Shopping for Jesus

Shopping for Jesus

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A forward thinking research firm called Saatchi & Saatchi X conducts studies about how people shop and why they buy things. Here is an excerpt from some of their recent findings:

“We recently conducted a study to understand the emotional benefits that drive and influence shopping behavior. Those benefits, we found, include the satisfaction of deep needs for self-creation, mastery, security and connection. Shoppers today want to explore and think about how products can improve their lives. They do reconnaissance to gain the insights they need, and they’re driven to bond with others and enrich relationships as they learn. They are motivated by a desire to take charge of their own identities and the well-being of their families and homes.”

This is amazing news for the church. Think about it – people are searching for things that bring them identity, security and connection – all things that Jesus talked extensively about, but what he said was not what people expect. From the beginning of time people have believed that creating their own identity will lead to happiness, but the truth is that real, lasting joy comes when we embrace the identity of who Jesus is inside of us. The challenge for us as leaders is to connect with people in a way that leads them to this truth.

It’s hard to find people in our time and place who do not already have a belief about Jesus. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for him. The research form Saatchi & Saatchi X suggests that people are looking for Jesus almost every time they go shopping. The problem is that they believe that what they are looking for can be found in a mall instead of the church.

I once heard a pastor friend tell me “if they can sit through 3 hours of a Lord of the Rings movie then they should be able to make it through a 3 hours church service, after all, what’s more important?” Of course the main problem with his hypothesis is failing to understand that the movie is actually compelling and the church service, well . . .

The fastest way to get in deep water in religious circles is to start comparing the church to shopping or worse, the movies so let me be clear . . . I believe that church is an irreplaceable, living, unstoppable idea meant to change the world. The idea here is not to borrow ideas from the marketing or entertainment industries, the idea is for the church to be the compelling, life-changing force that Jesus imagined it would be. I believe that there are communities of people all around us that are searching for exactly what we have. When we offer people what they are looking for in a way that enables them to find it, lives change. The truth that Jesus taught was a hard one and we don’t need to soft sell it. But it was also interesting and compelling.

Leaders must be willing to develop themselves, grow their teams and challenge their people to find new and creative ways to bring the gospel to a whole generation of people who are desperately searching.