Marketplace competition in the spiritual realm

People expect good customer service from religion, too

Commentary | Márcia Ebinger

People expect good customer service from religion, too

Today's consumers demand exceptional service. This includes consumers of religion. Because of the many available options, we need to offer service that attracts them.

All of us are indeed customers and sellers, even if we're not connected to the commercial area. We sell, among other things, ideas, attitudes, and gestures of kindness or unkindness. We are sellers in our home, in our workplace, at our church, in our social life, and in the relationship with everyone we come in contact with.

But of all the "products" we offer, there is one that is the principal. It is our responsibility to speak of God's love to people, to move the gospel forward and to be examples of Christ.

So how are we doing with this task?

Some organizations offer thorough and satisfactory customer service. We daily follow, in the newspapers and on the Internet, stories that occur and are presented in detail to the public. As customers of the TV broadcasting stations and of online companies, we can say that we are satisfied with the product we receive. All the imaginable and even unimaginable aspects about stories and facts are presented to the last detail.

Today's public is very demanding and wants a special service that sets a product apart from similar products. This is happening in areas of business and life, including religion. Just look at how many churches have arisen in recent years.

Obviously, we do not want to commercialize our religion, but because of the quantity of options people have today, we need to have something different to attract them. This difference is in attending to all people's needs and going beyond their expectations.

The Bible tells a beautiful story on the importance of good service and treatment. Genesis chapter 24 reports on the search of a wife for Isaac, Abraham's son. Abraham gave a difficult task with much responsibility to his most trusted servant. He was to go to the place where Abraham's relatives lived and, from there, choose a wife for Isaac, a difficult mission. He should find a special girl who had something different in comparison to the others. Trusting in divine direction, that servant asked for God's guidance.

Several girls came and went and, while that servant was still asking God to help him find the right girl, Rebecca came to the well. Rebecca volunteered to give him water and also offered to satiate the thirst of his camels. She went beyond, far beyond what would be a normal expectation for a woman at the time.

The story says the man had 10 camels. An animal like this can swallow from 70 to 100 liters of water in minutes. Rebecca gave water to all of them, not with a hose in hand, which would be very easy; she satiated the 10 camels' thirst by drawing water from the well with difficulty. She did more than the necessary and, as a result, she was the one chosen by Abraham's servant.

However, beyond all human examples is the example of Jesus, who, while on Earth, always went beyond. Jesus tried to alleviate all people's needs -- material, physical or spiritual ones. Jesus went so much beyond that He gave His life for us.

Today, we need to go beyond and do for people more than what they are expecting from us. Only in this way they will see that we reflect Jesus' character.

--Márcia Ebinger is a journalist for the Adventist Church's South American Division, based in Brasília, Brazil.