Rewards programs are all around us. Use your credit card, get frequent flier miles. Stay at a hotel, earn travel points. Buy 10 pizzas, get the next one free. If we want more converts, why not create a rewards program for sharing the Gospel? Not just eternal or psychic rewards, but immediate, tangible, worldly rewards.
10 converts = Trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center
50 converts = Dinner with President Hinckley
It would work, wouldn’t it?
I think not. And if you have been following the Creative Commons & BzzAgent kerfuffle, you will understand why. Last week Creative Commons announced a partnership with BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth marketing firm in Boston. The goal of the partnership was to generate “real, honest Word-of-Mouth Bzz.” Instead, they got a lot of backlash from Creative Commons evangelists who felt betrayed. Today Creative Commons and BzzAgent announced that they were ending the partnership.
In my view, the lesson of this short-lived partnership is that some products simply ought not to be sold via financial incentives. Those who promote the Creative Commons feel they are part of a movement, and they resented the idea that people would need to be paid to promote the movement. I feel the same way about the Gospel.
When I was a missionary, I often felt like a salesman, and I even heard instructors in the MTC refer to principles of salesmanship when teaching missionaries. Moreover, the Church uses very sophisticated marketing techniques to disseminate information. In the end, however, “selling” the Gospel is different from selling most other products because we ultimately have no selfish interest in convincing others to “buy.” We promote the Gospel out of a sincere desire to see other people share our joy. “Authenticity” is the buzzword of the day, and it aptly describes the missionary ideal.