Commercial Christianity

Commercial Christianity
The ‘selling’ of ones self
Robert Wurtz II

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)

 In our previous study entitled Televangelicalism, we gave an overview of the rise of mass communication as it has been employed by evangelical Christian ministers. In this entry I wish to explore some of the ways the use of modern media has been exceedingly destructive to Christianity. I wish to show that the very nature of modern television is to militate against Philippians 2:3, a state of mind essential to any Christian minister. We will first examine the root cause and some of the consequences and then we will return to our text.


In the 1960’s and 70’s certain old-timey preachers adopted a nickname for the television; they called it helevision. Though some have disregarded their views and written them off as backwoods preachers, I doubt that there is one single thing that has been a greater source of trouble to Christians and the churches of God than the Television. It is more than we can even cope with in our times. 

Beyond the immorality and violence that exists on TV, there are mindsets that are being conveyed in every program and commercial. Understand that Television is about capturing an audience and retaining it. This is how ratings are built and commercials are valued. Programs and people have to be ‘sold’ or ‘promoted’ in order to gain a following. This means that programs can only survive if they attract the most possible viewers. There is little room for niche programming. Popularity is king. Simply put, you have to sell yourself to a viewing public. This phenomena has captivated the masses and I dare say Believers are not exempt. For over 60 years folk have been taking pointers on how to promote themselves from methods employed on TV. To find success would almost guarantee a mega ego infusion.  

Market yourself?

I believe it is impossible to calculate the negative effects of this philosophy of ‘selling’ (promoting) people and programs in this way. The strategy appeals to the pride of life and can subtly enter our thinking process almost unchecked. Why? Because pride is the most difficult of all sins to detect in our own lives. Being ‘proud’ is not just normal in this present evil world, it is greatly encouraged. 


Popular culture is just that, “the expression of what is made popular by or within the culture”. The whole concept was popularized by Edward Bernays just after WWI. It was a huge money making scheme that we dealt with in the entry titled Chasing the Wind.  Pop culture, when allowed to influence the churches of God, leads to pop preaching and pop trends within the churches of God (if allowed to go unchecked). Soon the philosophy in the youth department of the church in one generation becomes the philosophy of the adult church in the next. 

The sad thing is that everyone living today has lived through cycles of pop-culture. It is normal to almost everyone in the West and is therefore accepted. No one questions the process. But the effect is that everything ‘old’ is ditched for the ‘new’. People actually think this is how life is supposed to work, even in the churches. It is to the point to where there is almost no continuity with the past. Old things are typically shunned as outdated. The consequence is that the masses have become “performers” that echo and imitate what they see on TV. Too much of what we do is becoming plastic Hollywood pretense devoid of any real expression of the heart. We are a culture of imitators. 

And though we can talk about the positives of modern media, I must say that we would be much better off without the influence of TV. It is hard to even know where to begin on such a vast subject, but I want to target in this second entry one area as it relates to the wholesale distribution of “love for this present evil world”. 

The primary trapping

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB) 

Let us first observe that if anyone is moving in the three things listed in verse 16 then they are in the cross hairs of verse 15. That is to say, if anyone is moving in the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life then the love of the Father is not in them. These three are sometimes simplified to pleasure, possessions and personal pride.This makes for a very sobering passage. The very thing that constitutes enmity with God is being pumped out of networks at a wholesale level. We cannot entertain two lovers at once; God says if a person loves the world then He and His love is effectively not in the person. This means that the person is not moving in the love of God or the leading of God, but they are moved by worldly ambitions and desires.  They may seem to have a great zeal for what they are doing, but the source of the zeal is all wrong.  

The lure of popularity

It has been said that pride is the one sin for which the devil will not make you feel guilty. It is the snare and condemnation of the devil. The New Testament speaks of ministers being lifted up with pride. We are warned to take practical measures to prevent this. Why? Because pride is the most dangerous of all sins. Once a person is in a position of popularity, they are immediately in danger. When God looked for a man to take on the task of leading His people out of Egypt, He chose Moses, the meekest man on the earth. (Numbers 12:3) He was reluctant to do it, almost to a fault. If God had lined up a thousand men and asked for a show of hands as to who wanted to be the leader of His nation, Moses would have been last to volunteer. God did not want the first volunteer, he wanted the person that could walk before Him in meekness. 

Kicking and screaming

Television has been a primary source for the lust for popularity that exists in our times. Who can deny it? We even have programs designed to make people an ‘idol’, where lines stretch for blocks with people waiting for their shot at fame. This has crossed over into modern Christendom. The great lie of our times is that we can use God as a means to our own personal fame; but God is not going to be the means to any one’s end (P. Reidhead). I believe Moses would have to be drug into a studio kicking and screaming unless he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, and with no desire for personal ambition, that it was God’s perfect will that he do it. Not today. Many have a “pass me the microphone” mentality. This is dangerous. Personal ambition has always been one of the greatest dangers to the churches of God. This is likely why Corinth was divided. It is why Paul wept and cried when he left Ephesus in Acts 20:31f. If the devil can find a person with personal ambition, he has a beachhead into the churches.

God’s perfect will

God’s perfect will for a person’s life cannot be improved upon. If we are led of the Spirit we will carry out that will; but if we are driven by personal ambition we will do all kinds of things in the name of God that had little to do with Him. Some preach Christ out of envy and strife, nevertheless Christ is preached; but we must move in the will of God. We cannot seek to “win souls for God” in a way that will get our name in lights. We are not here to lead disciples after ourselves. We are to point people to Jesus. We have to be prepared to have the mind of Christ; who being in the form of God did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation. When John the Baptist stated, “He must increase and I must decrease” he was not mouthing soundbites. This was his heart disposition. If God calls us to minister to a small group of people for the rest of our lives, we have to truly be prepared to do that. GOD doesn’t want me to do great things for Him; He wants me to live by every word that is proceeding from His mouth. He wants me to walk in the Spirit and move in His perfect will. Doing “great things for God” can often be a cover for “making a name for myself.” God forbid.

The sin of electioneering

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)

Maybe it would be a good time to write sentences again to drive home the force of this truth:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit 
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit
Our Greek word for ‘selfish ambition’ means ‘electioneering’  or a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means” (BDAG). Paul here exhorts the church to be one in the mind of Christ not putting self forward or being selfish. James uses the same Greek word and it is translated as ‘strife’. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. (James 3:14) This is a sobering warning. A.T. Robertson rendered the word meaning to “put forward to personal ends.” James 3:14 speaks against having selfishness or self-promoting in your heart. (Wayne Steury) Paul said, “Let nothing be done through it.” Rather, in lowliness of mind let us esteem others are better than ourselves. By contrast with the world’s self seeking and exaltation, we are to humiliate ourselves by comparison; not in a foolish sense, but in a lowly view of ourselves that is devoid of conceit. 

Building a name

To cut against the grain of the paradigm of this devilish age we have to radically insulate ourselves from it’s mindset. We can’t think like the world and do anything for God. We have to have the mind of Christ. Self-promotion, self-glorification, etc.have no place in the Kingdom of God. For those that are inwardly seeking such, God sees it and so does Satan. The enemy sees in the person a platform from which to influence the people of God and promote all manor of lies and ungodly practices. Once a person gets “I want to be an idol” in their blood, they are dangerous to the churches of God. 

This TV, Hollywood, celebrity, glamour, spirit is one of the most dangerous things to the churches we can discuss. Once a person gets a little fame, they often become a law unto themselves. They are legends in their own minds and their followers shout their praises. Who can reach them? As we mentioned in our previous entry, they esteem popularity as a gage of authority. This party spirit and electioneering is contrary to God and His work. It is at enmity with God and His will for the churches. Paul said it best,  But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me. (Galatians 2:6) Man may honor a person for being popular, but God does not. Keep that very clear.

Corrupted thinking

There is something wrong with us when we view the Kingdom of God as a multi-level career opportunity. That ‘something’ is the corruption that is flooding our minds everytime we turn on a TV or admire a celebrity. God is not looking for celebrities that will maximize their talents and abilities to build their own name and kingdom, in the name of building Christ’s kingdom. God does not anoint people to build their own little kingdoms. He anoints us to do His perfect will for our lives. It is all He expects of us. Too many Christians are discontent with what God has them doing. They want more. They want to be seen by more and heard by more. But God has certain people that He has equipped us to reach. We must be content with that knowing that God judges not on quantity of exploits, but on obedience to His will. All we can ever be are good foot-soldiers taking orders. If God chooses to use us on a grand scale, let us be like Moses and move forward reluctantly and in the fear of the Lord. We are not here to market ourselves. As Paul said plainly, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3 NKJV) Amen


Robert Wurtz II

And be not conformed to this world… (Romans 12:2a)

Our exposition of the text is simple, be not conformed could be translated, ‘be not fashioned’ (Greek mē sunschēmatizesthe μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε). This is the present passive imperative with mē; that is, stop being fashioned or do not have the habit of being fashioned to this world. Our Greek verb is suschēmatizō (συσχηματίζεσθε) and it means to conform to another’s pattern. And then… according to this world (tōi aiōni toutōi τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ). Do not take this age as your fashion plate. To understand why this command is in the imperative, we need to look at an example of how one of the most successful corporations in history has been operated in recent times and how they tried to ‘conform’ to their enemy with disastrous results. 

The world’s means of ‘success’

When the late Roberto Goizueta took over as CEO of Coca Cola in 1980, he held a meeting to tell managers and employees that there would be no sacred cows in how the company did its business, including how it formulated its drinks. He told the employees that no one should ‘feel safe’.  He then went on to fire (sack) multiple managers and workers. With power comes the desire to change and establish ones self within the organization. The strategy is as old as human civilization; try to appear intelligent and capable by looking around to see what you can criticize, try to make as many people nervous and fearful as you possibly can; all the while knowing absolutely nothing about what’s truly going on. I mention this because Jesus said, It Shall Not Be So Among You.

What happened in 1980 and in the years to come proved Warren Buffet’s (and Fred Lynch) theory of buying companies that were so good that,”an idiot (pardon the expression) could run them; because the day may come when an idiot is running it.” Goizueta  was no idiot. He was a man that learned from his mistakes. Keep that in mind as we explore one of his severe misteps. But Coca Cola is and has always been a very strong product and company; this is why Warren Buffet is the largest stockholder and has never sold a stock. $100,000 worth of stock in 1919 is worth $2 Billion today; that is how successful the company has been over the years. Every indicator is that Coca Cola will continue to grow in consumption globally so it is without a doubt one of the most stable companies in the world as well. So what do you do with a product that is in demand (albeit not everyone likes it) to increase sales or more pointedly try to beat out your competition in marketing to young people? 

Understand that by 1985 Coca Cola had been an icon in America and around the world for a century. It had gained tremendous exposure and market share in WWII because Coca Cola was given exclusive access to sugar, that was rationed at that time. Soldiers in the field were drinking Coca Cola as a small taste of home. This among many other reasons made Coca Cola the dominant cola for many years. But Pepsi began to market to the younger generation and in time closed the gap in sales. You may recall that in 1984 Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire on stage filming a Pepsi commercial; he was part of the marketing team that was trying to reach the youth. Pepsi obviously wanted kids to associate drinking Pepsi with being cool, so they targeted popular culture with their product. Their slogan? “Pepsi, the choice of a new generation!” There is just one problem with that, pop-culture is about change and a product like Pepsi needed to be for all times and for all people if it was to survive. Today Coca-Cola enjoys more than twice the soft drink revenues as Pepsi and holds the #1 (Coke) and #2 (Diet Coke) position with Pepsi #3. What happened? They made a very critical mistake in associating their product with one main demographic. 

The unthinkable happens at Coke

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If Coca Cola knew they would rise to the top as they have it is likely they would not have made a critical mistake in 1985 that potentially could have destroyed the company. With Roberto Goizueta at the helm and in a panic over Pepsi’s growing market share to the youth, on the 100th anniversary of John Pemberton’s first introduction of what would eventually come to be known as Coca Cola, the corporation decided they would alter the formula of the drink to taste ‘a bit more like Pepsi Cola’. They called it, ‘New Coke’. To those who were alive back then and can remember this event, it was paramount to blasphemy in the eyes of true Coke drinkers. I recall working in a convenience store having to listen to the complaints of customers that were so disillusioned, that I wondered what could possibly have possessed these people to change something that was so successful and so beloved around the world. If you think about it, this was an act of arrogance that has no real parallel in modern sales and marketing. To think that a company would arbitrarily decide for 10’s of millions of people that they were eliminating the drink that they had come to enjoy with their lunches and dinners is such a flagrant disregard of others that it’s a wonder the company did not go belly up. Imagine waking up one day and your favorite tea would now be made to taste like coffee. You were used to that drink and liked it the way it was. What are you going to drink now? You don’t want anything else. Coke spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where it had made a mistake, ultimately concluding that it had underestimated the public impact of the portion of the customer base that would be alienated by the switch.” (wiki) Obviously the powers at be at Coca Cola were living on another planet. Common sense would tell a person it would not work. But common sense is to some people non-sense.

We Won the Cola War!

At the risk of oversimplifying the scope of the issues at the time, let me just say that Coca Cola had done the unthinkable; because they obviously were not thinking clearly. They changed the long standing formula of their beloved soft drink to taste like their enemies (competitions) thinking it would increase sales to the ‘new generation’. Pepsi then declared themselves the winner of the cola wars. The backlash from loyal Coca Cola drinkers was bad enough, but now you are being mocked by your enemy because you have conceded that what they have to offer is better and we need to try to be like them.


 Do you see a clear parallel yet? Whether we realize it or not, every time we change up or compromise in the churches of God to more identify with ‘the flavor’ of the world, the kingdom of darkness declares a victory. How embarrassing! Not only that, but we alienate all those faithful believers that refuse to settle for anything less than the real thing. The sad thing is that no sooner did Coke release ‘Coke Classic’ that their sales went through the roof and Pepsi’s steadily started dropping. Coca Cola went back to what made them great- back to their heritage and identity. It was not long and the so-called ‘New Coke’ was ancient history. Amen.

The Real Thing

At some point the management at Coca Cola became obsessed with market share and forgot that what they were dealing with was more than a tweak in flavor. They had made their product, that transcended cultures and time frames, taste like their enemies. Amazing! Likewise, we have lived long enough to see that the ‘new’ way of conducting meetings and identifying ourselves with the world has not worked in the churches of God. In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that Bible-based sermons, hymns and books are now nearly unintelligible to an entire generation of ‘professed’ Christians. By flavoring Christianity like the world we have sabotaged our own salt. That is to say, we have caused it to lose it’s savor by destroying our contrast with the world. 

Understand also that it’s not the music genre that many can’t relate to today; it’s the lack of depth of experience in God that makes the lyrics sound alien. Bible based sermons bore people that have no experience in God. What happens? Some resort to more of what Coke did in 1985, only to find they end up with ‘professed Christians’ that have almost no concept of anything Spiritual and have no appetite for ‘the real thing’. For example, a person cannot sing from the heart a song that sings about realities that they have not experienced. What happened? While trying to emulate the world the Gospel could not be preached. God can’t call people out of the world when ministers are calling them into it or using means that bring a conformity to it. So, multitudes lack the experience in God that is essential to their being able to relate to and appreciate sermons, books and hymns that articulate the wonders of what God has done in the New Covenant. What did Paul say? Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 2:2 ESV)   

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