BUYER BEWARE: How “Buy-In” Religion Distorts the Gospel

dropthesalespitch1Have you ever wondered why you had to give your name, street address and phone number to a mattress salesperson almost as soon as he greeted you? Ever wondered why the salesperson at the kitchen cabinet outlet immediately started addressing you by your name as soon as he learned it? Well, “Mr. Jones,” it’s all part of the “buy-in” process! In sales, it is expected that an associate walk his or her client into the full “buy-in,” that moment of sales magic in which a shopper becomes mentally vested in owning the product or service. With the buy-in firmly in place, the product is prepared for delivery and money is soon to change hands!

This “buy-in” is a culmination of an organized process made up of several carefully orchestrated steps employed by a salesperson to ensure the sale. An experienced salesperson will greet a client (to learn information helpful in the sale), determine wants and needs (to direct the client to products he/she will most likely purchase) , make timely suggestions (perhaps up-sell a customer for additional profit), demonstrate the features and benefits of the selected product (all of the “bells and whistles” that “could be yours!”), show how the product fulfills the clients needs and wants (this product will make life easier!), negotiate terms (no money down, just a bunch of “easy payments” at Mafia-level interest rates), and secure, you guessed it, the buy-in!

The process is as old as the peddler’s wagon and the revivalist’s tent! A good salesperson can achieve extraordinarily high levels of buy-in, make a great fortune, and retain the loyalty of most of the customers. After all, he helped his clients see real value in his product! In fact, it is common knowledge in sales that, the customer who spends the most for a product or service are typically the most satisfied!

Of course, we expect a salesperson to approach us if we are out shopping for a new product. But this very activity, this sales process leading to a “buy-in” from “customers,” is alive and well in the pulpits of multitudes of churches! You might even call it, “buy-in” religion.

Christ, or at least some version of Christ, is but a commodity, a product offering, to “buy-in” religion, a fix-all-solution which offers features and benefits to the many customers who show up to the religious service. The sermon, if I may be so bold as to call it such, becomes the highlight of the sales campaign, a closing pitch, in which all of the glorious benefits are packaged in new and evermore creative ways in order to land the sale. Every detail, from the fresh stage setting, culturally current music, the cool black v-neck t-shirt the speaker wears, and the graphics package flashing on the big screens up front is part of the process; a process which, by necessity, must be retooled and rethought every couple of months, lest people grow weary of the same dog and pony show!

With buy-in religion, process itself is the new orthodoxy. Every single detail of the meeting is designed to win over, entertain, or otherwise captivate the individuals in attendance. Of course, spiritual language is employed, prayers are peppered in and the like. But the real guest of honor, the central focus of buy-in religion isn’t God, Christ, the Gospel, or Scripture. No! The guests of honor are the customers, the men and women in attendance!

Take a good look at the next religious meeting you attend. What is emphasized? Is the whole production geared toward entertaining the audience? What is the content and intent of the music? Does it attempt lull you into an emotionally suggestive state or does it serve to point your thoughts to the person and work of Christ? Did they read from God’s Word? Did they proclaim the Gospel of what Christ accomplished for the sake of His elect or did they merely pitch the features and benefits of their mass-market Jesus?

In a world filled with peddlers of “buy-in” religion, the most sound advice is simply this: buyer beware! You may be sold a bill of goods.


Jason K. Boothe serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit www.HorizonsBaptist.org.

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