Before I was a pastor I was a salesman. I’ve sold many products for several companies. I was involved in retail and door-to-door sales.
Salespeople can get a bad reputation. The fact is, there are many methods used to sell. Some salespeople use methods that are rightly viewed negatively.
I learned a valuable lesson early. It was crucial to my success. Once this principle is understood it illuminates why all the techniques employed by salespeople either work or don’t.
Different methods. All based on the same principle.
The principle is easily understood. It happens in every sales situation. Most people don’t even realize that it has happened.
There are only two factors to understand: 1. Cost and 2. Value.
Imagine a scale. Put Cost on one side and Value on the other. Now understand the principle: A sale is made as soon as Value outweighs Cost.
It may not sound profound. But it is. This process is happening all the time in our lives. It influences the decisions we make, not just our purchasing decisions.
In order to make sales, the salesperson has two responsibilities. 1) raise the Value; and 2) diminish the Cost to the consumer.
Simple in theory. Difficult in practice.
The reason for the difficulty is due to the subjective nature and personality of each individual. We all weigh Value and Cost differently.
It would be a mistake to think that Cost = Price. Much more is associated with Cost than you may initially think. While Price remains constant the actual Cost varies by individual. A price of $100 costs less to a multimillionaire than it does to a homeless person. Cost includes price. There are many other factors including comfort, emotions, intellect, will, and relationships.
Value is also hard to quantify. Many factors contribute to Value. Consider a baseball for sale at an estate sale. For one person, this item may have no more value than 25 cents. For another person, the Value may be priceless for sentimental reasons tied to fond memories of throwing this particular baseball around with a loved one that has recently passed away.
You may not think about this much. Yet, this process is happening all the time in your life whether you realize it or not.
When you make decisions, Value and Cost are being weighed. This principle affects your behavior. Understanding this principle can help you to discern why people act the way that they do (yourself included).
It also explains why so many high pressure techniques exist. The method itself (coming from an obnoxious salesperson) drives up the Value of doing whatever they are asking you to do. The Cost of continuing the interaction weighed against the Value of being left alone is powerful.
These same techniques are used in ministry on a regular basis.
Many professing Christians have turned Jesus into a commodity. A product. They then try to sell their Jesus-product to others. To make the sale, people are treated like any other consumer. The Value of being a follower of Jesus is emphasized while simultaneously diminishing or downplaying the Cost.
You’ll see this technique employed in books, on the radio and TV, and in pulpits all across North America. It is the underlying philosophy of many evangelistic outreaches.
Jesus is preached and taught as a “life-enhancer” just like any other product pushed on infomercials.
Benefits of following Christ are glamorized and promised without qualification. Costs associated with following Jesus are ignored, minimized, or obscured. Promises are made that He will make everything better.
All you have to do is say a prayer! It really is that easy!
Jesus used a different technique. Read through the Gospels. You’ll see Jesus doing the exact opposite of what a good salesperson would do.
Jesus drives up the Cost.
Jesus’s pitch was pretty simple: Follow me. It will cost you everything.
Was Jesus the worst salesman who ever lived? I don’t think so.
He was using the same principle. His purpose in driving up the Cost was simple and effective. It demonstrated to everyone that those who follow Him really understood the Value.
Jesus wasn’t interested in making sales. He wasn’t trying to gather as many people around Himself as He could so He could boost His numbers with their casual participation.
He was making disciples.
Accordingly, Jesus didn’t rely on fleshly techniques. He relied on the amazing grace of God which is able to transform dead sinners into living saints.
Jesus drove up Cost to the point where it surpassed the Value in the hearts and minds of those whom He was speaking to. As a result of these methods, most people left Him. Jesus did this to demonstrate that they were coming to Him for the wrong reasons.
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21-23)
Do you know the surpassing value of salvation? Of having an inheritance in the Kingdom of God? Do you understand the worth of having your iniquities, transgressions, and sins forgiven and the wrath of God removed from you?
You may say Yes. How you answer the next question is equally revealing.
Do you see salvation as having infinitely greater Value than every other relationship, personal comfort, and promise of material prosperity combined?
The Value of knowing Christ is worth more for the child of God than to gain the whole world.
When Jesus drove up the Cost, He knew exactly what He was doing. He was testing the true understanding of the Value of knowing Him.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)
Worldly, fleshly techniques of bringing people to Jesus as a “life-enhancer” appeal to the uncomfortable, lonely, depressed, and disillusioned. Many “decisions for Christ” have been recorded as a result of promises that Jesus will cure their problems.
Unfortunately, many bitter and critical former “followers of Christ” have also been the result. They feel that Jesus failed to deliver on the promises of worldly happiness and comfort that they were offered by people in His name.
But Jesus didn’t fail them. Neither did God’s word. What failed them was the person who pushed their Jesus-product without telling them the whole truth. The decision to follow Christ was a product of the flesh and as a result did not endure until the end. They didn’t read the fine print.
So, what about you?
Are you a follower of Jesus? If so, why?
Do you view Jesus as a life-enhancer and hope that He will give you material comfort and prosperity in this world which is passing away? Are you only willing to follow Him as long as He makes your walk comfortable along the way?
Or have your eyes been opened to the reality of who Jesus is and what He’s offered through His death, burial, and resurrection? Do you understand that Jesus is not a life-enhancer but is really the life-giver?
Jesus drives up the Cost to prospective followers. Our response demonstrates our understanding of His Value in our hearts more than our words do (Mark 7:6-9).
Deny yourself. Pick up your cross and follow Me.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
Oh, Lord, that we would know the surpassing value of knowing you and being known by you! Deal with us, not according to our deeds, but according to your mercy and for your name’s sake. Lead us, and make us a people who readily acknowledge you as Lord, rely solely on your grace, and walk with you in humility and love. Amen.