May 2, 2018

What’s In Your Wallet?

We know loyalty when we see it. Why don’t we see it more often?

Mansfield Edwards

Listed in Time magazine’s top 10 bank slogans of a recent 12 month period is Capital One’s “What’s in Your Wallet?” Their captivating advertisements are carefully designed to attract new clients to their credit cards.

Profitable Loyalty

It is fascinating to observe the subtle yet growing emphasis on loyalty programs in the North American economy. A loyalty program is a marketing strategy designed to reward customers for their support. It is known as a win-win philosophy, benefiting both customer and retailer. The goal of this model is to keep existing customers while attracting new ones, something similar to the mission of God’s church.

Sean Copeland, director of research at Abacus Data, reported on a 2013 survey of loyalty programs in Canada: “The average Canadian household is a member of 8.2 loyalty programs.” The nation’s best performing loyalty programs that year ranged from frequent flyer miles, departments stores and retail businesses to gas stations, food businesses, and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). In descending order, the top 10 list featured Air Miles, Shoppers Optimum, Canadian Tire, Aeroplan, HBC Rewards/Hudson’s Bay, Petro-Points, Scene, Sobeys, CAA, and PC Plus. Nine of those 10 have already hooked my family.

Successful loyalty programs are not the result of whim and accident. Retailers thoroughly analyze demographic data, and carefully study both what customers say (feedback) and what they actually do—their preferences, buying patterns, preferred payment methods, preferred shopping mode (online versus in-store), and brand preferences. They know that when customers are in the process of making a purchasing decision, they go through a decision journey: a number of steps leading to a decision. Loyalty programs, through a points system, assist a retailer to guide the customer in making the decision. It functions like bait, resulting in increased sales.

Learning From Loyalty

The thorough cleverness of loyalty programs leads me to wonder what they may have to teach, particularly in the light of a remark by Jesus that sounds like His affirmation of a fraudulent businessman and his corrupt behavior: “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (Luke 16:8).

Loyal family members are never apathetic or smug about missing loved ones.

To get Jesus’ point and learn the lesson He is teaching, we must understand His “why.” The dishonest manager, so morally inferior to us, is complimented not because of his dishonesty, but because of his astuteness. Jesus speaks categorically. And what He says is both unfortunate and thoroughly factual: selfish schemers bring more brain and strategy to the table than many converted Christians do. Christian comfort in mediocrity and contentment with empty intellectual wallets does God no honor, and surely will not now during these obviously last days of history.

Serving Jesus today will not work as some unreflective evening stroll through the park. The times demand that the Master’s people be astute about the Master’s business.

The Master begins with a loyalty program that binds us to Him for a win-win situation: “I chose you . . . so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). The Jesus loyalty program brings demonstrable success. The fig tree that promised but did not deliver became a dramatic moral parable when it withered at His curse (Mark 11:12-14, 20-24), exposing Jesus’ thinking on spiritual unproductivity. Fig trees and saved Christians must function at the level of their potential and advertising.

Ellen White wrote: “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of [men and women]. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”* The purpose of God’s agency, the church, is neither static nor sedentary, but unrelentingly dynamic, going forth with Jesus conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:2, KJV); “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18, KJV).

God’s church is ever again assaulting, battering, and shattering replacement barriers the master of hell seeks to raise up as his earlier defenses keep collapsing under the onslaught of the armies of truth. God’s thinking people are constantly designing new strategies to outwit, confound, and strike down the enemy; to locate and liberate God’s children from the strongholds of sin.

Fading Loyalties

General Conference statistics show that during the past 50 years the Adventist Church has lost approximately 43.36 members for each 100 new converts. Forty percent of former Adventists surveyed said that they were never contacted when they stopped attending church.

This suggests a failure of loyalty where most eyes are not looking. We are smugly superior to unscrupulous managers; and we are better than absent members because we are ever present. But loyal family members are never apathetic or smug about missing loved ones: they are an unshakable tax on law enforcement, demanding all assistance possible, whether in numbers and resources for searching, or the posting of all-points bulletins; they themselves launch out, beating down the hedges and combing the woods, sending up their own drones to seek and find their sisters or brothers. Caring congregations act equivalently: theycompile their list of missing siblings, with clear plans for finding and bringing them home.

Caring about and seeking the lost; finding God’s children—the rest of the family; freeing them from Satan’s clutches: such is God’s plan and intention for His church, for His children, “the children of light.” And such we shall be when we bring to our work for Him the rich wallet of skills and talents that He already knows He has given us. If we will, and when we do, there will be no limit left. Not even the sky.

What’s in your wallet?

* Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 9.

Mansfield Edwards is president of the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Ontario, Canada.