Right before this new year started, I did it.
I had been looking at a daily devotional resource from a Christian leader who I respected and appreciated the fruit of the Gospel in my life. The reason I was agonizing over the decision was because the devotional cost $1.99 per month. I thought, “Surely there are plenty of blogs and articles online for free that I could read each day. Surely I don’t need to spend $2 a month on an email devotional.” Hey, $2 is $2!
But on December, 10, 2015, I decided to subscribe and pay the $1.99 per month.
In the last 4 months of getting this devotional, I have read EVERY single ONE… multiple times. I find myself quoting them to others. I think about them during the day. I journal about them. This man interprets Scripture and helps apply them to life in this post-Christian world. Most devotional resources I had been exposed to were more sentimental in nature. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wanted something more. I wanted to be challenged, not just encouraged. It’s a daily devotional that challenges my intellect and I have really appreciated something doing that in my life.
This email gets delivered to my inbox sometime in the middle of the night, every day. It’s one of three emails I get when I wake up every morning (the other two are my web server clearing its cache and giving me a complicated log of who tried to hack the server the previous day!).
Here is the devotional I got on April 8, 2016:
The Pitfalls of Popularity
Yesterday morning I received an email from Tesla Motors about the launch of their new model. The email said, “In the first 24 hours Model 3 received over 180,000 reservations, setting the record for the highest single-day sales of any product of any kind ever in world history.” The email reminded me how much our culture values sensationalism.
Despite their overuse, advertisers know that superlatives sell. Every business wants its product to be the “most prescribed,” “most trusted,” “most watched,” or “best selling.” These phrases all communicate the same thing to the buyer: surely millions of people can’t be wrong. This message comforts the consumer because we feel part of the crowd when we purchase a popular product. It feeds into our broken, insecure human nature that longs for acceptability. As a result, in a consumer culture a product’s perceived value is directly proportional to the number of people it impacts. Popularity not only equals success, it also equals legitimacy.
This is why Jesus’ dismissal of popularity in the Sermon on the Mount can confuse and even offend us. He warned that the popular path with the wide gate leads only to destruction, “and those who enter it are many.” Instead, he calls his followers to the unpopular, narrow way that is difficult and traveled by few. Clearly Jesus is unschooled in successful marketing techniques. Perhaps because he was more focused on faithfulness than effectiveness.
Those of us formed by a consumer culture and shaped by a tradition of Christianity that strives for popularity and broad acceptance need to wrestle with Jesus’ words. In our desire to make Jesus appealing, are we tempted to abandon the narrow path? Are we presenting to people the God who really is, or merely the god they want? And in your own Christian life, are you following leaders or ideas merely because they are popular, or are you discerning their conformity to Jesus and his way? Beware the pitfalls of popularity.
The devotional is called: WITH God Daily
Its author is Skye Jethani. You can check out the devotional or sign up here: skyejethani.com/with-god-daily-devotional
One other resource that is connected with Skye Jethani is the Phil Vischer Podcast.
Here is a description of the podcast:
Join VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible? creator Phil Vischer and co-host Skye Jethani (author, senior editor Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal) for a fast-paced and often funny conversation about pop culture, media, theology and the fun, fun, fun of living a thoughtful Christian life in an increasingly post-Christian culture.
I have benefited greatly from listening to this podcast. Even my daughter Sari will say, “Can we listen to the Phil Vischer Podcast? They’re funny!” They are not only funny, but they are incredible thoughtful and insightful.
Here is a link to the podcast on iTunes: itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-phil-vischer-podcast/id591157388
What these two resources help with is resourcing leaders who need to understand the current culture we live in as well as an intellectual engagement with faith (which is often thought of as an unintellectual endeavor).