In the marketing world, packaging is the “science, art, and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use.”
I am sometimes hesitant to apply business principles and metaphors to the church, because I think that can lead to unhealthy practices, but in this case, the parallel easily applies. When it comes to evangelism or sharing our faith with others, all Christians, consciously or otherwise, take part in the process of packaging. We store our beliefs in a certain “package” which we can then share with others.
Unfortunately, on the whole, I think Christians have a major problem with packaging, and often fall into one of two problem areas:
The Not-So-Good News Package
(1) Honestly, I think some Christians don’t want the Kingdom of God to be as large or expansive as God Himself does. Of course, they will affirm that God loves all people and that Christ died for all, but by their actions they suggest that God’s grace is really only intended for the good, moral, “churchy” people. And so, perhaps to reinforce this idea, or to make the inherently appealing Good News a little less appealing, they wrap it up in a package of arrogance, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy.
And sure enough, people of the world—those who are lost in sin and desperately need what the church is “selling”—take one look at the Not-So-Good News package and easily decide it’s not for them.
The “Better” News Package
(2) Some Christians have just the opposite problem though. Unlike the first group, they really, really want everyone to hear the Good News and accept the grace that God offers, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But here’s the problem: Jesus and his disciples actually taught a lot of demanding, exclusive, hard-to-obey ideas, and a lot of the people in the world (and in the church!) don’t want to follow those teachings. So these good-hearted people, wanting to be as appealing to as many people as possible, water down the teachings of Jesus here and there and leave out some of the most objectionable material.
And for some people in the world, this Better News package (“better” because it involves little moral correction or personal sacrifice) looks really good, but when they buy it, they end up settling for a substitute rather than the real thing (which, when you think about it, isn’t good news after all).
If we want to be faithful Christians, we need to avoid either extreme. To put it another way, Jesus was characterized by grace and truth (John 1.14), and so our presentation of the gospel should be too. The Not-So-Good News package emphasizes truth at the expense of grace, while the “Better” News package emphasizes grace at the expense of truth. Neither of these alternatives are acceptable. Instead, we need to “package” the Good News as Jesus Himself did—with grace and mercy and love, but also with clear teaching on the personal sacrifice required by real discipleship.
Some people will look at that package and snatch it up immediately, while others will leave it on the shelf. But that shouldn’t surprise us—they did the same thing with Jesus. Ultimately, as a follower of Jesus, it is not my task to present Christianity in a way that tastes good to others. Rather, it is my task to present it faithfully, and let others decide if they want to swallow it or spit it out.
So it’s been a while since I’ve written about baseball, but my Braves were eliminated early from the playoffs last night, in what has become an all-too-familiar pattern.
I was saddened by last night’s events, but not surprised by them—Braves fans are conditioned to generally expect heartbreak in the postseason, and I was specifically convinced that this Braves team was not assembled in such a way as to contend for a championship (more on that below).
So what do the Braves need in 2014 to be better (And by “better,” I don’t just mean win more games—the Braves won 96 games in the regular season, so that isn’t the problem. I mean win games when it counts.)? Here are a few things:
(1) Get a legitimate ace. The Braves have several good pitchers, but it’s been quite a while that we had a legitimate ace who we could trot out in game one of a postseason series and feel confident that a win was coming. I love Tim Hudson, but he will turn 39 next year. Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Julio Teheran are all good, promising young pitchers. Maybe one of them will develop into an ace, but for now, we have a bunch of pretty good pitchers who, over the course of a season produce a lot of wins, but are overmatched in the playoffs.
(2) Get a better manager. I don’t think there’s any way that Fredi Gonzalez gets fired, which is too bad, because he’s not very good at his job. I don’t dislike him, and think he would make a great bench coach or first base coach, but his decision making is questionable—a lot. In Game 3, he left Teheran out too long when he was clearly off, and then did the same thing with Wood. In Game 4, he let Carpenter blow the game in the 8th inning while Craig Kimbrel, who has arguably put up the best three year stretch of any closer in history, sat on the bench and watched. Stuff like this happens frequently, and in my opinion, it happens because Fredi isn’t very good at his job.
(3) Get some guys who know how to field. It is so frustrating to watch Braves players bungle plays, either by making outright errors, or by making poor decisions in the field that turn singles into doubles and short innings into big rallies. By my reckoning, of the eight standard (non-pitcher) positions, the Braves have two excellent fielders, about two more who are above average, two who are mediocre, and two who are train wrecks. When it comes to playoff time, this does not work. You cannot have clueless outfielders at the corners and hope that somehow it won’t hurt you. It will, time and time again as this series against the Dodgers showed.
(4) Figure out something—anything—to do with Dan Uggla and BJ Upton. These are two of the biggest free agent busts in history (maybe it’s too early to say that about Upton, but with Uggla, it is more than clear by now). So much of Atlanta’s money is tied up in these two, and they get almost no return on the investment. I don’t know what the solution is, but we can’t keep trotting out .180 hitters all season, or the alternative, which is to basically bench two guys who are collectively making over $27 million a year.
Okay, my rant is over. Here is hoping to a more successful 2014!
Next week I am on fall break from school, which is awesome. The combination of the Hebrew and Greek classes that I am taking this semester is a heavy load (and has led to particularly infrequent posting here). It will be nice to have a week off from intensive study and to “just” focus on full-time ministry.
Here are a few links for your Friday reading:
This is an outstanding article from a youth minister friend of mine. Faith is more than just following a list of rules, it is placing ourselves within God’s story. And thus, teaching and training others in the faith is more about sharing that story than simply providing a list of Do’s and Don’ts.
Here is another great blog post that focuses on living in such a way that our future is better than our past. Here’s one brief excerpt: “We must see today as a starting point—a time to make good choices instead of bad ones (that’s part of what repentance is). Once we make the right decisions instead of ones we know to be wrong, we can finish without regret, without nostalgia, and without a desire to go back to now.”