The Advertising Game that People Play

Yesterday, today and tomorrow are just like other days the Lord has made. As usual we, like other creatures of God, are into a game of advertising. That game is played by us and by them like any ordinary game, although its intent and purpose are beyond the ordinary. It is a game we and they don’t always play too well. We are the billboards, we are the ads and the ad carriers, God is the one advertised, but as in many cases the one advertised is being overshadowed by the billboards, or upstaged by the ad carriers.

Why is that so, one may ask. Well, some participants in this advertising game are in a sense mediocrity a outrance. The impact they create on those who are watching, to say the least, leaves much to be desired. They don’t measure up. The ones among them who have played it so bad are remembered only for the embarrassments they have created. Their failings are their biography.

It is much like the way our ordinary lives work through all the days of the year.

Having partaken of that spiritual something that is from God—and by this I mean the inward man that is in us—is no guarantee that we will be good advertisers of God. A bank manager advertises the bank she is working for, and as such she has to maintain good PR, she has to be respectful to customers, she must not violate bank norms, and she must satisfy customer expectations. Many a store has been losing customers for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the products they are selling. A teller who rudely answers the phone, a security guard who is unmindful of a customer request, a sales clerk who is more interested in personal conversation with fellow sales clerk than with customer inquiries, printing personnel who do shoddy jobs, teachers who abuse student rights, corrupt police officers and government officials, preachers who enrich themselves, people who have income but evade paying taxes, preachers who clean up other people’s backyard and not their own, and many others.

Fortunately it works the other way too, and I mean in a positive way. A cheerful sales clerk, a helpful janitor, an honest security guard, a preacher who advises an angry member, a minister who admits mistakes, a respectful preacher’s son, a humble non-gossiping Bible college president, a missionary who does not bash his fellow missionaries, a helpful church janitor, a loving church.

What about the missionary who teaches that only a part of the Bible is inspired? A denominational minister partly believed that story until he himself was “forced” to enrol in the subject this man taught. What about the Bible teacher who teaches that you can consume animal blood as long as your culture allows it? What about a church clique who rewards a corrupt minister with the honour of speaking in a lectureship? What about authors who keep bashing God and the Bible? If these supposedly Christian writers proclaim that God isn’t really mindful of what happens to His creatures on earth, then perhaps the Creator you have been preaching is nothing more than a deception. Maybe it is time for people to move out or move away from church. I am inclined to believe that in a way Satan’s greatest recruiters are people who claim to be working for God. Brethren, this ought not so to be.

Forty years ago, I met an Iglesia adherent who told me he no longer adhered to Manalo’s teaching. I thought he was just joking, but he proposed that we put up a church in which I would do the preaching and he would do the money-collecting! He was making fun of the “Christian religion.” He never took our studies seriously, therefore the burden that he had placed on my shoulder had been unloaded by his indifference to the gospel message. I don’t think I am answerable to God for him anymore.

What story do we have for others to hear? Many of the unbelievers I have met have been distracted from the real issue—the issue about the God they have not seen—because of the bad advertisement by a believer that they have seen. Church members who are self-righteous, sexist, indifferent, racist, unloving, homophobic, or people-haters, who rail at others, who gossip, who slander. Renowned church-goers, big people, moneyed people some of them are, who don’t have a clue about what neighbourliness and brotherliness mean. In some lectureship lunches I had seen these: two dinner tables, specifically for two sets of people, the haves and the renown, and the have-nots and the not so known. I felt so ashamed of this, so I would often gravitate to the table of the have-nots and the not so known, because I felt one with them.

But good advertisement works the other way too. My life, for example, has been rescued by a former Baptist “pastor” who kept on showing me that he cared for me when my kinsmen didn’t. It is shown by a minister who isn’t more concerned about points of saintliness than about lifting up the weak-kneed and the downtrodden. It is shown by a counsellor who cares more about other people’s hurting hearts than about what neighbours will say. It is shown by friendship that is neither pushy nor imposing. It is shown by people who are simply there, people who care the way Jesus cares. They look a lot like Christ. For isn’t that what Christianity means? To be like Christ?

The kingdom of God is not yet in heaven; it is on earth. While it is on earth, it is to preach the themes of eternal redemption— an extraordinary redemption that is begun here on earth and to be consummated in heaven. It is to preach the history of that one Being who died, and the purpose of His dying, which is to give you life—an extraordinary life that you can begin here on earth and consummate in heaven. Sinners from far and wide would love to hear these themes. But in this advertising game, it seems that the one being advertised is upstaged by the ad carriers.

Brethren, Christ is the story that people need to listen to. Let us not lose sight of it.

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