Newsletter #409 – Commercialized Christian Caregiving

This week I heard from a counselor whose comments extend far beyond the caregiving professions. Here is part of the message (next paragraph) and my reply:

I am very discouraged with the current Christian Counseling and Biblical Counseling movements. I have now entirely separated myself from them. I can’t even go to counseling conferences without getting disgusted with the commercialism of Christianity. What do you think of the current movement?

I understand and share some of your frustration. I am sure many others would agree.

  • Concerns about the commercialism in Christianity go far beyond counseling and psychology. This emphasis on money is strong in the coaching field and most of us have seen it in conferences, churches, and authors/speakers who aggressively hawk their books and seminars. Sometimes we go to learn from a speaker and instead get irritating and distracting commercial promotions interspersed with the presentations.
  • This is not new or distinctively American. In 2 Cor. 3:12, Paul wrote about “hucksters—and there are many of them—who preach just to make money.’ The apostle sought to avoid this.
  • In response, we can protest the commercialism but this rarely makes much difference.
  • We can withdraw but this cuts us off from potentially valuable information and contacts. I have withdrawn selectively. I avoid some speakers, writers, conferences and opportunities but engage with others. In time it becomes apparent who is primarily “in it for the money.”
  • We can overlook some of the product pushing if it is limited and in good taste. Commercialism, including advertising is not all bad or invasive. It even can be informative.
  • I try to realize that some commercialism is inevitable. Sometimes this helps pay for conferences or the survival of organizations. It also pays for speakers and counselor salaries.
  • Each of us needs to determine how to respond. I have avoided promotions in my career. (For example, I seldom promote my books in these newsletters) but my book sales and my ministry impact may be less because I resist self-promotion and marketing.

What would you add to what I have written? Please comment

14 Comments

  1. It’s sad to see some Christians lose sight of being humble and relying on the Lord for his provision as they become consumed with seeking fame and fortune. Thank you for walking your talk!

    Reply

  2. I have found “Christian counseling” to be some Christianity sprinkled into secular counseling methods, so I avoid that at every turn. True Biblical counseling….that done with the emphasis on helping believers (and others) look outwardly to God and others as opposed to always inwardly…is, to me, a calling and a mission and commercial promotion of this minsitry strikes me as being out of phase.

    I have no issue with ministries (formal or informal) that are supported by donations that come through those who view the work as greatly beneficial (George Mueller comes to mind), but the commercialization of the great priviledge we have in helping guide believers in honoring God and bringing glory to Him is, to my mind, atithetical to the calling.

    I aggree with Ms. Branton that we should be relying on His provision in these things.

    Reply

  3. I believe that any organization can become so consumed with its own survival and maintenance that it can lose its primary mission. It becomes readily apparent when the organization shifts its finances in the direction of marketing (aggressively) rather than focusing on services. I, like many, resent being sent frequent expensive advertising from organizations, resulting in raising the cost of dues and/or services provided. But, as pointed out, it is even sadder when the label Christian is attached, denying the power of God to provide. I guess we all struggle with a lack of trust.

    Reply

  4. Amen Nancy, Michael & Dave.

    Is it possible that what we are seeing is just the output of systems derived from godly principles that He has not created?

    There is a clear thread of reason emerging here out of the disillusionment and in the comments so far.I think the disillusionment comes from the dissonance between what God created our hearts and the Body for and what the mind (flesh) of man has synthesized for his own regard and gain.

    This raises questions for me and for a lot of “rational-thinking” atheists I know.

    Why do we insist on making an enterprise out of what He has equipped the Body to live out of?

    Who told us take the “One Anothers” we are called to live by, make them our brand and monetize it?

    How will the world know we are His and He is at work in us; by our clever systems or our love for one another?

    Are we a collection of principled beings organized into various factions that produce according to the systems within our factions?

    Or, are we all important & inter-dependent glorious parts of a Spirit lead organism that reflects His nature?

    I believe the more we live out of who we are in Him, the less of these systemic problems will emerge. Even atheists get the dissonance. Our behavior doesn’t seem to match the little that is known about God.

    Reply

  5. Great content, and I think you have a measured, defensible view on commercialism. ONE CRITICISM: Drop the blue lettering! Hard to read.

    Reply

  6. Indeed, the commercialization of Christianity is a disturbing and widespread phenomenon. As a missionary I see it all around me in the way even trusted major mission organizations have come to now set their goals and evaluation processes. I believe this does not honor our Lord. Clearly Jesus taught that we cannot serve God and Mammon (Materialism). So the questions loom large: How do we follow Jesus in a culture saturated by materialism? How will our voices be heard? How will we have the resources to minister effectively? – At the risk of failing in those things, we must seek first to live by Jesus’ values. This is daily cross-bearing and requires making decisions prayerfully day after day. But we have the promise that God will supply all our needs. Not our cravings for fame, success, power, and money, but our need to draw close to God and to grow in His likeness. May He give us his wisdom.

    Reply

  7. Suppose I’m a “christian” counselor and I spend wakeless hours working on a program that integrates Christianity with treatments for children with sexual behavior problems. Suppose I realize that within the “christian” community that no such work even exists and for maximum impact I want to disseminate this en mass (best practices within the christian faith). I attend a major Christian Counseling Conference that is held annually and I mass flier people to buy my integrative book and/or workbook. In fact, i drop on every seat a flier for people to consider this work.

    Here is my question – am I contributing to the mass consumerism of Christian Counseling or am I a “forward thinker” with an entrepreneurial spirit who reads Fast Company?

    Reply

    1. I love your post and the way you write. Do you really use the name “Buy My Stuff?”

      You present a thought provoking scenerio and I really like it. I struggle with this all the time. I am not a self-promoter and probably that is one major reason why my books do not sell very well.

      Your second paragraph lists two alternatives. For me I would give it a third alternative. I know others will not agree but I see this as an insensitive, self-promoting invasion of my privacy. When I go for a seminar I go to hear the speaker and I am annoyed with I get book pitches or people pushing their seminars or business cards. Announcing these is one thing. It provides a service. Putting cards and fliers on seats annoys me. Does anybody else feel as strong about this as I do?

      Also, where is the role of humility, honest acceptance of one’s gifts and contributions, and the dangers of self-centered pride?

      Reply

  8. Commercialism is not limited to Christian Counseling but happens in almost any field of Christian life – books, music, TV, even prayer and missions, etc. – and clearly has nothing to do with the use of creational insights such as scientifically sound knowledge (the Bible calls this wisdom). However, since the love of money is a root of all evil, all these areas of Christian ministry lose their credibility. “It is all about money” is not a good witness…

    Reply

    1. Hi Ulrich. I once had a student from Germany (one of your countrymen) ask me if it was possible to succeed in America without constant promoting of oneself, pushing ourselves and our products on to others. I have never forgotten his question. I know the times are different but I can’t think of any leader in the Bible who was a self promoter.

      Reply

  9. FIRST, AN APOLOGY.

    I goofed in the way I spelled “commercialized.” Many years ago I learned that errors most often slip in when the print is larger than the rest and when I am in a hurry like I was last week.

    Reply

  10. It is a delicate balance, to earn a respectable living in this commercial age when your income is derived from a business basis. A decade ago, I was informed that as a for profit business, prospective clients were not inclined to pay for counsel and guidance of a faith perspective, they get that for free at their local church. Thus, how does one in a sense compete when a significant portion of your income is from a faith perspective in a culture that has the perception that anything related to faith should be “free” and those in professions related to faith should work for little to nothing, since their reward is in heaven (or something to that effect).
    I believe the resolution is in first checking our heart to be pure along these lines as we examine our motives and methods to promote ourselves. And perhaps we extend grace to others who struggle with this issue, yet reached a different persuasion. Without personally walking in others shoes, it is difficult to know what truth or lies they are basing their decisions on.

    Reply

  11. The Bible’s ultimate answer for this is the Judgement Seat of Christ. Not until then will all motives and actions be crystal clear and revealed as such. Until then, our job is to evaluate our actions in the light of what will be revealed then. Jesus made it clear … for those in ministry of any sort ,nothing escapes his personal and very public attention in that day. Only believers are subject to this, heaven or hell is not the issue. The eternally lasting value of what we have done is the issue.

    Reply

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