This process is one that is slower, more strategic and much more vulnerable than the long-standing “pound-the-phones” model, which is one of the reasons many older businesses don’t see the point in adapting. The outcome, however, yields something far more impactful and sustainable than a 10 percent response rate (a generous average for positive customer reaction to direct sales). When people feel deeply connected to a brand and they feel a sense of community and belonging in relation to it and others, when their voice feels truly heard and they have the freedom to ask questions and affect the future outcome, the byproduct is boundless brand loyalty.
As mentioned earlier, there are still a lot of companies having trouble adjusting to this shift, and if they decide to get onboard, they want results immediately. But getting someone to be a dedicated advocate takes more time and a different kind of energy than getting someone to make a one-time commitment. On the other hand, salespeople are some of the most stressed-out, busy, tired, and accountable human beings in our society. Their rewards are short-lived and the pressure is always greater than the previous quarter.
Is this beginning to sound familiar?
This is not an issue isolated to brands and businesses. The way we communicate with culture is changing because culture is changing the way it communicates. In a high-tech culture, we need to practice high-touch. This is, at the heart, a missional issue. Every year, churches spend millions of dollars on Easter productions and building campaigns designed for linear, almost instantaneously measured results like bodies in seats and hands raised. These churches are still operating under a direct sales model, a one-time, bottom-line, lowest common denominator measurement. Can God move through this model? Absolutely! But to call this evangelism and go to bed would be an enormous understatement.
At the core of evangelism is discipleship and at the core of discipleship is relationship. We’ve gotten lost in this model that goes something like “get-them-in-the door, get-them-converted and get-them-in-a-discipleship-group” when in reality we forget that Jesus made disciples before they ever believed who He said He was. He pretty much just said, “Why don’t you follow me around for a while, and after a painfully long time, you’ll get to know the life I live as the only true way to live at all?” And then, over the course of about three years, He ate with them, fished with them, laughed with them, mourned with them, served them, endured them and was Himself around them. And then, all but one of those guys changed the entire world around.
The 21st century Church, or better yet, the same Church that has sustained itself through twenty-one centuries, is at its best when our efforts are focused less on selling Jesus and more on being like Him. This Church thrives when we become willing to invite others into our personal space, to open ourselves up to the questions, the frustrations, the tension and most of all, the time and patience it takes for true discipleship to yield results—lives transformed by the Gospel displayed in real life.
It might change the way our churches operate financially and structurally. It might force us to come up with creative ways to quantify something so qualitative, but in the end, the return on investment will have to be measured exponentially not linearly. I’m convinced heaven has roomfuls of people we’ve never met waiting to thank us for a life or two we took the time to influence.
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