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Fishing with Crickets
New fishermen often make a tragic mistake when it comes to purchasing lures: they buy lures they find attractive - the shiny, colorful ones that beckon from the display rack and catch your eye.  (No, not literally ... that would be painful!)  
If it's visually attractive, it's got to work, right?  Except that once you get to the water's edge, you discover that the ten-year-old with the bucket of ugly crickets is out-fishing you five to one.  Why?  Because she's offering the fish what they hunger for.  The expensively outfitted angler ends up being the one who took the bait, lining the pockets of the manufacturer who only ever intended to catch one thing with the lure: customers.  

I've spent a lot of time with churches during the planning stages of evangelistic meetings, and invariably, the subject of advertising themes will come up.  "I hope we're not going to put out one of those handbills covered with beasts," someone will say, "because it's sooffensive."  

Offensive to whom?  

It's been a long time since I've actually put any beasts on the front of a handbill.  In fact, I'm not sure I've ever done it.  But there is no question that prophetic themes feature prominently in every piece of advertising I've put out.  Why?  Because it works.  I'm not fishing for Seventh-day Adventists who have become tired of hearing the message; I'm fishing for people like me - people who did not grow up with the incredible spiritual wealth and doctrinal clarity available to Adventists through their prophetic message.  People who are sure there's got to be more to spirituality than they're finding in the religious mainstream, but they're not sure where to find it. People who are sure that it's no longer business as usual on planet earth, but they're at a loss to explain what's happening.  

The last twenty years has proven to me, over and over, that there are a lot of those people. God didn't get his final message to the planet wrong: the themes found in the Revelation 14 will reach an incredibly large and diverse group of people who have been primed by the Spirit to listen.  

Take a look at some of the current offerings on mainstream television.  Notice how many distinctly prophetic-sounding topics and themes are being pushed to the forefront: 2012, Nostradamus, how to survive a catastrophe (including reality shows based on it), secrets of the Bible ... the list is nearly endless.  Even stations thinly disguised as "educational" are cashing in on the public's hunger for prophecy.  Marketing experts are banking on the notion that apocalyptic themes tap into deep-set emotions in the general public.   

And it works.  They wouldn't keep doing it if it didn't.  Frankly, it's astonishing how much the entertainment industry is building on Christian themes (and Great-Controversy-type themes in particular.)  It's as if the devil knows the drawing power of Revelation 14 and he's trying to keep our potential audience occupied.  Star Wars, Superman, The Matrix ... the last few decades have been crammed with entertainment that almost seems to be lifted right out of the Adventist playbook.  

Hollywood is doing a great job of selling it, too. They understand that even a good topic becomes laughable when presently poorly. A cheesy marketing campaign is the death-knell of all but a few films that become B-list cult classics. 

Am I recommending that we imitate the world?  No way.  Some themes are simply inappropriate for us.  But I am encouraging you to pay attention to how the world is shadowing our themes with shallow substitutes.  They've discovered the power of plain old crickets to attract an audience.  

By all means, make sure your advertising isn't cheesy looking. In fact, please make sure of it. But don't ever forget what makes fish bite: our message.  It is, after all, the only thing we've got to offer people that nobody else on the planet is offering, and at the end of the day, it's still the reason people choose to cast their lot with the Seventh-day Adventist church.