Today, on college campuses across the country, evangelism is on the rise. That’s right; I said evangelism. And I don’t just mean Christian students engaging their classmates in discussions about the good news of Jesus. Secular companies are now using a tactic they call “brand evangelism” to promote their product, with the aim of turning lost students into customers. The New York Times refers to it as “The Commercial Campus.”
According to Mr. Youth, the marketing agency behind this phenomenon, “It’s not enough for brands to have a message. They need to start a conversation.” The company believes in the power of word-of-mouth and personal testimony. Students are hired by various companies to become so-called “brand ambassadors” or “campus evangelists.” They create a buzz about the product, ranging from large events to discreetly asking a fellow ambassador, in earshot of other students, where they got their cool shirt.
I thought “evangelism” was a dirty word. I assumed people in today’s culture, devoid of absolutes, would shun the thought of persuading someone to adopt any viewpoint. But I guess it’s OK unless the viewpoint violates the one taboo: speaking out about Jesus Christ.
For those of us who have a personal relationship with Christ, withholding the good news from others is the equivalent of knowing the cure to cancer and keeping it to ourselves. We should take a tip from the brand evangelists. We don’t need to shy away from starting conversations and building relationships any longer. After all, American Eagle and Target do it. And their product doesn’t bring lasting joy, peace, and fulfillment. Only Jesus does.