November 6, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

      This week will be forgettable - and, unforgettable, at the same time. If the polls and pundits are close to accurate, there may be an interruption in Washington as a result of what may happen tomorrow (if, may, perhaps, etc). Any chance we in the electorate could take a couple weeks off - maybe 'til Thanksgiving? - before we start the 2008 presidential campaigns?
      In The Master's Program, we talk about the similarity between what we know in the consumer world as "branding," and what we perceive in the spiritual world about "calling." There are intriguing correlations between the two. One thing we drive home is that branding (or, calling) allows us to use a type of "shorthand" in our fast-paced jaunt through life. If I have a sense of the brand called "Starbucks," there are expectations I have about the experience that will follow... and it's different than a "cup of joe" from the local FastGas convenience store.
      Why the branding primer? Just this: tomorrow, a large contingent of the electorate will move on the basis of their brand presumptions. For example, the folks who just know the brand "Politicians" may decide to sit this one out, with a belief that "it just doesn't matter what happens; it will just put a bunch of politicians back in power, and they're all bad!" (Really bad decision, turns out: the uncast vote gives the living citizen all the power of a dead traitor, which is"zero.")
      The folks who show up at their polling place - or, who did the 21st Century, increasingly-trendy thing and were "absentee" - will likely be brand-driven. With clear-as-mud assumptions about the two parties in play, they won't look at names in many races; instead, affiliation will direct their decisions. "Republican" and "Democrat" will be the operative issues: whatever the media machines have convinced them - consciously or unconsciously - about the heart and soul of those two warring forces, they'll exercise their assumptions on their ballot. What they think they know may collide with what they really know... and their vote, once cast, will contribute to our nation's course, based on those brand assumptions...
      That happened this week with another commonly-mentioned national brand: it's Evangelical. Stop ten people in any trendy public place, and ask them some probing questions about evangelicals. Who are these people? What are they "up to?" Are they beneficent? Benign? Belligerent? Can you trust them? Are you one?
      According to almost every major news source this week, there are 30 million evangelicals. They had a president (though over 29 million of them didn't know it, didn't know him, and didn't remember voting!), at least they did... until Friday. On Friday, Ted Haggard stepped down as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. On Sunday, he was dismissed - with cause - from his senior pastoral position in Colorado Springs. Unless you've been in a bunker - without wireless - you know enough details. ‘Nough said...
      The point? The average Joe has one more misfactoid for what it means to be an evangelical. A secret life, with seedy behavior; is that what it means to be an evangelical?
      While that scandal was playing out last week, I was with some evangelical buddies in Okinawa, Japan. Japan has been abandoned by multiple Christian missions because they are deemed "an evangelized country that has rejected the Gospel." In Japan today, less than 2% are Christian - including all denominations and sects in that count. We were partnered with 200 churches (averaging less than 50 people each) in Okinawa, staging a three-night evangelistic Festival. It'll never work in Japan...  Really?
      Three nights, on an island with 1.3 million people - and 9500 born-again Christians. Franklin Graham did what an evangelical does: he declared - simply - the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to 30,792 people. The result? There were 1,942 people who walked from their seats to the Savior... and the church in Okinawa had a 20% growth spurt in a weekend.
      What do evangelicals do? Don't look for headlines to answer that question; instead, look for stories of lives transformed by the Gospel. That's what evangelicals are "for." What are you for?;

Bob Shank

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