Friday, June 5, 2009

Lifeway misses a point

Ok, I'm a Southern Baptist. In fact, I've been a Southern Baptist longer than I've been a Christian, though I now realize which is more important. So, as a Southern Baptist, I'm predisposed towards a couple of things:

1.) A preference to purchase stuff made by Southern Baptists, for Southern Baptists, like stuff from Lifeway, the bookstore formerly known as the Baptist Bookstore, part of the group formerly called the Baptist Sunday School Board.

2.) A tendency to be irritable and itching for an argument, especially with fellow Baptists. Most Southern Baptists will argue for a short time with other denominations, like Methodists, other religions, like Muslims or Mormons, but can argue for decades with fellow Baptists. I think the 'silence in heaven' in Revelation 8:1 is that point in eternity when the Lord Himself finally separates the last two Baptists and tells us to hush.

So, today, I have a situation where #1 and #2 have collided. Yep, I've got something made by Baptists that has me itching for an argument. What is it? It's something on my Summer 2009 Sunday School Teacher's Guide.

But it's not the content. It's an advertisement on the back. What are we advertising? Well, we're advertising a Bible study based on the book The Love Dare, which comes from the movie Fireproof. Now, I like the movie, and I bet the book is great. I'm sure the Bible study is tremendous. But the ad is bad. Plain and simple. What's wrong with it? The lead line for the advertisement is "How to change a spouse in 40 days." The text then goes on to rave about how, if you want your spouse to improve, bring them to this Bible study. They'll change. There's a short nod that you might be changed as well, but the advertisement's main text says that this Bible study "contains the kind of prayers, Scripture, and provocative questions that can completely transform a husband or wife. It's an amazing process, but don't be surprised if it's you who is changed forever."

In other words, you might be changed, but this study is guaranteed to fix what's wrong with your spouse. There's also the side question of whether one should list prayers first, as if they are more important than Scripture. Given that prayer is talking to God, and Scripture is God's word to us, I'd think Scripture has more power to change. But, that's a different argument.

I thought perhaps this was an isolated issue, that I was being to sensitive, but this morning, I was picked up my copy of Biblical Illustrator (which is one of the greatest resources Lifeway does), the ad on the back cover caught my eye. It was for a Bible study about attitude, and led with the question "Do you know someone who needs an attitude change?" and went on about how this Bible study would fix them just right.

Now, I know that both of these studies will present God's word with the emphasis on life transformation and marriage transformation. But I take issue with the idea behind the ads. These are, first of all, resources that are liable to be left visible to a wide range of folks. If a Sunday School teacher has this teacher's guide at home, and her husband or his wife sees the ad on the back, then gets invited to do the Love Dare Bible Study with the church, how is that spouse going to respond? With hesitation or aggression: here's my spouse, trying to change me again!

Second, I think this might put us up against Jesus' teaching that we should take the log from our own eye before we hit our brother up about his speck, in Matthew 7:4.

[in the interest of that: I will do my best to not produce advertisements telling people that I can change their spouse or their friend/family member's bad attitudes. My goal here is not to judge Lifeway as being evil, just to express they could do better!]

These ads just read to me like the people that respond to sermons with a "I sure wish _____ had been here to hear that! They sure needed it." Sure, but did you hear what God was saying to you? Or are you too preoccupied with changing your neighbor?

When we look at people through eyes of how they should change, we tend to miss seeing them as people. Yes, we want to see everyone come to faith in Christ, and all of those who follow Him to follow Him closer and better. But I think we can advertise Bible studies on their content alone, rather than emotive appeals to people's desire to change other people.

Just my 2 cents worth.


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