Take 5 with Tim Sinclair, author of BRANDED: Sharing Jesus in a Consumer Culture

As I was reading Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture (read my review), I just wanted to cry at times.  I remember going on urban mission trips, handing out tracts, asking random passersby if they knew where they were going when they died, but it all seemed so meaningless.  I remember coming back from these trips or outreaches with a “praise report” on how many souls we saved.  The congregation cheered and I just felt empty.  I wondered what happened to these people who walked away after praying for salvation on Market Street in Philadelphia.  To what kind of homes did the children who gave their hearts to Jesus at VBS return?  And, I wondered, what difference did we make at all?

I don’t know how our actions impacted eternity.  I do hope that drunk that said he would attend AA meetings actually did so and the poverty-stricken single mothers did take their kids to the church on the corner.  It’s easy to be a Christian on Alternative Spring Break—chatting with hung-over college students by day and hitting the beach during free time.  But what about where we live?  What about the mass exodus of young adults from church?  Thankfully, author Tim Sinclair shows readers a different way and I would argue a better way at sharing our lives (and yes, even Jesus) with those with interact with on a daily (and long-term) basis.  So, I’m ecstatic that Tim agreed to Take 5 with Backseat Writer.

Tim with morning show co-host, Pam.

You’re a radio personality with a popular morning show, but as we know, things don’t always run smoothly.  What has been one of the craziest on-air happenings? (If you don’t have any, make one up.  We need to laugh.)

My co-host Pam has a way of mistaking one word for another. It’s become kind of a “thing” recently. During March Madness, she called it the NAACP Tournament, rather than the NCAA Tournament. She’s used Medusa instead of Methuselah…and just the other day during a remote broadcast said that someone had just dropped off a “shipload” of shoes. (For the record, it can be very difficult to differentiate the “p” sound and the “t” sound on the radio. Oops.)

Now let’s talk about Branded… I’ve read a lot of books about how the Church needs to reach out to “the postmodern generation,” but yours struck me as unique.  Market your book to my readers, what makes Branded different?

Branded is principle not policy. It’s not a 1-2-3 guide for how to share your faith. Those have been tried (with varying degrees of success). My goal was to encourage readers to thoroughly embrace who they are and where God has placed them, and then give them permission to let Him lead their discussions and actions, rather than the traditions of the Church.

In the past, most evangelism models have thrown relationship out the window. We’ve been told to accost people on the sidewalk, interrupt them during dinner, and boycott their organizations when they do something we don’t like. Yes, we’re called to “speak the truth in love”…but I believe that the level of our relationship with someone helps dictate that balance. Close friendships allow for more truth, while distant relationships (or complete unfamiliarity) require more love.

Your statistics about companies that “made” it and didn’t “make” it due to their lack of adjusting to an ever-changing consumer market (i.e., Best Buy vs. Circuit City) were fascinating.  This seemed to add an intellectual edge to Branded.  How do these examples resonate with the audience you want to reach with the message of this book?

I think we’ve all seen these industries evolve in recent years, but have never really thought much about why. As a kid, I remember Waldenbooks being in every single mall. But now you can’t find one. They’re extinct. Barnes & Noble and Amazon had the exact same goal (selling books), but decided to do it in a much more relevant way. The same with Netflix and Red Box. They’ve pretty much bankrupted Blockbuster because they “got” where our culture was headed instead of stubbornly insisting that the old sales model was the only one that would work. Once readers start looking for these transitions, I think they’ll see them everywhere.

I admire the fact that you didn’t say old methods of outreach were horrible, just out-dated.  Because we live in a consumer culture, you take a marketing approach to evangelism (note to readers: This does not cheapen Jesus or Christianity, so don’t worry!)  We also live in a media rich culture, how can we use social media to initially begin a conversation and/or relationship?

The simple answer is, “Be yourself.” Seriously. Don’t think of social media as an evangelism tool, think of it as a relationship tool. Relationships are developed through honesty, and any attempt to be purely church-y, or flowery, or smiley will come off as disingenuous. Mainly because it is. The stronger (and more genuine) our relationships are with others, the more likely we’ll be to have impacting, life-changing conversations with them about Jesus. Twitter and Facebook should simply be an extension of who we are…not the totality of our evangelistic efforts.

When you said that some of the conversations with have with our non-Christian friends may take a lifetime, I felt free because I haven’t been one to lead people to God (at least in the traditional sense).  In fact, you’re engaged in an ongoing Facebook conversation of your own started by an old friend from high school named Alan.  In the final pages of Branded, you said that Alan agreed to read the book.  What was his reaction?

Several months ago Alan got the chance to read the introduction and conclusion of the book. He said, “You know, I’m beginning to think that maybe agnostics need some re-branding too.” While that wasn’t an endorsement that God exists, it was an admission that the concepts within Branded work when trying to spread an idea. Jesus has a HUGE perception problem, and (of course) it’s not His fault…it’s ours. My hope is that Alan’s perception of Christ will begin to change over time.

Plus 1–Sorry, but I’ve got to make this a Take 5 + 1.  What up-and-coming musicians do you recommend to my readers? (Any market. I know this completely *your* opinion based on your musical tastes.)

My personal favorite right now is Sidewalk Prophets. They won the Dove Award for New Artist of the Year in 2010, and are just remarkable guys. Plus, they came and played an acoustic set at my book premiere last week for free!  🙂  I’m also a huge fan of Chris August, Anthem Lights, Dave Barnes, and Mat Kearney. In the mainstream world, my iPhone is loaded up with Bruce Hornsby, John Mayer, Sara Bareilles, and Jason Mraz.

For more information on Tim Sinclair and his book Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture, visit Tim online at http://www.tim-sinclair.com.  You can contact with Tim on your social network of choice, find out how to get your own copy of Branded, and read his blog.


Now I want to know what you guys think (answer one, two or all of the questions)…Christians, do you think this style of evangelism is effective?  Is anyone offended by the word “evangelism”?  Do you like Tim’s sweater?  What do you think of Sidewalk Prophets?  Do you think you’re read this book?  If you’re not a Christian, what do Christians do that annoys you?  See ya on the comments section!

One thought on “Take 5 with Tim Sinclair, author of BRANDED: Sharing Jesus in a Consumer Culture

  1. Do I like Tim’s sweater? You bet I do! 😀
    I think his advice to “Be yourself” in social media is a good one. Many times, we have this fake personality we put up when in Twitter, Facebook and all the other social networking sites…

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