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Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5 ESV)
We hear a regular earful these days about “branding”. I’m not talking about cowboys looking for strays with a hot branding iron. Large corporations understand the need to spread the word about their particular brand to the point that every man, woman and child on earth has an impression of what their unique brand represents. The more people are familiar with their brand in a positive way; it translates to increased profits and expansion of their brand.
I had an interesting encounter with a couple of sharp young whippersnappers in the Russian Far East in 1993. While the three of us were waiting in line at the bank to exchange some U.S. Dollars for Russian Rubles, we introduced ourselves. It was clear we were part of only a very few Americans around the city of Khabarovsk.
At that time, this region of Russia appeared to be a potential frontier for spreading the news about various products and ideas that were only rumors to most of the population. These two young men were doing some branding in Khabarovsk for the Wrigley brand of products as well as in other cities like Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Magadan. These cities also happened to be important cities for my mission work for Jesus Christ.
In the early 90’s, products that are very familiar to almost every American were almost unheard of in provincial Russian cities, except to the lucky few who had met a real American tourist or missionary. Most of us who visited the former Soviet Union in those days shared some chewing gum, a candy bar or some peanut butter. These tastes of America left a favorable impression with our new friends.
The importance of brand names became clear to me as a boy when I witnessed the association of a product or idea with the person you see yourself as, or how you want others to perceive your identity. As a teenager growing up in North Carolina, perhaps branding is why it seemed cool to carry a package of Camel cigarettes instead of Old Gold. The important question often was, “what are you smoking?” In the eyes of the person asking the question, the brand of your smokes would tell them something about who you really are. Thankfully, the Surgeon General of the United States put a scare into many of us who suddenly realized that our lives are more important than helping promote the coolness of a certain brand.
Nevertheless, sharp and aggressive marketers on Madison Avenue relentlessly continue to search for the hot button of all of us consumers in order to be more effective in promoting their brand of the new hip lifestyle that might be reflected in a new release of some fashionable line of products.
Sometimes, do-gooder people will sometimes remind us in a friendly way, “I’m not trying to mind your business, but you ought to know, that your shoes, clothes and the car you drive make the man”. It may be their not so subtle way of telling us that we are out of fashion and not even respectable by the rest of folks.
The most important issue regarding branding really has to do with matters of faith. Nowadays, we hear that there are many equally acceptable brands of religion in the country. Statements like, “one religion is just as good as another”, or “all roads lead to heaven, so it doesn’t matter which road you choose”.
When we consider spending money for a new pair of shoes, and we have long had confidence in a specific brand, we don’t want anyone telling us that all shoes are the same and one brand is as good as any other. We are not so naïve to think that there are no counterfeits in the fashion industry. A clever counterfeit shoe does not mean I’m assured that I will receive the same quality in wear and tear as I did on my old favorite brand that my Mama taught me to buy.
When we pause and seriously consider which religion is the right one for my family and me, we have a great variety of brands from which to choose. Here are a few suggested questions we could ask when choosing the right religion out of the muddle of current denominations: 1. Will this church/religion help me to be the brand of person God desires? 2. Does this religion use the Bible as the final authority for determining the truth in religious questions? 3. Does this church follow Jesus Christ as the only Lord to exclusion of all other pretenders? 4. Do the people who are involved with this religion impress me as people who know what it means to be under the influence of God’s love? 5. Is this church committed to helping other people to know the truth that sets men free from sin?
Please write me with any questions or comments at: P.O. Box 963, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or email@example.com. You may also request to receive the daily meditation: WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail.