In many Christian circles there is controversy over the use (or even the existence) of some of the spiritual gifts. But almost everyone agrees that one gift has been overlooked for too long, and fortunately it is making a comeback with a vengeance, and that gift is sparketin.
Sparketin is the holy marketing of ministries, celebrity pastors, mega-churches, and Christian personalities who celebrate their fame and invite you to invest in their institutions. It’s a purified self-promotion steeped in this-world spirituality; a heavenly sales tool inspired by the first line of a 1960’s song: It only takes a spark to get a fire going….
Sparketin is the enlightened blend of capitalism and Christianity: spirituality for profit.
The Gift Has a Long, Distinguished History
The first recorded expression of sparketin failed when its early adopters missed the principle of “other-centeredness.” It took place in the pre-Babylonian days when the people who built the Tower of Babel exclaim, “Come let us make a name for ourselves.”
Modern practitioners know that its truest expression is found in a spiritual Ponzi scheme, by promising followers that if they donate more, their own lives (and health and happiness) will also blossom. The key mistake the early adopters made was to invest in their own reputation when they should have “looked to others” to do it for them.
King Saul was also a failed early adopter. Unsatisfied with being a mere ruler, he wanted an empire, so he captured the King of the Amalekites and built a monument to his own honor.
His mistake was to believe he needed anything of substance, like a monument. One Christian leader (whose specialty is leadership-training) publicly promises a method of gaining 5,000 followers with his simple plan, “even if you don’t have a product or idea yet.” True sparketing has faith in yourself, and it is hope in hype rather than any content or substance.
The Pharisees frankly were the movement’s high-water mark. They knew more about self-promotion than Donald Trump. They turned sparketin into an Olympic event, transforming mere prayer into a festival of self-promotion, tithing into public self-praise, and even the confusing gift of tongues into a cacophony of crashing gongs and clashing cymbals.
The Slow Death of Sparketin
Its downfall began with John the Baptist. At the height of his fame, when he had more followers than Kim Kardashian, John the Baptist drowns the holy gift of sparketin in the Jordan. He meets Jesus and publicly declares, “He must increase and I must decrease.”
Just imagine the impact John could have had if he had asked Herod to join him in a selfie. Instagram would have loved it, and it would have set John a-head of the competition.
Despite all the good things Jesus did, we must blame him for the two-thousand-year demise of sparketin. I doubt any person in all of human history abandoned that gift so shamelessly. His list of failures is too big to catalogue, but here are some examples:
- He begins his famous sermon with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Anyone with even an ounce of holy marketing would have said, “Blessed are the rich in self-esteem.”
- He tells the rich young man to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Jesus failed Sparketin 101 when he forgot to ask for at least a tithe of those proceeds.
- Jesus does well when he partners with a synagogue leader to save his daughter from death, and then he fails when he is distracted by a no-name woman with a chronic problem. The motto of sparketers is: “Love everyone, but move with the movers!”
- His most egregious neglect of holy-movement-marketing was his death on a cross. Superstar sparketers praise their followers as smart, good-looking heroes, but the cross claims the followers of Jesus are so needy that their only cure is the death of the perfect son of God. What was Jesus thinking? Never alienate your followers!
Fortunately that two-thousand-year drought is over. We are once again showered with leaders who praise themselves, pastors who promote their institutions, bloggers who happily charge you a king’s ransom to be “one of their tribe,” and authors who ignore Christ’s call to pick up our crosses when they instead promise us our best life now.
Most of all, sparketers love the gift of “giving” with its corresponding fruit of “getting.” Isn’t spiritual progress great?
P. S. Now this is awkward. I am hesitant to even mention my book, Hearing God in Conversation, because I think (at least I hope) that I lack any partaking of the spiritual gift discussed above.
I cannot tell you it will increase your health, wealth, or Instagram followers. I can only promise I put everything I learned about hearing God into this book. I really hope it helps you grow in intimacy with God as you learn to recognize his voice
You can listen to this short video below and see if Hearing God in Conversation interests you.
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Sam, suspected cancer has not diminished your acuity, your wit or your eloquence!
Samuel C. Williamson
What wit? Did you think I was joking?
Oh my gosh, how hard it is to be misunderstood!
(But I do thank you for that “eloquence” word; it set my sparketin soul a quivering.)
“a-head of the competition.” I see what you did there,
Samuel C. Williamson
I’m SO glad you caught that. I wasn’t sure how to say it. I didn’t want it missed, but I didn’t want to overplay it either. I thought the hyphen was a good compromise. 🙂
Thank you for speaking TRUTH. My heart breaks over what large parts of the church have become, and in this long political season I am SO tired of seeing politicians use Jesus to get elected. Apparently the attended a Sparketin seminar too.
Samuel C. Williamson
Love it: a “Sparketin Seminar”!!! I should have used that line.
Thank you Sam. You made me smile – you made me chuckle – and you were right on target.
He says I can have the desires of my heart
if I stand at the alter and pray.
Riches and gifting will be mine to keep
along with the thousands here today.
I’d like to believe but something rings false
and a voice in me starts saying
“Grab the remote and find ESPN
maybe the Seahawks are playing!”
Beliefs of the Heart
You crack me up.
(And who is in charge of the remote in your house?)
This is a tough one. In chruch, self promotion is not ok. In business it’s mandatory. So how are we to run businesses in the kingdom? He do we dedicate all of our life to Christ when we have totally different rules for how to do business than to live in the spirit. It basically dooms all men with a passion for God to become preachers if they also want a family (or they could be fed by Ravens I suppose). And those churches? Well it’s okay for then to run like institutions with policy & proceedure manuals etc.
I’m sorry (well not really) but I’d rather be in a business that runs like a church than a church that runs like a business. I want to be who I am for Jesus, not who fits in the box the church approves of. That means I get my message out which takes marketing.
Beliefs of the Heart
I love it when you challenge me. It shows love and friendship, at least the way you do it.
Yes, I agree. I think both business and churches (and ministries) need to be able to get the word out. My church place yard signs around to let people know of service times, and I think that is perfectly fine. There is a huge difference between announcing and self-congratulating. And we’ve got to learn to do one without slipping into the other. Marketing is not bad in itself, it’s in our objective.
And I too would rather be in a business that runs like Christ’s body than in a church that runs like a business.
Thanks for the loving challenge.
Well Said , Sam. I remember that song from the 1960’s…with a flaming campfire, even in the midst of Summer. Your book encourages intimacy with Jesus (NOT with Sam Williamson) , so no danger of your “Falling from Grace” and into Sparkitin. Blessings
Thanks for turning your acerbic tongue to godly use, my friend. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is a criticism and what isn’t. What confuses me is that God uses promotion techniques sometimes. It must be “promotion” (if not “sparketin”) which God set up for His Son when He sent John the Baptist to go before the Son, to make His way before Him? It seems that this “advance team” work is what Jesus was doing when the cured Gadarene demoniac wanted to join Jesus’ team; but Jesus sent him to “give his testimony,” telling everyone in his hometowns of the great things that the Lord Jesus did for him.
I don’t know. I’d kind of like to have *my best life now®”, and be admired when I have to suffer getting hurt feelings and stuff (“He’s so holy, such a witness to Jesus”). So glad you told me that I don’t have to listen to any of that pick up your cross and deny yourself business. Must be from another dispensation or something. (Now you’re rubbing off on me!) 😎
Beliefs of the Heart
Great response. I never thought of God’s “Advance Team” (in John the Baptist). That’s pretty clever.
On the other hand, having the Almighty, Ever-existing, Son of God wash the feet of those disciples must have been one of his biggest marketing mistakes. Right next to being a servant instead of a leader and handing with outcasts instead of big-cheese leaders.