Shortly after starting her perfume business Estée Lauder realised that in order to reach the public she would have to persuade a cosmetics buyer to place her products in stores throughout the country. One day at 9 am Lauder went to the offices of the American Merchandising Corporation and waited to see their cosmetics buyer. Since Lauder had no appointment she was advised to come back another day. “I don’t mind waiting”, said Lauder. “I’ll wait until she has a free moment.”
Sales people came and went. At lunchtime the receptionist said their schedule was so full that getting to see her would be impossible. Again Lauder persisted, “I’ll wait a little longer.” At 5.15 pm the cosmetics buyer came out of her office and talked things over with Lauder.
The cosmetics buyer was impressed with Lauder and the product, but there was no room in any of the stores. “Come back again in a few weeks” she was told. Of course she did and shortly the Estée Lauder name became world famous. The key to her success was that she knew her perfume was good and knew people would love it. It was simply a matter of getting it into the stores – all that was required was persistence!
Now all of this has a profound spiritual application. Often people comment that Christianity is growing and spreading at a phenomenal rate in most parts of the world – except for Britain and Western Europe. That’s right, while churches close down across the UK; churches are being built at an amazing rate in many other parts of the world.
In many parts of Africa and China congregations will walk 6-10 miles to go to church on a Sunday and wouldn’t miss it for the world. Why is this – what makes the difference? Why are millions of people so persistent about their Christian faith that they would walk miles to get to church? Why are millions so persistent that they are prepared to suffer persecution for their Lord? Why are they so persistent and enthusiastic while people in this country are so apathetic? The answer lies in how they perceive God or if you like how they see “the Product”. They see God as not just being a God of love but also being a God of Infinite Holiness. They believe that one day they will stand before their Maker to give an account of all their thoughts and words and actions. They believe that they need forgiveness and help to follow the Christian faith and take seriously the warning in the Hebrews Chapter 2, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a Salvation?”– ie the Salvation provided by God in giving up His own Son to pay the penalty for our sins. Believing these things it is little wonder they are so thankful, loving and devoted .
Here in the UK people are apathetic because “the Product” has been represented in a very different way from this Biblical picture. Here God is often thought of as simply being a “God of love” who isn’t much concerned about how you live your life. The widespread belief is that God doesn’t require much from us and everyone goes to heaven even if they have ignored God all their life, with the possible exception of Hitler and Stalin! No wonder churches are empty and no wonder so few make the effort to get really close to God in their heart.
Estée Lauder was persistent because she understood the truth about the value of her product. African and Chinese Christians are the same – they are devoted to their Lord and Maker because they know and understand what God is really like – infinitely Holy as well as infinitely loving and that repentance and a faithful life is the only way to prepare for the Day of Judgement.
The reason why churches are full and expanding in many countries and yet empty here is no secret – it’s all down to how people perceive “the Product”. Let us make sure that the kind of God we believe in is the Biblical God – to believe anything else is a dangerous deception which will lead to spiritual apathy and finally spiritual death. 1st Corinthians ch6 vs 9-10 is a warning to us all.