Archive for May, 2020

The Stone that the builders rejected © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.8 Cycles Render

Matthew 21:33-46 – WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN MARKETING YOURSELF (Part 10)

The next day, on the train, the Marketing Manager and the Christ Follower resume their conversation. Previously …

MARKETING MANAGER: We can learn a lot about what not to do in Marketing from Jesus. He made so many mistakes.

I’ve already told you His first 10 mistakes. We were talking about communication failures of Jesus. Number 9 was…

9. REFUSE TO COMMUNICATE 

10. BE UNCLEAR IN YOUR COMMUNICATION

and Number 11 is…

11. BE NEGATIVE IN YOUR COMMUNICATION

MARKETING MANAGER: In Matthew 21:33-46 Jesus communicates a story of Negative Marketing. Essentially He tells a story to criticise His perceived opponents instead of trying to get their support.

He tells the story of a business owner who hires some experienced people to work in his vineyard business while he travels. At the end of the financial year, He sends some of his accountants to collect on the agreed percentage of the profits. This is where He could have talked about incredible profits and use this story as a Marketing tool to encourage opponents to join in a profits sharing deal. But He doesn’t. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: But that’s not the point of the story. He says the workers beat up the delegation and even killed one of the business owners employees. The owner sent a larger delegation to collect for him, but the results were the same.  “Finally, the owner sends his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’  “But when the workers see his son coming, they say to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’  So they grab him, drag him off the premises, and murder him. 

MARKETING MANAGER: And that’s where He makes a mistake in Marketing Himself. If you want to Market yourself, keep your message POSITIVE. Don’t let your message come across negatively. 

It is not a good idea in marketing to talk about your competitors’ failings, criticizing everything your opponent hasn’t done well in order to boost credibility for your own product. 

Jesus spoke about His competitors as “murderers”. A man’s son being murdered by his competitors is NOT a very positive message at all, especially in a house of worship. And there were children around. This is where the Prince of Peace image and the Jesus, meek and mild image needs to come to the fore, but Jesus tells a story about them that is like a violent video game. 

Statistics show that focusing attention on your competitors shortcomings doesn’t work when you are trying to market yourself. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: What are you talking about? This is a parable to give hard-hearted religious leaders the opportunity to repent of their sins, not about a Negative Marketing campaign against His competitors. 

People were very familiar with the image of a vineyard. Look at the components of this story…

First there is the VINEYARD.The owner is God who develops the vineyard with care. The vineyard represents the Kingdom of God: the sphere of His authority in the lives of His people because of their belief, a place where the Gospel message is to be planted in the hearts of people and people are given hope, identity and purpose.

Then there are the WORKERS. God leases the vineyard to workers, representing the people of Israel, including these self-righteous leaders of the community, who abused the privilege they had been given. They were meant to be God’s servants but they were corrupt. They were in it for themselves.

Then there are SERVANTS OF THE OWNER, those sent to collect the profits for the owner who were mistreated. These were the prophets who came along to encourage giving God what belongs to God. They were rejected by Israel and by these leaders of the community… prophets such as John the Baptist who called people to repent and follow Jesus. 

Then there is the SON and the Son is Jesus Himself, the Messiah, who would be murdered by these very leaders. Jesus would die for their sins and ours. He tried to warn them of the consequences of unbelief.

“When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asks, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”  They reply that the owner, “… will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.” 

The Pharisees condemn themselves when they answer Jesus’ question. It took them a while to realise that Jesus was talking about them. They were the ones who were against God’s Son. They wanted to arrest Jesus because He threatened their authority.

MARKETING MANAGER: So you admit that these are Jesus key competitors? 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: From their point of view, Yes. They think they are competitors but they do not realise that no-one can be compared to Jesus or compete with Him. There is no competition. This is not about competition, but about Salvation. Jesus is encouraging these hard-hearted businessmen to believe in His message and admit that He is the only Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6).

MARKETING MANAGER: But then Jesus gives another Negative Marketing message in Matthew 21:42-44. Jesus asks them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’ I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.” 

There He goes again with Negative Marketing. He tells His competitors that their business will fail if they try to go against Him. He will crush them if they try. This is bordering on hate speech, a threat against their lives. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: No! Just the opposite. Jesus compares these religious leaders to builders who reject the very stone that holds the whole building together. They wanted to have a Messianic kingdom but they refused to believe that it rested on Christ alone. They wanted to rule the kingdom of God themselves and protect their own selfish interests. They were willing to do anything to keep a hold on their power, but it would be taken from them because of their own self-righteous attitudes.

Jesus tried to warn them that killing Him would have consequences. Everyone understood that the Chief Cornerstone referred to the coming Messiah. Without Him, everything would fall apart. Everyone knew that Jesus was speaking about the obstinate unbelief of the religious leaders.  Even the religious leaders understood what He was saying.

Matthew 21 ends with these unfortunate words. “When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized He was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:45, 46 NLT)

They just didn’t get it. 

MARKETING MANAGER: Yes, they did miss it, didn’t they. You know, it has just occurred to me that Jesus is talking about Himself as the stone that the builders rejected. He’s trying to say that belief in Him is the key stone which will hold the rest of their lives together. They were good at Marketing their Power, but it was power with no substance which would ultimately collapse. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: Did I just hear you right? 

MARKETING MANAGER: Yes, and if I have been hearing you right, it seems Jesus WAS good at Marketing Himself after all, because He was the Messiah, the coming One who would save people, not according to an outward image of power but an inward insight of peace with God… faith… trust in Christ. They needed Jesus to save them from their own sinfulness, corruption and self-righteousness. 

And if that’s true and I think it is, then it doesn’t only have implications for them, but for all people, including me. I am starting to think that it doesn’t only depend on marketing my image, but on humbling myself to find my identity in Christ. Jesus wasn’t fighting against them but pleading with them to believe the truth about Him.

CHRIST FOLLOWER: You amaze me. I think you finally understand. Jesus wasn’t fighting a war of words but a war for souls, your soul included. He died for my sins and yours. The Easter message is that He rose again so that you could experience a resurrection on the inside by trusting yourself to Him. 

I think you finally understand that it’s not about Marketing, but faith.

MARKETING MANAGER: No, you’re wrong. I think I finally get it about faith AND marketing. I have a whole new Marketing plan. Jesus had it right all along…

  • Don’t tell people who you are? Let your life and example lead others to know you.
  • Humble yourself before God and allow Him to give you the platform that will best serve Him as well as others.
  • Show compassion for people and share the hope you have in Christ
  • Be discerning as to how you use your finances and avoid any taint of corruption. 
  • When challenged, stand up for what you believe in such a way as to give others the opportunity to respond to the message of the Gospel.
  • Be generous with your time, and resources. Freely you have received, freely give.
  • Accept that not everyone will like you, so seek to please God rather than people
  • Leave people with a good impression, but not a false impression
  • Refuse to live life on the defensive. Be proactive, creative and find your purpose in Christ.
  • Tell your story in such a way that those who are interested will listen.
  • Be positive but not at the expense of the Truth.

CHRIST FOLLOWER: Now that’s the best marketing strategy I have heard in a long time. And the best Easter Message also. God has certainly transformed your approach. The cornerstone that holds it all together is Christ. Would you like to pray a prayer of trust in Christ?

MARKETING MANAGER: Here in the bus? … Well, yes. I think I need to pray. I might need your help. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: Of course. Why don’t you repeat these simple words of faith after me. Lord Jesus, … I know that I am a sinner, … and I ask for Your forgiveness… I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead…. I turn from my sins… and invite You to come into my heart and life…. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour. Amen.

MARKETING MANAGER: You’ve missed your stop.

CHRIST FOLLOWER: Yes, but I haven’t missed your start. I think I’ll stay on the bus for a while. 

Pastor Ross

Marie © Gouache Watercolour Painting by Ross Cochrane 2020

This is my Portrait of Marie. Marie was born during a Pandemic and I have painted her portrait during another.

She was born in 1919. Her mother fell sick with the Spanish Flu, but survived, as did Marie. During those war torn years, and times of hardship, her father became an alcoholic and Marie always felt sorry for him.

Marie grew up in Sydney, Australia and remembers her uncle who she loved and respected. Her mother died when she was twenty. Her father died soon after.

She became an accountant for many years until she met her husband, a good man who died only 6 years ago at the same Aged Care Facility that she is in.

Marie has a son who has been able to visit her by means of a kind of cage set up at the side of the building in order to keep social distancing. With restrictions lifting, I told her that the cage was being removed. She said she was sorry to see it go as she has some good memories from her son’s visits. She said, “I loved that cage”. She said she has 4 grandsons although I think this may be 4 great grandsons.

She was not a great sportsperson but remembers playing at the same courts as Margaret Court. She knew Margaret quite well.

Marie remembers the times when Catholics and Protestants would walk down different sides of the streets to go to Church. She asks me what I think about Cardinal Pell and keeps up to date with what is happening in the world.

Painting Marie’s portrait has given me important opportunities to touch base with her. After she saw her portrait she said, “You have made my day”.

Ross Cochrane

Pastor and Chaplain

Matthew 21:28-32 – WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN MARKETING YOURSELF (Part 9)

Unclear Communication © Images created by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.8

The next day, on the train, the Marketing Manager and the Christ Follower resume their conversation. Previously …

MARKETING MANAGER: We can learn a lot about what not to do in Marketing from Jesus. He made so many mistakes.

I’ve already told you His first 9 mistakes. We started to talk about Communication, which is an important part of Marketing Yourself. You can’t afford to …

10. BE UNCLEAR IN YOUR COMMUNICATION

In Matthew 21 Jesus continues to show His incompetence with Marketing Himself. He begins speaking in riddles that make no real sense. You can’t afford to be unclear in communicating your message when you are seeking to Market yourself.

Jesus gets right off the point and starts talking about a family owned vineyard business. He is not running a vineyard! This is irrelevant to Marketing and only serves to distract the crowd and exasperate the community leaders. 

You can’t afford to be unclear. Big mistake.  

CHRIST FOLLOWER: It seems fairly clear to me what He is trying to communicate to these leaders. He says in Matthew 21:28-31 (NLT), “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” 

MARKETING MANAGER: What has this got to do with anything? Jesus has the attention of important community leaders. They ask Him about His credentials and instead of answering them, He talks in riddles. Jesus goes on to give some obscure meaning and uses it to insult these respected leaders in front of the crowd. This won’t earn Him any points.

CHRIST FOLLOWER: This is not an obscure parable, but very clear. In Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus explains His meaning very clearly to these corrupt leaders: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins. 

Think about it. What Jesus is saying is that the Vineyard represents 2 kinds of people… 

  • self-righteous religious people and 
  • a whole lot of other people who know they were sinners in the sight of God. 

Like THE FIRST SON who initially disobeyed and then chose to turn around and obey, it is the people who are aware of their disobedience to God and then choose to obey Him who eventually find the way for God to transform their lives. 

John the Baptist preached a message of repentance and the religious leaders rejected the clear message that John the Baptist preached. They were like THE SECOND SON who pretended to be obedient and then ignored their Father. 

MARKETING MANAGER: So He insults them with a war of words. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: No. Jesus isn’t interested in a war of words. He is fighting a war for their souls. He is not insulting them, but allowing them to come to the conclusion that they need to repent and allow God to transform their lives, to obey what God is trying to say to them. Admitting we are sinners and need the Saviour is our only hope for salvation.  

Psalms 95:7-8 (NLT2) says, “Don’t harden your hearts…”

Romans 3:22-25 (NLT2) says, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For EVERYONE has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding His blood….”

MARKETING MANAGER: Telling people they are sinners and need to repent isn’t a good marketing message, especially when it’s directed at people who have all the authority in the community. Look at the next parable. It’s just as obscure and just as insulting and it leads to another mistake Jesus made in marketing Himself. 

CHRIST FOLLOWER: It will have to wait. My stop again. Catch up soon.

MARKETING MANAGER: Once again I look forward to sharing with you about WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN MARKETING YOURSELF (Part 10)

Pastor Ross.