One of the goals of Saundra and I is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that a key way to do this is by showing people that a business that follows Jesus is a nice company to do business with. We understand that by putting the Holy Name on our business, we take a risk in presenting Him in a bad light. But we also know from personal experience that putting His Name on our business has brought people to know Him.
In the 1960's, there were three broadcast networks and no cable channels. If you turned on television on Sunday evening, there were only three choices -- "Lassie", "Disney", and "60 Minutes". Late night, there was Johnnie Carson and two old movies. The next day, the kids were discussing "Lassie" and the adults were discussing the "60 minutes" show. If you preferred to watch Billy Graham -- there wasn't an option.
Everyone subscribed to Reader's Digest and Time or Newsweek. The local radio stations had regular religious programs. The local tv stations had Oral Roberts every Sunday morning. Pastors were able to reach people at the local football game -- but then again, most people attended church at least once a year.
Today, despite the fact that there are a hundred or more cable channels, studies show that few people watch more than 3 or 4 channels a week. There are thousands of Internet sites. A pastor is persona non gratia within a hundred yards of any school. And many people only attend church for weddings and funerals.
So the question of this century is: "How do you reach people who don't look for Jesus?
Oh yes, we have Christian radio, Christian TV, "WORLD" magazine, Christian Internet sites, Christian schools, Christian curriculum, Christian bookstores, etc. This is great for the believers. But for the unbelievers, we have truly become a holy people, separated unto ourselves. And the unbeliever tunes past Dr Dobson to Rush Limbaugh, flips over Charles Stanley to ESPN, walks past Zondervan Books to Borders Books, goes to public school, and never, ever visits our churches until our Christian friend dies or gets married. And so American Christianity is like the duck who swam on the freezing pond, swimming in smaller and smaller circles to avoid the ice, ultimately becoming frozen himself. We talk to each other, but not to outsiders.
So how do we reach them?
Notice that Paul's business had certain characteristics:
In the last few months of 1999, as the century was drawing to a close, we made the decision to add a headline on our website "oddparts.com" calling ourselves "The Christian Source for Bulk Inkjet Ink" and began advertising ourselves that way. We instantly got attention. One computer magazine made fun of us and put our headline on their jokes page. Another online magazine that we advertised in took tremendous heat from some of the readers. We got phone calls asking "I'm Jewish. Will you still sell to me?" We got a serious of antagonistic emails -- and ten times more supportive emails. One Chinese gentleman asked Saundra "Who is Jesus?". Saundra told him and he converted that very hour.
People tell us every week that they chose our site because we are Christian. Others complain about our Christian on-hold music. One woman told us that her janitor saw her reading our website and asked her if he could continue reading while she went to lunch. Saundra talked to one young man who had left the church because of a fight with his father. Another man had been mad at God for thirty years. We hear all sorts of stories and give advice.
Life on the telephone is now much more interesting. After 9/11, we found ourselves spending a huge amount of time counseling our customers over the phone. We have received hundreds of emails and telephone comments about our choice to put the Name of Jesus where people can see it. It has generated a tremendous amount of conversation for us and helped us remember to keep Him in the forefront of our lives.
Our ministry hasn't been one way. People have helped us out with advice during tough times. There's something about the word "Jesus" that makes people friendlier.
Another interesting effect has been the self-selection of callers. In any retail business, you have pleasant customers, average customers, and nasty customers. It seems to us that we now have more pleasant customers and less nasty customers. We surmise that those nasty customers who call us are open to the Gospel. Those nasty people who are not open to the Gospel don't call. And a lot of Christians call us for support and to give support.
But in another way we found that we had also provided another way for Christians to get together for mutual support. We had become a Christian "channel".
The message is that every person has his or her own part to play in spreading the message.
By the way, our business profitability has increased significantly since we started proclaiming His Name. And that magazine that made fun of us is now out of business. So are two of our direct competitors. The Lord is faithful and eternal.
Other groups have made effective use of visibility. Despite the fact that they represent less than 2 percent of the American population, Jews have effectively used the media to gain a significant voice controlling the plots of tv shows, news reporting, and political issues. They have a presence which far outweighs their real numbers. I applaud them for this. It is a proper way to use our free system to promote the interests of their group. This is one reason why the dangerous and ultimately anti-Christian position of anti-Semitism doesn't make as much headway in the USA as in European countries.
In the same way, small groups of activists for a host of causes - gay rights, feminism, environmentalism, animal rights, and many others - have effectively used visibility to influence our media and our politicians.
Now imagine a town where all the Christians wear something proclaiming their Christianity - a pin, a badge, a tie, or a t-shirt. Imagine signs in the windows of the businesses, fish signs as part of billboard advertisements, mentioning a car dealership as "Fred's Ford - a Christian dealership" on every tv commercial, and churches participating as groups in local parades. The dynamics of the entire town are changed. Unlike other small fringe groups, Christians truly represent at least 30 percent of almost every city and town in America. The media cannot ignore the Christians and the politicians will understand what their voter base is composed of.
More importantly, such a wave of Christian visibility will bring with it a wave of discussions about Christianity. Those discussions will result in many new visitors to churches. And those vistors will result in more conversions, resulting in more souls going to heaven - thus fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19.
We have a dream that all those Christians who went underground during the anti-Christian days of the late twentieth century will sprout up like lilies in the springtime. A sign here - some music there - a cross over here - a proud "This is a Christian business" sign on the front door.
We know that if you put the Name of Jesus in front of people, people will talk about Him. And that's what he wanted...
So, pastors, this is our request. If you think that what we are doing is good for the Kingdom, then tell your congregation to imitate us. And be prepared for the revival...
Brian and Saundra Boley - www.oddparts.com
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