is not a promise of getting in on the ground floor of a great business opportunity, this is not a wonderful plan for your life and this is not really an offer of joining in a powerful movement of people. This an invitation to become a brother or sister to Jesus. The greatest man who ever lived. This is eternal life, "That you might know him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who he has sent (John 17:3)"
So...do you? Do you....love him?