The time has come for us to discuss something that churches do that annoys me. And it is this: we stereotype a lot in the name of marketing and we’re not super great at it.
Some bible study curriculum writer has determined by my age and gender what I need to glean from the Bible, or what women’s study guide I’ll buy if the cover is just the riiiight shade of pink. Somebody determined that women’s bible studies need to tell me about how to be a “biblical woman” which is to say, one woman in particular: the Proverbs 31 woman.
She’s a pretty awesome lady but honestly? I’m a little sick of her. If she were my neighbor would I get her mail for her or feed her cat while she’s out of town? Absolutely. I’d probably ask her for recipes and to teach me how to fold a fitted sheet too. But would we be friends? Probably not.
Proverbs 31 lady is a wife and mother and a busy lady who runs a home and probably works too and is in terrific shape to boot. She can cook. She’s basically Mrs. Pinterest. But as a single and childless 20-something, I can’t really relate to Mrs. Proverbs. And honestly, even if I could, she’d probably annoy me.
Then there’s the other alternative: bible study curriculum writers have determined that as a single young lady, I must be dying to hear about dating. (Isn’t that smart? Get her married and THEN teach her about Mrs. Proverbs!) Because at the age of 25 I must wake up each day and fully dedicate each waking hour to the hunt for Prince Charming (or the Christian version, Boaz.) In reality, I’m worried about health insurance and my entry level job and grad school applications and fixing up my old car vs. buying a new one, and keeping up with my college buddies while trying to make friends with the only other young person my age in the office but she turns out to be a little weird and maybe my college friends are enough after all . . . In reality, dating comprises just a small percentage of my brain activity and even less of my actual social agenda.
Listen bible study curriculum marketing people: stop trying to change my relationship status!
I’d like to submit to you that the person in the Bible who can make me the very best 20-something single woman I can be right here right now is a 30-something single man from a couple thousand years ago. (And his name isn’t Boaz.) He’s the most applicable human to me in the whole Bible and all of humanity. And to everyone else for that matter.
I guess that’s a problem for marketers. Jesus has no target market. He is for all people.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. “ (Galatians 3:28)
That’s a hard thing to market. I have a degree in marketing. I know the adage: if you try to reach everybody you’ll end up reaching nobody.
I get it. Proverbs lady is easy to sell, to commercialize and Americanize, easy to shove in my face and say “BE LIKE HER.” But Jesus? He’s both too broad and too specific at the same time.
Too broad for a target market. And yet he knows every facet of my days, my brain power and my social calendar. That Jesus. It’s almost as if we weren’t supposed to make money off of him! 😉
You see the problem with trying to market the Bible is that we pull out certain verses or stories that meet our needs, decide what applies to our lives and what doesn’t, and in doing so we warp scripture into a me-centric book no greater than any other self help book. But the Bible was never intended to simply make us better: it was given to us so that we might KNOW GOD better. The book isn’t about us–it’s about Jesus.
We overcomplicate this Christian life with our sales and our marketing. I don’t need a new bible character, historical figure or role model for each phase of my life. I don’t need another imperfect pattern to compare myself against. These have their utility but all fall short of the perfect standard that is Christ. He is the everlasting standard for all of my days, and for every generation, gender and age group. He has been tempted in every way I have been and can empathize with me on every level. (Hebrews 4:15)
So sorry, marketers. I’m not buying what you’re selling. I’ll just take Jesus, thanks.