branding, advertising, and selling.

branding, advertising, and selling from business as mission perspective.
mark neuenshwander.
urbana conference 06.
12.30.06

mark neuenshwander, who led the open for business seminar “branding, advertising, and selling from business as mission perspective” offered the unique perspective of having served as a pastor for over twenty years, and now serving in business for the past decade. neuenshwander’s dual perspective frames his theology as well as his praxis in the context of business.

neuenshwander only addressed the issue of branding, which he did an incredible job communicating the concept of branding from a business as mission perspective, but said the principles he delineated on branding can be transferred to both advertising and selling. this was helpful for me to know since the concepts of branding and advertising do not directly apply in my present business, but selling does. although i would have liked to hear neuenshwander speak to sales directly, i can take the theories taught in regards to branding and transfer them to my specific ministry—selling both a product and selling a relationship with Christ.

the object of branding is to have the brand burned into the hearts and minds of the consumer. in viewing business as mission, this is what i seek to do as well: burn Christ into the hearts and minds of those who do not yet know Him. this is only one way in which, as neuenshwander stated, good brands have something in common with the Gospel. he also pointed out that products, and similarly the Gospel, do not generally communicate themselves; it is our job to do both. this was a new concept for me in thinking about communicating the Gospel in an analogous fashion as to the products i sell everyday: explaining the benefits and features of the product, how this product is different from comparable products that others offer, how this product can make life better or easier, the guarantee and promises of the product, and how the company for which i work can help in the process of using the new product. these selling tactics that i use daily are ones that i can also use in sharing—or selling—Christ to my fellow workers.

in my work, i see myself as what neuenshwander called a product evangelist. i desire to know everything about the products i sell so that i am able to effectively communicate what makes a certain product beneficial, something i have already learned personally from having the product. in the same way, i desire to know everything about Christ so that i am able to effectively communicate how having a relationship with Christ is beneficial, something i have learned personally from having a personal relationship with Christ. i not only desire to be a product evangelist, but more importantly an evangelist for the best product on the market: a relationship with Christ.

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loving homosexuals as Jesus would.

loving homosexuals as Jesus would.
chad thompson.
urbana conference 06.
12.29.06

chad thompson, in his seminar “loving homosexuals as Jesus would,” shared his story of being a Christian yet struggling with homosexual desires. thompson made the distinction between homosexual attraction and homosexuality as an identity. his attraction began as an emotional desire for intimacy from a man, which was manifested in sexual desires for men in general. thompson claimed that homosexuality is not a sexual issue at all, but an emotional one that is simply played out sexually. thompson’s perspective is an interesting one, one who speaks from knowledge of the subject personally, yet from a Christian viewpoint as well. his unique perspective was one that was new to me, since i have never heard a Christian with homosexual desires publicly admit this struggle.

thompson proposed that we are naturally attracted to those different than ourselves, yet if meaningful same-sex relationships are not formed early in childhood development, then we will remain curious about the same sex. this, in some people, leads to homosexual desires as a means to fill the emotional void created. thompson gave evidence for these statements based on one source but it was simply asserted as fact. this may very well be the case but no empirical evidence was given to support his assumptions. my homosexual friends would fall into this assumption, each lacking meaningful same-sex relationships early on. therefore, i might also ascribe to this notion, but it would have been beneficial for these assumptions to be validated by concrete evidence.

thompson addressed the issue of how we, as Christians, can overcome homophobia. he suggested we demonstrate our love for homosexuals by serving them, such as at gay pride events. this suggestion really challenged my thinking since my church has always boycotted such events. i was challenged to think if my service at such events would prove support of the homosexual lifestyle or love of the individual. i came away thinking that it would prove to individuals, and to the entire community, Christ’s love as evidenced by my actions. in my relationships with homosexuals, the challenge here for me is to be involved in their lives…not just as individuals, but also in their community. i need to seek means to serve my friends in ways that would embrace them as individuals, showing my love and acceptance of them as they are, thus painting this same picture of a loving God.

thompson made the point that in order for foreign missionaries to engage the culture, they must be willing to learn the language and the culture of those to whom they are ministering. it is the same between Christians and homosexuals: we must learn gay language and culture. this challenge follows loving homosexuals as individuals. in my love for my homosexual friends, i should want to learn about them. i need to learn about the gay culture, which is foreign to me, and how i can best communicate with homosexuals. this is a challenge i am ready and willing to engage in; one that i will begin next week when i return to work alongside my co-workers who are homosexuals. i am willing to admit i am ignorant of the homosexual lifestyle, but i am ready and desire to learn. i want to be taught, not so that i can better evangelize my friends, but so that i can better love my friends, displaying Christ’s love to them.

a perspective such as thompson’s is a new one for me as i am surrounded by homosexuals in the workforce, who are not believers and who view their homosexuality as an identity. since this is the reason why i attended the seminar, it would have been beneficial to me if the dialogue were slanted toward those who are not believers. i am seeking to know how to truly embrace my homosexual friends as they are and how to share Christ’s love effectively. even though thompson did not devote his teaching to this, i did walk away with a new perspective and some practical ways to tangibly demonstrate Christ’s love to those struggling with homosexual desires and those embracing this identity.

busyness.

i have quickly seen the results of my own folly. i have lived my life for awhile—at least the past 6 months—doing much. leaving a full-time job to attend seminary in southern california, i have sensed the need to work as much as i can to pay for my expenditures. one commitment after another, has led me to commit to things—jobs, relationships, schedules,etc.—that i simply cannot. the last few weeks of the quarter, i have seen that although i may be doing a lot, i am actually accomplishing very little…or effectively, that is. getting 5 hours of sleep a night, virtually quitting running or working out, having no time in my schedule to complete school work, working all 3 jobs in one day (at least once a week), eating junk that is so unhealthy, spending little time with God because of the many commitments i have made is just not cutting it.

after praying about this dilemma, and evaluating my life (the current state of it), i have decided to make some changes…for me personally. as i read finding God’s will: a pagan notion?, i was challenged by waltke’s statement concerning busyness: “…filling their lives with activities. i wonder sometimes if they aren’t wearing themselves out with activity because they don’t have a mature spirituality. it takes a mature person to say no to another person” (155-56). ouch! if this is the case then i am simply not mature…yet. i am quickly realizing the folly of my ways…and the consequences of these ways. i have realized that i must say no to keep living…and to keep my commitments from draining me completely, leaving me with nothing left to give. thus, the questions remain: what must i give up? what can i handle? what will be a drain? what will refresh me?

it is in answering these questions that i will begin to practice self care, that i will be of use for God, that i will be able to be what God created me to be.

excerpts taken from:
waltke, bruce. finding the will of God: a pagan notion? grand rapids: eerdmans publishing company, 1995.

southern citings.

on my way from visiting a friend in dothan, alabama, i recorded some true southern citings…

• tornado devastation in between the cities of ozark and troy (alabama, of course).
• dead armadillos (or possums…take your pick) on the side of the highway.
• Doublewide trailers—for living in, for worshipping in. who has ever seen a white doublewide
with a steeple on top?
• tractor manufacturers—a certified john deere seller and other assorted brands.
• bama nut shop—they sell nuts (boiled peanuts included) as well as other alabama trinkets.
• boiled peanuts sold on the side of the highway.
• cotton fields with cotton not yet picked (ripe for pickin’ as we say in the south).
• hay bales.
• rows of corn stalks.
• acme boot store, the barn, don walker western wear, sikes and kohn’s country mall—a plethora of stores to purchase the latest wrangler fashions.
• above ground septic tanks—some outside of the doublewides, some for purchasing.
• a self-declared scenic dirt road.
• sisters’ restaurant: southern cookin’ at its finest.
• fred’s, dollar tree, dollar general—an assortment of southern bargains at great prices.
• bar-b-q restaurants: hook’s real pit bar-b-q, larry’s real pit bar-b-q, and one that i failed to record the name because i lost my focus staring at the giant, metal pig advertising the restaurant out in front.
• water towers: midland city, pike county, and troy.
• pick-up-trucks were a passing scene as we blazed on down highway 231.

…a pagan notion?

i just finished reading bruce waltke’s finding the will of God: a pagan notion? well, maybe not just finished but recently…i needed something to do on the day-long journey back to alabama for my christmas break.

as i was reading the first few pages of the book, i posed this question to myself: is there any portion of scripture that actually speaks to the will of God, or simply individual verses? what makes this whole concept of finding God’s will so hard or such an unattainable task is that I have been making up my own way of going about it. since there does not appear to be any format set forth within scripture, i have often attempted to make up my own, based on how He has revealed Himself to people in scripture in the past.

in reference to the vast quest of christians searching for the will of God, waltke states “perhaps the problem is that not enough christians are walking in close relationship with the God who loves them” (12). waltke makes a good point here. it is easier to simply go about this “searching”, whatever that may look like, rather than to spend the time necessary to draw close to God. this quest occurs out of our desire to “find” God because our proximity to God is what is lacking.

since moving to california to attend fuller, i have been doing some “soul” searching, asking God what the next step is He has for me. this process has driven me from useless seeking, to pursue knowing the God who has created me for His glory and His purposes. when making decisions, waltke engages in a process of examination where he evaluates “how God has called me to live my life, what my motives are, what He has given me a heart for, where i am in my walk with Christ, and what God is saying to me through His word and His people” (16). i appreciate this process of evaluation—one that looks at not what i deem as important only nor one that looks just at God’s ways, rather one that incorporates both. to me, in this phase of my life, waltke’s words are aptly spoken.

God is not hiding from us, nor is He withholding His plan for our lives. instead, He has given us what we need to know Him and what He desires, we just need to act on what we have: read God’s word, develop a heart for God, seek the advice of wise friends, look for God’s providence, use our brains, and accept divine intervention when given…

read God’s word…
waltke states “it has become easier to read the latest popular book on God or the church or the family than it is to read the Bible” (63). i have even seen this to be the case in seminary—we seek the opinion of scholars rather than looking to see what God might have to say on the subject, quickly adapting our views to those whom we regard with little or no regard to God’s views.

in response to people asking him how can they know the will of God, waltke poses the question: “how much time have you spent reading the Bible” (64)? when we do not spend the time with God in reading His word, we cannot know God’s heart, nor can we know God’s desires. the process must begin here with knowing who God is so we can know what He desires of us.

develop a heart for God…
waltke claims that “the heart that loves God completely can be trusted to have godly desires. when you really love God and your neighbor, you can be very comfortable following your heart’s desires because they are not self-ambitious and self-centered” (92). really? maybe i am just not there yet. is my heart not deceptive above all? i feel as though i must constantly weigh my own motives and line up my desires with those of God found in His word.

“christians seem to be afraid of talking about the desires of the heart, for fear they will be led astray by satan, the deceiver” (102). for me, it may be a quite different fear…a fear that these desires are simply my own or a fear that these desires will not come to fruition.

seek the advice of wise friends…
the classic example is that of king rehoboam who trusted the counsel of his friends rather than the wise advice of the elders. do i trust in friends my own age, in friends in a similar state as mine, or friends with analogous ambitions that will simply tell me what i want to hear? or do i seek the advice of those older, more mature spiritually, whose lives look like what I desire mine to look like one day or, better yet, one God desires?

waltke talks about several prominent pastors “falling” in recent years and how this is a result of lack of accountability and wise counsel in their lives (114). this may be true, these pastors may not have individuals in their lives with whom they can talk; but these pastors could simply be faking it. these pastors may not be willing to come clean before others and God.

look for God’s providence…
waltke advises to “always leave room for things not working out quite the way you planned them” (125). this is so hard for me but i am reminded to be open! “sometimes the providence of God, working through time and chance, prevents us from doing what we think we would like to do. at other times it presents us with remarkable opportunites we never expected” (126). God’s plans are best, despite all of my efforts at making my own good enough. waltke challenged me in the way in which i view things. do i have the mindset of viewing unplanned situations as a barrier or opportunity? instead of seeing them as a barrier to my own plans, i ought to view them as an opportunity for God to evidence His plans. waltke goes on to say that we must “learn to trust God in spite of your circumstances” (139). it is not that i find myself facing difficult circumstances, but simply learning to trust God when life does not turn out the way i had planned, hoped, or desired. for me, simply adding “Lord willing” (based on james 4.13-17) to my vocabulary, instead of selfishly making my own plans, would help shift my mindset to one that is more fully open to God’s lead in my life.

use your brains…
“…the Lord often chooses a course other than the one I would choose….He chooses a path that is supernatural, one that causes me to grow in character, and that is best for me. Logic and reason are not the priorities in God’s program of guidance” (147). the logic portion of the process is the final stage. For me, i know this is the proper balance because i can easily rely on my own judgment first.

waltke’s final challenge is to “make decisions based on overall strategy….have a plan; know what God wants you to do with your life. then you will have a context for making long-term decisions. this will significantly improve your ability to make decisions in light of God’s overall plan for your life” (158-59). do i have one of these? what is it? if i do have one, is it s it so vague that i will not know if it is achieved? sometimes i do have a strategy and and an overall plan…but not a life plan. if i knew my precise giftedness and how God has uniquely shaped me, this would be easier to articulate. i am making it my aim this next year to find the answers out so that, with God, i am able to formulate an overall strategy and a lifetime plan.

accept divine intervention when given…
waltke reminds us that “He never calls in the New Testament to ‘seek His will,’ but rather to seek His kingdom and do His will” (169). what a different way of looking at things. i want to purpose to seek His kingdom, doing what i know to do.

excerpts taken from:
waltke, bruce. finding the will of God: a pagan notion? grand rapids: eerdmans publishing company, 1995.

Hello world!

well, this is my first post on this web blog i have created for class, the urbana class that is. i am looking forward to being at urbana in less than 2 weeks (although i am greatly enjoying my time back home in alabama). i have no idea what this urbana experience will be like for me. and quite frankly, i have lately wondered why in the world am i going…but i think it is something God led me to in a sense. i expect that it will be challenging as i hear and experience things that i have not yet heard or done, educational as i learn what missions looks like within the business context, confirming as i seek to know what i will be doing after i complete my time at fuller, and relational as i engage in conversation with those in class, in the seminars, in the vendor booths, or those in the hallway. i do have expectations that as God continues to show me who He has created me to be, i will see doors both open and shut so i can better see the pathway God has and is calling me to on this journey on which i travel.