It's a new word. But it's not a new thing.
I just got back from delivering pizzas to all of the adults at the school. It was something we came up with to show them that they are loved and appreciated in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (Despite being posted for the first time today, I wrote this a while back). With the pizzas were a letter, expressing our love for them. And a prayer for them. Who said that there can't be prayer in school? Total cost to provide pizzas to the kitchen staff, administration, teachers, and maintenance crew: $210.
For the last few falls, we have given away school supplies to any kid in our community who is in need. All they have to do is call us and sign up, or just show up. We work with the school to find out what supplies kids need. Other organizations, including other churches and the teachers at the school, give us money to buy the school supplies. And we bless the community with them. Cost to us this year after outside donations: $350.
Our town goes nuts for Halloween. Really nuts. So we tried to figure out how to be part of it without endorsing the elements we think are inappropriate. We set up a booth in the middle of the main strip and give away hot dogs, coffee, and hot chocolate. This last year we gave away over four hundred hot dogs. Cost to us: $160.
Three years ago, we transformed one of our classrooms into the Kid's Clothes Closet. People bring us kid's clothes for us to give away to those who need them. Some come in and get clothes for their children. While others use the closet to pick up clothes to give to someone they know who is in need. We encourage people to do this and be a blessing to their friends and neighbors. The school has done a clothes drive for us. Cost to us: Free except for the use of a room.
Each one of these benevolomarketing events do different things. The pizzas were delivered with a letter telling everyone at the school that we appreciate their service to our community. It was followed up by a Facebook post from the pizza shop. It wasn't done to open people up to our church, but that is the inevitable response. I received a text from one of the kitchen workers who goes to our church that all of the kitchen ladies were in tears after reading the letter of appreciation brought with the pizzas. God can do great things through pizzas. The school supply project gets our name out in the community a lot as we have to promote it every way possible. The Halloween project is just an annual event that spreads our name there. The Kid's Clothes Closet gives us regular coverage in the paper. The most important thing in all of these benevolomarketing events is that we are loving our community. The recognition just helps to get the message of Jesus out there.
Now, you might be thinking that a church shouldn't love people to get recognized. That's true. We shouldn't love people to get recognized. If we're just trying to get recognized, that's marketing. But let's look at the way we market ourselves and whether it is having the impact we want. We spent more money on a mailer that we sent out to everyone in our community than we did on all of the ministries I have mentioned up to this point. However, that mailing wasn't as nearly as effective as any of the benevolomarketing outreaches that we have done. What I'm proposing is that churches shift their limited marketing money away from straightforward marketing and toward loving actions. Think benevolomarketing. We love people to get God recognized.
This is biblical. Jesus taught, "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matt 5:14-16).
Despite popular thinking in the other direction, Jesus taught that we are to do our good works so that others may see them. There isn't any secret meaning to that teaching. No hidden message. It flat out states that our good works are supposed to be seen by others. So if you have been using "do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing" to not do loving actions, I think you are sadly mistaken. Our churches are reaping the consequences for this bad theology. Or should I say that the lost people in our communities are reaping the consequences for this bad theology?
So what was Jesus saying? How do we let our good works be seen by others to give God glory if we are supposed to keep our right hand from knowing what our left hand is doing? The idea seems very consistent with the Old Testament prophets. Religious acts like prayer, fasting, and tithing are not to be done for show because God is not glorified by other people seeing how religious someone else is. It brings no attention to God, just attention to the doer. So if you are a great tither, or a powerful person of prayer, or an incredible and diligent faster, keep it up but keep it to yourself. It doesn't bring God any glory for you to share your spiritual prowess.
However, good works, by their very nature, involve other people. They can't be done without another person being involved. But here is the key. The passage ends with the reason of why we do good works: "So that they may see your good works and give glory to God." We live a life of love so that God may be glorified. If we do loving actions so that the attention is drawn to us, then I would say the principle of not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing applies. We're aren't participating in benevolomarketing, we're just participating in chest thumping. Loving actions always involves others, so we need to make sure that our hearts are in the right place. The principle of benevolomarketing is to love others so that God will be glorified.
Getting hung up on doing loving actions in secret is often an excuse to not love and a hindrance to us loving effectively. Instead of the church being a place of rescue for the emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally wounded, the church just becomes a place for pious, religious people. God wants to transform the world through the church. Your church and my church. But this won't happen until we take seriously the call to be known by our love.
At Riverside, we're a small, growing church in a small rural town, yet we have doubled in the last two years with a new attitude and a focus on His mission. I am hesitant to share this because it seems like bragging, but I share it so that you know this approach works. We're still small. We grew from small to not as small, but we're growing. We're limited, like most churches are, by our funds; however, we serve a God whose power is unlimited. He wants to do great things through every church scattered across America. Why isn't His will being done? He's not the weak link; we are.
So I want to challenge all of the churches out there to dream of ways to bless those in your community. Your ministries probably won't look like our ministries, but keep praying and keep your eyes open. God will provide opportunities for you to shower the community He has called you to minister to with His love. God is waiting for His people to love others. When we do that, He will continue the process of knocking on their hearts. And some of them, as a result of our faithful service, will open the door and join us in the process of being the kingdom of God. Glory to God.
Benevolomarketing. Try it out.