Selling The Gospel

When I was in my early twenties, I was offered an opportunity in a sales related company.  After going through some of the preliminary steps toward employment, I realized it just wasn’t for me. I told my prospective employers, “Thanks for offering the opportunity, but no thanks on the acceptance.”

My personality is toward realism and honesty–not very conducive traits for a sales career. To flourish in most sales careers, a person needs to put on the persona of being a best friend to the prospective client while simultaneously attempting to remove as much money as possible from that client, legally, of course.

The goal or game plan is to find common ground with the prospective client, get them to relax, persuade the client you are there to help them, influence their thoughts with your choice of vocabulary, etc. It is no longer a real relationship with that person. It becomes a performance orchestrated to obtain results.  It works if you have the personality makeup to play the role. That is why my 85-year-old grandmother bought a $1,500+ vacuum cleaner–a vacuum cleaner that was so heavy she could hardly move the thing. She used it only a couple of times before buying another $100 model just like she previously owned but  had traded to the very nice man who sold her the $1,500+ vacuum cleaner. He had even given her more on trade-in than she had given for it. He was such a nice man. No, he was a vacuum cleaner salesman playing up to an old lady who bought a vacuum cleaner she couldn’t even use. Personally, I don’t see where “nice” fits into this equation.

Often, many people in the sales field lose their realism in every-day life. They play to every person and situation the same as they would a potential client. I’m not saying all of them do this, but I am saying that many do this. There are people like this in my life and family, and I am thinking, “Why don’t you just be real? Quit trying to play me or sell me on something.” Their fakeness and insincerity is nauseating and very obvious, unbeknownst to them. They have played this game for so long, they have no idea how they come across, or even how to be genuine.

Where am I going with this, you may wonder. While talking with a friend recently, the topic turned to the fakeness and performance so sadly present in many of the pulpits and ministry today. We were discussing the fact that it was so obvious and nauseating. Then, it hit me. Somewhere along the way, we quit spreading the Gospel and went to selling the Gospel. In spreading the Gospel, we merely share the news. The power is in the Gospel, itself. In selling the Gospel, just like the vacuum cleaner salesman, it’s in our “smoozing” and presentation. We no longer trust in the power of the Gospel, but rather increasingly have to trust in our own ability to get the person to buy or believe the Gospel. This has its own irony, if you think about it. While saying to others that the Gospel is so powerful, the salesman does not trust its power, but must kick in his own methods to sell it.  And just like those salesmen of worldly goods, who lose touch with reality and are always in “sales mode”, many of those selling the Gospel have fallen into the same trap, which is really sad because many of the lost people aren’t seeking performances or presentations, but are seeking truth, sincerity and honesty, all which are present in the Gospel, unadorned with cheap human trinkets or sales gimmicks.

When we sell this modified Gospel, many of the people whom we get to buy into it, wind up just like my grandmother. They bought a product that is not beneficial to them and they cannot use it. They become disappointed in the product, when they should have been disappointed in the salesman. We need to get back to spreading the Gospel and quit trying to sell it.

Timing is everything. As we were finishing this article, the phone rang. It was a local number, but we didn’t recognize it. When my wife said, “Hello,” the voice on the other end said, “Hi! My name is…” the voice was sunshiny, but it was obviously a rehearsed sales pitch and even sounded computer generated. We hung up without a word. Ugh. Nauseating.

“They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

I was seated at an outdoor restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk. My date had been thoughtful and had chosen an upscale and picturesque venue. He ordered wine and made light conversation. He was in his mid 30’s and was a professor at a university. I was in my mid 20’s and was writing for a publishing company. Both of our professional futures had promise.

Soon, the conversation turned more serious, and he asked me if I would date him exclusively, with marriage in mind, a little bit down the line. It wasn’t exactly a proposal, but it was a request for a more serious dating relationship with marriage being the goal in a few years.

I paused. I couldn’t fool myself or him. It just wasn’t there for me. He had everything a woman could want; just not this woman. I smiled. It was an awkward moment. I said, “No. I’m looking for something different. I just can’t commit to anything more serious.” He was a bit surprised. He was quite a catch, and he knew it. “Well, what do you want?” He asked, taken aback. I sighed. What did I want? I could feel it, but could I articulate it?

While in college, I had attended a church where I had met a married couple who made a profound impression on me. They were in their 50s at the time. Their children were older than I was and were out of the home. My senior year in college, I was looking for a place to live closer to the university I was attending, instead of having a long commute. I refused to live on campus and had never even considered it. My mother suggested that I ask the couple I so admired if they would rent a room to me. While at Bible study one evening, I mentioned it to the woman. She was delighted and made me feel very welcome. I moved in without delay. They treated me like a daughter and would not take rent money from me. Over the course of the year or so that I was there, I witnessed an amazing marital relationship—such as I had never seen—it was one of love and devotion, respect, fun-loving jabs and retorts, laughter, and eye-rolling at “honey do’s”. It was real. There were no pretenses. She adored him, and he was her everything. He loved her more than he loved himself, and it showed. I subconsciously tucked these things away, not knowing that I had observed in them a standard that no one whom I would date from then on could live up to. I could not get over it. I had to have that, or I would have nothing. I didn’t mind being single. But, being in a pretentious marriage was more than I could bear.

On the Riverwalk that night, when the professor asked me what I wanted, I found myself describing a man that somewhat fit into an old western movie: I wanted a gentleman who said, ‘Yes ma’am.’ I wanted someone who was at ease with either presidents or peasants. I wanted someone with a plain name—John, Tom, or Sam, or something like that—I didn’t want someone named Wellington, Davenport, or Piccadilly. I wanted someone who was confident in who he was and who didn’t obsess in the mirror over his hair gel. I wanted someone who would give you the shirt off his back and who worried more about pleasing God than padding his bank account. I wanted someone whose ‘Yes’ meant ‘Yes’ and whose ‘No’ meant ‘No.’ I didn’t want someone who squabbled over insignificant details and differences. I wanted a self-made man, not a company man or a union man. I wanted a one-woman man—his heart had to be true toward me, and he had to genuinely love me.

My list included a few more items along these lines. My date interrupted me often as I talked. He didn’t agree with me. I had named nothing of ‘importance’ in his mind that made a good marriage: career, social connections, family connections, ambition, politics, religion. “Besides,” he said, “they don’t make them like that anymore. You are describing a throw-back, not a modern man. I’ll bet you can’t even name anyone like that—except maybe your grandpa.” I smiled. No, not even my grandpas (both of whom were deceased) fit this description.

Months later, when God saw fit, He introduced me to the man who would become my husband. Ironically, he was so real, that he once told me that I was a “little snot” who was spoiled and bratty. And he was right. I was selfish and lost in my own little selfish world. My ideals had not met reality, even in myself. For three years we were simply “friends”. I dated; he dated. We would get together and talk about our dates. We admitted one time that whenever we were on a date with someone else, we thought about how much more fun we had together instead of with others. We talked about what we really wanted in a spouse. One day, it hit us. What were we doing? It was right in front of us. He was the first one to broach the subject. Would I consider going on an actual date with him? I said that I was afraid to mess up what we had. It was so good and so real. I said that maybe we could try it. That night, he kissed me. That was it. It was real, and we knew it. Two months later, we were married. That was thirteen years ago this month. He is still the man of my dreams, and so much more. They do still make them like that. But, they are rare. I’m so blessed to have one of those rare models.