I’m sure many readers have to endure the almost daily task of throwing away much of what comes in the mail, due to most of it being “junk”. You know the type: copious amounts of advertisements, coupons and other miscellaneous items which are of no personal interest – that is, until something arrives that is of interest.
The same occurred to me a few days ago as I sorted through the correspondence we receive at church. One particular envelope stood out from the bunch. It was sent by LifeWay Publishers and it contained promotional material for their newly published “resources”. The medium-sized envelope contained both a letter and brochure.
I unfolded the letter first and began to read:
“Dear Pastor: Every day, you do something extraordinary. From the simplest of details to the most pressing needs, you and your church are working to make disciples. It is my great privilege to spend every day working on a Bible study resource that supports your church in this mission.”
The succeeding lines were dedicated to selling us (and other churches, obviously) a newfangled version of the Bible, attached study guides and the like – all, of course, in the name of “helping” the ministry.
Shortly, I’ll share some personal observations of said letter and the contained messaging, but not before mentioning a particular selling point which is to be found in the elegantly designed brochure about said products. In the middle pages of the pamphlet, 12 pictures of “… a few of the pastors, scholars and church leaders…” who contributed to the project are found. Why is this important? Well, what marketing stunt would be complete without the “appeal to personalities” which, if successful, overrides any reservation the buyer might have about the products in question if a favorite author or speaker endorses said products.
Considering this important tidbit (which will play an important part in my commentary), here are my thoughts.
#1. So long as human pride is excited, anything can be sold to anyone – including Bibles
Notice how the introductory letter begins with a statement meant to flatter the potential buyer. Question: How does the person who wrote this mass-produced, mass-consumed letter know that those whom they address the letter to (pastors in particular) are ardently working to “make disciples”? Did LifeWay bother to verify if this is the case with everyone they sent the letter to? Of course not! It becomes plainly evident that the sales tactic includes one of propping up the potential buyer’s vanity and through it, convince the buyer to order the products from LifeWay.
In other words, there’s no real preoccupation from LifeWay as to whether or not the church they are selling their printed materials to adheres to sound doctrine – the endgame is the amount of products sold.
Another important concern is the amount of pastors who will allow themselves to be sweet-talked into buying said materials, irrespective of the church’s stance on doctrinal issues and without verifying if these materials adhere to sound doctrine. Therefore, instead of acting like the local congregation’s overseer, they can potentially allow bad material to filter to the flock. This leads me to my next point.
#2. Appealing to so-called personalities within the church in order to sell a Bible demonstrates serious issues
The Bible’s strongest selling point should be that it is the Word of God. Period. However, the Scriptures have unfortunately become subjected to modern marketing ploys and this transcendent consideration is no longer enough for many.
Just like countless products whose selling points are the amounts of “bells and whistles” companies attach to them and who these businesses pay to endorse said products, suddenly purchasing a Bible for what it is, in and of itself, is insufficient. Christian celebrity (paradoxical as this is) endorsements are now sought after and vehemently used to convince readers who see through the eyes of their favorite personality (instead of through the lens of Scripture) that a particular Bible is worth purchasing. What’s worse, said celebrities willingly offer their images and words to the highest bidder – and make no mistake, publishing houses are more than willing to offer many dollars for a massive return on investment.
I must note that I am not condemning honest Bible publishers, of which there are very few. Bible reproductions come at a cost and as the Scripture itself states, the “laborer is worthy of his hire”. What I denounce is the creation of an industry which hinges on making the Bible a commodity, thereby diminishing its true and incalculable worth. Furthermore, publishing houses, Christian personalities and their sycophants alike have joined forces to make such a thing happen.
It’s worth further exploring the matter of Bible buyers choosing a Bible not based on it being the Bible but on which celebrities give it their (paid) approbation. This proves that said readers are more inclined to trust those who use the name of Christ and His Gospel for personal enrichment and other ulterior motives than God Himself. If the inverse were true, these buyers wouldn’t even care about the testimonials and would instead focus on important considerations, such as whether or not the particular Bible version is faithful to the original manuscripts, whether or not the text is set up for ease of reading and whether or not the book is made with quality materials so that it may withstand prolonged use.
To prove that the consequences of such an attitude are calamitous, I allude to a few of the persons whom LifeWay decided to place within the brochure we received as validation for their newfangled Bible version and attached study guides.
One particular fellow is a race-baiter. Another which hails from Dallas, Texas has allowed the church he oversees to be used for the advancement of social justice (read cultural Marxism) and Islamic causes (via joint activities with groups affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim Brotherhood front).
Does the reader think LifeWay will provide this vital information to those they wish to sell these Bibles to? If this fact isn’t disseminated to potential buyers, what makes us think that LifeWay’s new Bible won’t contain heresy?
Dear reader, notice all that we have unpacked which was formerly disguised under the ruse of flattery meant to serve as a sales pitch. I think it prudent and wise to return to the traditional manner of thought as it pertains to the acquisition of a Bible – namely, it should be obtained and cherished because it is God’s Word.
“For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17
“For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:18
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 2 Peter 2:3 (KJV)