Pepsi-cola’s advertising agency tells a horror story about one of its promotions. The American drink-maker was taking to the world its slogan ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’. The slogan seemed popular everywhere. Except in Taiwan.
In Taiwan, billboards were supposed to proclaim the Chinese translation of ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’. But the slogan had confused the translators, and billboards in Taiwan were found to be mistakenly making this strange offer: ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.’
People often get the wrong message from advertisements. But advertisers keep trying anyway. French advertiser Jacques Se’gue’la told of a certain advertisement for batteries. Scene One showed a battery being placed in a fishtank. Scene Two was taken a week later: the battery was removed from the water and placed in a radio which worked first time. Sales of the battery were a disaster. When researchers investigated, they found that people had wrongly interpreted the ad to mean that the batteries worked only after being submerged in water.
God’s advertising gets misinterpreted too. Psalm 19 tells us: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament sheweth his handywork.’ Day after day and night after night, God’s intricately created universe conducts a silent yet magnificent symphony to the glory of the Creator. The whole design, complexity and beauty of the universe is one grand and majestic advertisement for the Creator. But like Pepsi’s Taiwanese translators and the battery-buying public, many people get the message wrong. They think the heavens and the firmament are an advertisement for a self-creating process called evolution.
Wrong interpretations of God’s advertising are not new. Only a few years after Christ’s death and resurrection the Apostles Barnabas and Paul were proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Lystra, a city in the rugged inland districts of Asia Minor. God used the two Apostles to heal a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 14:8-10). But the multitudes who saw this miracle did not instantly acknowledge that God had produced this healing through His Apostles. To the Apostles’ horror, the local people began to suggest that Barnabas must really be ‘Zeus’ (the chief god of the ancient Greeks) and that Paul was ‘Hermes’ (son of Zeus, and himself highly regarded in Greek mythology). The crowds then tried to offer sacrifices to the two Apostles.
When Barnabas and Paul saw this, they quickly made their message clearer. They told the Lystrans that they were there to ‘preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein’ (Acts 14:15). They made it clear that it was God the Creator they were advertising, not the false gods to which some attributed the healing miracle.
Paul did a similar thing at Athens. He saw an altar inscribed ‘To the unknown god’ (Acts 17:23). Immediately he told the Athenians that their ‘unknown god’ was God the Creator… the God who made all things and who gives the breath of life to all living things.
Today, advertising is a gigantic part of many economies. In September 1990, the magazine Advertising Age reported that in the previous year the top 100 advertisers in the United States alone had spent $33.9 billion on advertising. And remember, that’s only a small part of the total world-wide expenditure in just one year.
We are all advertisers. Every time you tell someone you enjoyed a certain book or film, or that you are happy with a product or service, you are advertising. People have been advertising, not always with ideal results, since Eve convinced Adam to join her in tasting the prohibited fruit in the Garden of Eden.
But God is the world’s biggest advertiser. His creation and His Word about it are the biggest, most spectacular, no-budget, clearest advertisements for Him the world can see. Yet people still misinterpret His message, either deliberately or through ignorance. As the most important part of God’s creation, we must remember that we too are living advertisements, good or bad, for God. In the Psalmist’s words: ‘We spend our years as a tale that is told’ (Psalm 90:9).
The life story we tell must correctly advertise God as Creator. When we come across people who are misinterpreting the Creator’s message (particularly as an aimless product of evolution) we must do what Barnabas, Paul, and countless others have done down through the years: tell them the correct message. Romans 1:20 says that the creation reveals to all mankind the power and divine nature of God. And those who reject this truth are ‘without excuse’. We need to constantly and confidently advertise these facts.