ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, a small group of men graciously invited me to join them, as they had been meeting weekly for a number of years, to process life and faith together.

Since then, I have met with these five other men — and they with me – nearly every Tuesday morning at 7:30am at one office or other of our group members.

I am grateful for these men, for their welcome, and for the contributions each has made to my life in the relatively short period of our time with each other.

Sometimes I call our group “my accountability group,” and we do some of that – especially when I arrive late to our meetings, which is, well … often.

But primarily, we meet for the simple purpose of walking together, as we negotiate the waters of this life and these times in the Christian context.

You should probably know at this point that I am the only pastor/preacher/minister-guy in the group, which is both a potential benefit and a potential liability.

Being a preacher is a potential benefit, of course, when some practical application of Scripture or theology will help us to see our way through some issue – you know, from God’s perspective.

On the other hand, preachers can be … preachy. That’s altogether a liability in virtually every context! So, I have need to moderate in my tendency toward super-spiritualizing preachyness ….

We also have two engineers (one retired), one sales-and-marketing guy, an IT-management guy, and a business-executive consultant. (It’s that last guy who gives me the most consistent grief when I’m late.)

But I digress …

Today, we picked up on an important and potentially transformative conversation that we had begun several weeks ago.

The topic of our conversation was the new and diverse pathways of “doing business,” brought about, largely, by the many changes in how people communicate, relate, make decisions, and buy stuff these days – especially our younger people, say, 40 years old or younger.

Of course, we talked about the Brave New World of Twittter, Facebook, Linked In, instant messaging, hand-held devices, and other “social networking” forums and tools.

For many of us 40+ guys (and some of us +er than others!), this is literally another universe! We acknowledged, however, that we either get linked-in (so to speak), or we get left behind.

And it makes no difference whatsoever that this is not the world in which we grew up, or the plan we signed on to, or the paradigms we learned as we came up through the ranks!

So, the question is NOT whether we can be or will be, more or less effective, as we do what we do into the foreseeable future – as businessmen (and women), leaders, consumers, and churchmen (and women).

     The questions are more like: Will we even be relevant? When we talk, will there be anybody listening at the other end? Will we be able to relate (to anyone) in a meaningful way?

During this discussion, our sales-and-marketing guru showed us an incredible video, entitled “Social Media ROI: SOCIALNOMICS” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypmfs3z8esI).

I STRONGLY recommend watching it! But it was something he said, which was likely obvious to him in his universe, but to me it was one of those rare revelatory moments. He said:

     “Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody wants to buy.”

Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody wants to buy“! In my mind, I went straight to the gospel, and how we go about proclaiming and witnessing and leading people to the God of the gospel.

Could it be that some of us – myself included – have missed the gospel-boat on both ends of the gospel-message versus means-of-delivery, Christianity versus churchianity, sound-doctrine versus good-works spectrum?

On the one end, could it be that some of us have so valued the message of the gospel as we received it that we have a misplaced value in our methodology and our traditions and our preferences, because we believe our methodology is intrinsic to, embedded in the gospel itself? So, in our effort to conserve the past, could we have turned the gospel into a self-serving extension of ourselves and our own staid preferences?

Consequently, we may tend to resist or reject necessary and needed changes in our means that seem to be implied by these words from Paul:

     For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the Law, I became as one under the Law (though not being myself under the Law), that I might win those under the Law. To those outside the Law, I became as one outside the Law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ), that I might win those outside the Law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

On the other end, could it be some others have altered, even corrupted the message – almost always out of a deep concern for those outside the family of faith, for sure – by adopting means that oppose it’s true message, as well as the One who gives it? By giving in to “the spirit of [this] age,” by becoming virtually indistinguishable from the world around us, could it be that we have made “the gospel” into something else? Could we be making it about someone other than the God who raises the dead and His once crucified and now risen and exalted Son?

These are words of Paul that I first thought of, when I heard my friend’s sales proverb:

      “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ! – 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

So I see here a dual need, a dual obligation: We must employ contemporary means to get a hearing from a contemporary audience, but we must never become “peddlers of God’s word.”

God does not want or call us to sell the gospel. Rather, He calls us to proclaim the gospel:

     I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’“ – Romans 1:16-17

     “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God!“ – 1 Corinthians 1:18

God’s grace and peace to you and yours from me and mine!

Pastor Mark

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