Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and Jesus
1 Corinthians 11:1
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
I heard a prominent Christian leader in the early 21st Century say that “A man without influence is nothing.”
The power to influence, to set direction, to shape, to determine an outcome and to be recognised for doing so, is often an unacknowledged driving force in the lives of Christian leaders in the land, for with such power, comes the ability to realise ‘vision’ and to receive the rewards of accolades, respect and finances that go with such a realised vision and more importantly, vision realised gains an even much more wider sphere of influence. The realised power to influence helps you to become a ‘somebody’ you see.
The ‘branded’ and product driven churches of our time makes the imperative of influence not only an important factor of the successful achievement of growth but powerfully drives entrepreneurial premise onto all growth models of influential city churches. So much so, that God seems to have become a capitalist. it makes you think that He always has been?
I speak as an entrepreneur myself of course, a maker, protector and provider of branded goods. I know what I am talking about. I know the branded church can work very successfully at an exceptionally superficial level and remember friends, that success always trumps superficiality. I mean, we can happily live with supeficialityas long as we get influence for remember, a man without influence is nothing, and there is nothing as influential as all the connections that go with brand recognition. Present day success can live with superficiality.
The problem with success driven and influentially branded Christian communities is twofold:
First, that they all look the same, carrying all the nuance, peculiarity and common marks of a brand. This is called cloning, which as we all know, might work for a deodorant or a training shoe, but for living beings carries death within itself at oh so many levels.
Secondly though and more importantly, the punters who possess such branding, have in fact ‘bought into the brand’ rather than it’s suggested sponsor, Jesus Christ the Lord. Yes, that’s right, they have the brand and the brand has them. The supposed heavenly sponsor is very often, merely an advertising add on and quite frankly a complete irrelevance to the ‘show’ He is supposedly backing.
So, this year, if you’re gatherings need a darkened venue, lights, a smoke machine, a diva ‘worship’ leader, catch phrases and an enigmatic speaker sporting a culturally acceptable uniform, then congratulations! Undoubtedly you might just be part of a new spiritual and entrepreneurial brand and if your brand is producing purchasable products of music and books and the CEO, sorry, Senior Pastor, is want to hook up with similar entrepreneurs of influence, then you are also financing a brand. Welcome to capitalism and well done though good and faithful consumer. You don’t think this is the case? Oh c’mon! Go check your spiritual wardrobe. You are also probably wearing all brand labelled products as well without even thinking about it!
The Branded church will not go away. Not just yet anyways. It will continue to grow, re-launch itself with newer names of hipness, newer products backed by all the accompanying well turned out and tidy wives, and like an old North Korean personality cult, will always ensure that the kids take over the now large family business. Entrepreneurial spiritual capitalism is always nepotistic, even if the successors are not half as good as its founders. Go figure.
The marks of following Christ rather than a brand can infact be summed up in a stunning Trinitarian simplicity. Conflict, suffering and death. The problem is, that this very unattractive trinity, though they lead to abundant life eternal, are not a very good sales pitch for a brand.
So, tell me today, what did you put on when before you went out your door? A branded product or Jesus? Who are you recognised for being with? The brand itself or Jesus? Who do you love the most, the brand or its supposed heavenly sponsor? Who are you influencing, how and with what? I mean, just what are you getting your family and friends to buy into? These questions are worth asking, for the destination of your eternal soul and others depends upon the answers you might give. Tell me today then, are you a ‘son of a gun’ or a son of God?
Listen: But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra — what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:10-17 NKJV
Pray: Father, make me such a soldier of Your son, that I might truly know You and Your pleasure over me in this coming year. Amen.