Building the Kindgom Using the Devil’s Tools?

Derek Webb’s album Ringing Bell has been ringing in my ears today.

I got an email through our ministry locator from a minister promoting an upcoming event.  It’s not a Campus Crusade affiliated event, as evidenced by the fact that I got alerted about it via our ministry locator.  The locator is a tool specifically designed to connect students, parents, and ministry partners with the ministry at specific schools.  It’s not a way to get in touch with staff to promote events.

So here’s how it goes:  excited minister wants to get the word out to as many people as possible about the upcoming event.  Knowing that Campus Crusade for Christ has thousands of campuses nationwide, and that we love Jesus, he decides to directly contact some staff through the ministry locator and let them know about the event.  Sounds reasonable, right?

But let’s change the scenario a bit.  Imagine instead of a ministry, it’s a taco business. Excited business owner wants to get the word out to as many people as possible about the upcoming event.  Knowing that Taco Bell has a way to directly contact franchises around the world, he sets about telling them about the event.

Sounds a little different if you paint it with a different brush.  See, whether you spiritualize it or not, using our ministry locator tool to promote events is spam.  Unsolicited email.  Illegal.

Now, I’m not going to report the guy and have him fined or penalized, because I’m relatively certain he didn’t mean to spam us, and unlike the taco example, we are not competing businesses.  We’re on the same team, looking to reach people with the gospel.  We’re about God’s kingdom advancing.

The question is whether or not you can advance the kingdom using non-kingdom resources.  Since spam is illegal, it therefore is not a tool God is likely going to favor in the building of his kingdom.

How you get the people to your event is just as important as how many people you get to your event.  Shortcuts, fudging numbers, and emotional manipulation might produce a throng of people who look very Christian at your event.  But it won’t honor God.  As Christians, we must go the extra mile to not just avoid guilt in these types of things, but because others have abused people, we have to avoid even the appearance of that abuse.

Since some online lines are still legally blurry, let’s make a commitment to stay well on the legal side of the blur.

That’s what’s got Derek’s song ringing in my ears.  His song “A Love That’s Stronger Than Our Fear” has a line in it that speaks to “building the kingdom using the devil’s tools.”  We have to watch out for the American lie that ends justify means.  Biblically speaking, questionable means condemn their ends, regardless of how “good” they appear.

What do you think?  Did I overreact?  What are some other ways we can strive to be full of integrity?  Comment Below.

9 Replies to “Building the Kindgom Using the Devil’s Tools?”

  1. Ben,
    Personally, I think you express a lot of good thoughts very well, but did overreact. It’s not illegal if it’s not commercial unsolicited email. And we don’t make it easy for people to contact local campus crusade staff. If people are just trying to let you know about a local Christian event, give them a break.


    1. Thanks for the voice of truth, Karl. I guess I just get so much junk through our campus locator, which I feel like has a specific purpose.

      And the event wasn’t local.

      I see this post as less of a reaction to this one specific instance, and more of a reaction against all of the subculture of western Christianity that has adopted the “by any means necessary” mentality of our culture. In looking back at this specific instance, I don’t even think this one guy had that attitude. But I see it often in my own heart and in the hearts of the folks around me.

  2. I’m gonna have to agree about the overreacting, although I understand the frustration. The main “info” e-mail for our camp gets lots of spam every day. However, I would welcome spam from a ministry group, rather than the Viagra ads we get. At least 20-30 every day, just for male enhancement pills. So, I would say, looking on the bright side, someone has taken the time to seek you out as a ministry professional to try to offer an event that might pertain to your ministry. So, I feel your pain, but it could be worse!
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Do you like superheroes? =-.

    1. Strong point, Melissa. It could indeed be worse. I’d recommend for you guys switching to a service like gmail that filters that junk mail. in most cases a gmail-powered account is free, and you can still have your custom domain name involved. for example, all of our email addresses are powered by gmail. go to Google Apps to see about setting that up.

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. @Melissa – if your main “info” email account which you mention above is USCM, then try using Gmail and POP3 to download the messages. Gmail’s spam filters are really good.

  3. Whether or not you overreacted, I’m not sure. I’m not staff and do not get all the emails you do:) However, I did like your statement, “How you get the people to your event is just as important as how many people you get to your event.” I don’t know the legal issues of spam and such, but that statement means something to me! There are better ways (as well as right ways) to get your event known. Not to mention, if you get spam constantly, is this an effective way to get you to even read about his event? Overreacting–possibly, but correct in some statement–most definitely!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Amber! I appreciate it! I forget all the time how important motives are in ministry. This post is just as much a reminder to myself.

  4. I agree with Karl that I don’t think it’s illegal. Although it does seem to me to be lazy and maybe not the smartest move to try and push this through campus ministry staff.

    So here I go overreacting in a different way. As a promoter, I wouldn’t push my tasks onto anyone who wasn’t already signed up to go to the event (and that’s where you legitimately get someone’s email). Take Passion for example. They promote their events on campus by getting students excited about the event. Passion either comes to campus to promote or relies on word of mouth of those who have signed up for the event. I mean, drive over to campus and put up a dang poster!

    I feel like Jerry Seinfeld reacting to Whatley converting to Judaism for the jokes (if you follow that it “offends me” as a conference promoter):

    Jerry: I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he’s converted to Judaism just for the jokes.
    Father: And this offends you as a Jewish person.
    Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian. And it’ll interest you that he’s also telling Catholic jokes.
    Father: Well.
    Jerry: And they’re old jokes. I mean, the Pope and Raquel Welch in a lifeboat.
    Father: I haven’t heard that one…

    1. And that makes the first Seinfeld reference in the comments of this blog. I’m getting a little emotional.

      Seriously though, thanks for the comments, and for weighing in. I agree on all fronts.

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