Marketing experts expect U.S. companies to spend over 177 BILLION dollars on advertising and marketing this year. (eMarketer.com, August 22, 2013) While TV advertising is still number one in marketing dollars, online ads are gaining ground, with the mobile ads starting to appear on the phone screens of Americans gaining the most ground.
And do you know why American companies will spend this much money on advertising? Because it works! In fact, something horrible happens when you don’t advertise – NOTHING.
Full disclosure requires that I remind you of my previous time spent in advertising and marketing for non-profits. This is something that I have seen first hand. The power of telling a story in a compelling way is essential if you want to perpetuate your message.
But, there is also the reality of “false” advertising! No amount of slick marketing is going to ultimately overcome the weaknesses in a product. Eventually the flaw is found out either through customer experience or simply not being able to deliver what was promised. The ancient admonition of “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) is still true today!
In our Gospel Lesson our Lord Jesus says as much about “false prophets.” The Lord tells us to watch out for those who come to us in “sheep’s clothing” but are really wolves with their own agendas and motivations. Jesus tells us that we will be able to distinguish these “wolves” by their “fruits.”
Hear the Lord: “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:15-21
One of the most valuable lessons I learned about distinguishing the real thing from a counterfeit was a lesson taught to me in the police academy: The best way to spot a counterfeit dollar bill was by studying and knowing very well the real thing. We didn’t study the counterfeit bills. We studied meticulously the authentic bill so that when we saw the counterfeit, the differences jumped out at us.
It’s the same with those who call out to us to follow them. We have to be so familiar with the real and loving fathers of the faith that when the “leader” who has different motivations or even unknown brokenness in his own life calls us we can tell that this voice isn’t the one to follow!
Today, as we most through the Apostles Fast toward the Feast of the Holy Apostles, let us be such diligent students of the fathers of the faith who have shown by their lives the “good fruit” of loving leadership instead of the ravenous hunger of the wolf only wanting to consume the faithful for his own desires and needs. There are so many loving leaders who grasp the value of being true servants of the faithful that there is no need to be captured by those who are great at marketing, but lack the spiritual “fruit” of authentic fathers.
Do you know how to discern between good fruit and bad fruit? We aren’t alone here. We have the wonderful examples of the Saints and especially the Theotokos, to give us the solid “fruit” of true servant leadership. Lord, have mercy on those who are called to lead!