25 May 2006

The Golden Fleece [2 of 2]

by Frank Turk

Yeah, well, so what? One of our astute readers here at TeamPyro made this comment in response to the the new t-shirt design I have thrown together:
I must say something, and I truly do it in all humility.

First off, I love visiting this blog. I especially find James Spurgeon's posts insightful and edifying. Having said that...

I really wish that the Pyromaniacs blog wouldn't give into the temptation to "market"themselves and further fleece the flock by selling t-shirts and other logo-laden merchandise. Doesn't this just add to the whole atmosphere of consumerism and materialism that plagues the Church already? Why not encourage your readers to give to missions instead, especially those in the unreached 10/40 window? America is just so wasteful, especially in the Church.

You guys really do seem to have your fingers on the pulse of the Church when it comes to what we need to hear doctrinally, and yet there is a whole separate area, one in which the Church is failing miserably, that you could use your highly visited blog to address and impact for the positive.

There is a small, new ministry called "Good Measure International" that is selling t-shirts for $15 that say something like, "My t-shirt helped feed a hungry child for a month, what did your t-shirt do?"All the proceeds from the shirts go to ministries who minister the Gospel and help meet the physical needs of the poor. Now THAT's a worthy t-shirt and money well spent.

I don't mean to be a downer on this light posting, but I just had that on my heart to share.

Thank you for always sticking your necks out, and thank you for letting me do the same.
Now, before the fireworks begin, let’s make sure I agree with all the excellent points that were made here. By a long shot, it is far more important that we express the Gospel, support the church locally and globally, and that we stand for unity in truth, than it is to buy one of our little trinkets that are doing so well with the readers.

Note to Phil: While you are by far the best customer of the pawn shop, you only account for about 40% of the trade there as we review the sales data. However, you do account for 40% of the sales. Dude: 40%.


In fact, the point is so critical that I’m going to drop some links in here from my own blog which have been there for, well, at least since last summer:

This is the “Gospel Practicum", folks. Get after it. If you’re just toddling along with your Bible open and you go the church 3 times a week plus your gender-specific Bible study, and you blog about Jesus, but that doesn’t turn into something where some person is getting something personally from you which we can call “love" in the Gospel sense, you’re getting is all wrong.

And for the record, I can’t find a link to “good measure international", but the three I listed here are relief organizations which are Christ-centered and have good ratings with Charity Navigator.

So what’s that got to do with the cess pool which is CBA? Well, let’s look at some current t-shirt designs from the CBA marketplace, shall we?

For those who can’t make it out, the scripture references are “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says..."(Revelation 3:22) and “My sheep listen to my voice I know them and they follow me."(John 10:27) This T is produced by an organization in Berryville, AR, named “Kerusso"(which you may or may not take offense to). And let me be clear: they make a quality product from a retail standpoint. The Ts are nice weight, and the colors are always great – good looking stuff.

‘K? And I sell these things in my store, so whatever complaint I’m about to pony up, I’m in the boat with the guys at Kerusso.

Now, what’s the point of buying this particular t-shirt? Rather than tease you, let me suggest that the right reason for buying this t-shirt is that it looks good on you. That’s all: if it looks good on you, and you have $15 laying around, and you need a T, brother or sister, there’s nothing stopping you from buying this t-shirt.

But if that’s the point in buying this t-shirt, then let me say that anyone who buys this shirt because they think it makes them some kind of a Christian is significantly self-deluded. Same for putting the fish on your car. Same for reading this blog for that matter. You are not a “better"Christian, or a any kind of “adjective" Christian, because you are doing business – intellectual, retail, whatever – with other Christians and the stuff your pass back and forth has a verse on it or a fish or a celtic trinity symbol or whatever.

See: you are a Christian when you follow the Gospel. And anyone who tells you that their T-shirt helps you follow the Gospel … you should run away from them. They are clearly trying to sell you something, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say it’s not just a t-shirt. It has something to do with "BUST HILL", but I'm not going to open up a controversy inside a controversy.

The t-shirts at the pawn shop? They don’t help you follow the Gospel. The only reason they have any scripture references on them is because those verses are in the premises of the blog – not because wearing them gives you any kind of an opportunity to preach and teach. If you wear one, you're a groupie -- becuase who else would wear a t-shirt with a blog logo on it besides a groupie?

Is it wrong to be a groupie? Only if you, for example, start calling us at work or start leaving messages for us with our employees.

The dreck at the pawn shop is over-priced – and it’s not because Phil’s licensing fee is so high. It’s because Caf├ęPress has confiscatory vendor pricing. I make $3 on the black Ts which are priced at $21.99 – and “make", btw, is a euphemism for “which I then spend monthly to keep the pawn shop open, because the only profit I ever made from the CafePress store was the T I just bought for myself last week".

It is part of the punch line, folks. I really hate it when we have to deconstruct all of the gags and ironies and snide bits of social satire, but the whole point of the TeamPyro shop is to say, “this is not even close to the ‘good stuff’". If you’re reading this blog to be more “relevant" because you can show everyone you wear the t-shirt, I say “re-read this blog. I think you didn’t ‘get it’ on first pass."

Now, look: it costs me about $7 a month to perpetrate this gag, and to date I haven’t received a single check from CafePress. I bought a black “stoner"T from my shop with $17.99 + shipping, and frankly I don’t have any guilt over that. I needed a new shirt to work out in, and it is 100% serviceable. I gave away a t-shirt last month, and if we sell 2 more shirts this month I’ll give another away – because it’s fun.

Well, I think it’s fun. If you readers think it’s chintzy, I’ll call off the hounds. No sense being the only guy in the room laughing.

Last thing: let’s be careful how we throw around the word “fleecing" in the future. I haven’t fleeced anybody, and this blog isn’t fleecing anybody. It’s not like we’re charging you for the priviledge of posting your comments, for cryin’ out loud ...


Kay said...

Might want to close that colour thing..

I'm laughing, Mr Turk. I'm also looking for someone to buy one of my kidneys so I can kit my girls out as pyrobabies.

PressingOn said...

First of all, can I say, "Wow! I'm honored!" You actually devoted a two-part column in response to my comment. Aw, shucks. :o)

Second of all, I get your message...I think. I apologize for calling your promotion of Pyrogear "fleecing." It was a poor choice of words. "Fleecing" has a connotation of being an intentional act. I don't think it is your intention at all to get rich from your merchandice or to sucker unsuspecting bloggers into buying things they don't need.

So, you do it because it's fun? Okay. Fun has its place. I guess I just think you could have fun in a lot more rewarding and productive ways.

Two questions arise. First, why Cafepress? If they are overpriced, your cut is next to nil, and you're not selling much, why use their services? Second, if your intention is fun and not money, why not let the proceeds go to one of these great charities you speak of? Another great one, by the way, would be Gospel For Asia (www.gfa.org).

Finally, "Good Measure International" is in the process of setting up their website. It's a new ministry and will eventually be located at www.goodmeasure.com .

Thank you for addressing the issue, Frank! And thanks for not charging me to comment! :o)

Steve said...

Frank: I just hope eventually you expand beyond Pyro t-shirts and WalMart and share some well-thought out observations about the Christian retail and publishing industries from your (humble) perspective.

The word verification I just got here is wwhdj. That is frighteningly close to another much overmarketed sequence of letters...

FX Turk said...

Libbie --

e-mail me.

Pressingon --

Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. make sure you use it in a rewarding and productive way, and not just to sell t-shirts.

All jokes aside, here are the answers to your questions:

-- I use CafePress because there aren't really a lot of choices. If I had a better option, I'd use it. Do you have a suggestion?

-- Proceeds don't go to any charities because there are no proceeds. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I have never received a dime from the CP store and that the fees swallow almost all of the gross profts of the operation.

gross - expenses = net

In this case, gross = expenses + 5%. You do the math. Net is less than or equal to zero -- and I don't hide behind the "but it's a ministry" dodge. If I ever get a check worth cashing from the pawn shop, I'll blog about it and then you can bring it before the elders of my church.

Before I go to lunch, did anyone ever tell you you look like Kirstie Alley before she got fat? Like on Cheers or that one Star Trek movie.

Just curious. :-)

FX Turk said...

Steve --

I am eventually going to blog CBA in a pretty significant way, but first I want to make sure their "boys" can't find me or my family.

I was thinking of starting a blog called "Christian Retail Confidential" to post gripes and insights on CBA and how not to be like them, but I can't keep up with the blogs I already have.

There is also the prickly point that I actually work for a CBA/ECPA publishing company, and I don't want to lose my job because I said something about CBA which they do not agree with.

amesfam said...

Frank - if you really want to actually make some money (for the glory of God of course) I stumbled upon this blog http://christianbusinessdevotion.blogspot.com
Looks pretty legit to me =)

Momo said...

I just want to know whatever happened with that whole zippo lighter thing.

FX Turk said...

James --

There wasn't enough interest. We couldn't get enough people to have the right spirit to buy a silver-plated trinket. For $30.

Not even "for the kids".

Steve said...

Frank said, "There is also the prickly point that I actually work for a CBA/ECPA publishing company"

Absolutely understood. I'm there, too. But there might be "safe areas" of discussion in this realm. If it's just too awkward, then forget my suggestion.

Gavin Brown said...

What about pyro flamethrowers? The kids lov'em. Use the Schwartz!

Scott Hill said...

Frank almost thou presuaded me to purchase a T-shirt.

I think fleece was inappropriate, because of the motivation intended behind someone fleecing. Also sell your shirts if you want. I get a kick out of seeing what new design you will come up with.

PressingOn said...

No, I can't say I have any better suggestions than Cafepress. Never had it come up before! If I stumble across anything you'll be the first one to know.

And, yes, actually. It's been a while, but I have heard in the past that I look like Kirstie Alley. Actually, I've looked like her "fat" as you say, too. Should have seen me 40 pounds ago. :o) I wish I had her hair.

Just promise that if your Pyrogear ever does make it to the big time, you won't get greedy, 'k?

Now, get back to doing whatever else you were going to do before my comment sent yor day into a tailspin. :o) I appreciate your devotion to the topic.

Carla Rolfe said...

Pressingon said "So, you do it because it's fun? Okay. Fun has its place. I guess I just think you could have fun in a lot more rewarding and productive ways."

Like Frank, I also have a cafepress store. Mine's been open for about 16 months, but we sold our gear via paypal & direct purchase for several years before that. We made the move because it's more convenient.

Like Frank, I do what I do for fun, and because I enjoy it a great deal. In fact, just last night I spent several hours creating two new designs (I can't let Frank introduce a new design and NOT introduce one myself!). Just kidding these are actually Father's Day shirts.

My gear with Scripture on it has it there because it's my passion to combine scenery (God's creation) with God's word. People like it, and people buy it because they like it. (And I'm grateful they like it and grateful for every sale).

Like Frank, I do this because I like to. For me, it is indeed rewarding and very productive. Short story here but a few years ago one of my Psalms calendars was purchased as a gift for an unbeliever. She loved it so much, she bought a Bible (she wanted to find those verses). She began to study her Bible, and the last I heard, she was still studying her Bible and asking questions about this life, and the life to come.

If that was the only sale I ever made, I'd be pretty blessed to know that my overpriced cafepress junk was most productive in motivating an unbeliever to go buy a Bible & actually read it.


PressingOn said...

Especially for Carla's benefit...

"I'm through commenting on this post, I mean it.
Anybody want a peanut?"

:o) Couldn't resist.

Seriously, though. I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from finding enjoyment in their creative outlets or from edifying the Church or persuading the non-believer by such endeavors. I think these can all be valid motivations.

I'm just discouraged with the waste and the greed within the Church. I'm sick of marketing, especially where the motive is dollars. Look what it's done for Dan Brown? And there were plenty of Christians in line to pony up for the ticket price, not to mention churches even buying tickets! Christian and secular retailers have figured out what sells to the Church, and they just keep churning it out. Meanwhile, my stomach churns.

I just wanted to ensure that one of my favorite blogs wasn't jumping on the bandwagon.

Still not sure how to justify the $19.99 Pyro (beer) stein. :o) lol

FX Turk said...

If you bought one, I promise you you'd understand how to justify a $19.99 immediately.

Ask Phil.

PressingOn said...

Oh, and I found out that Good Measure International has a small presence on the web until their actual website is up. Their t-shirts are available by visiting www.tsave.org or check out their blog at goodmeasure.blogspot.com.

:o) No, I don't work for them.

However, I do know them, and they're wonderful people. They live with the end in mind and practice what they preach.

Phil Johnson said...

Frank: "Well, I think it’s fun. If you readers think it’s chintzy, I’ll call off the hounds. No sense being the only guy in the room laughing."

Yeah, just to be clear: Frank made the gear out of the blue one day, and I linked to it more or less as a lark, intending to leave it there for a few days at most (after I ordered a lot of gifts for people and some really cool black Pyro t-shirts.) I ended up leaving the link, because the picture of my friend Madeline is so cute.

If Frank ever really made any actual money selling this paraphernalia, I'd remove the link immediately, because PyroManiacs is technically a non-commercial site. We won't sell ads for any price, and we're not trying to make money off the blog.

All joking aside.

Solameanie said...

Allow me to interject this..and mind, I am not trying to make any serious Scriptural application here. Just offering it for thought.

I agree with the disapproval expressed toward hucksterism..making a buck off of anything spiritual for sheer mercenary gain. We've all seen it. However, let's not paint with a broad brush.

When we're talking about Christian gear, this issue has other facets other than the amount of money made by the producers of it. Some have rather rudely called it "Jesus Junk." These sincere critics don't think it is appropriate to produce or wear such gear. I don't agree with them.

Most of us who wear t-shirts like this, have coffee mugs, keychains etc..like them because they witness about our faith as well as look great (and I don't mean feeding one's vanity). If there is a legitimate market for such material, I see no harm or evil in producing it unless what is being produced is unscriptural, blasphemous or would detract from an effective, compelling witness. For example, I think Christian thong bikinis are an oxymoron (and anyone who would wear such a thing and think they are glorifying God IS a moron.

Think about this, too. The Bible tells us that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living from the Gospel. In context, this is certainly talking about supporting those who devote their full time to preaching, teaching and evangelizing. While this verse does not pertain to the idea of manufacturing and selling Christian gear, I believe a parellel can be drawn to this extent. Not all of us are preachers or teachers. If clothing and gear production is the chosen vocation of a believer i.e. producing gear that glorifies the Lord and is a blessing to other brothers and sisters, I see nothing sinful or sacreligious in it.

The Supreme Court once said that they would know obscenity when they saw it. I think all of us are mature enough to discern hucksterism and fleecing when we see it.

Pyromaniacs material does not fall under that banner.

Pastor Steve said...

It's always good to analyze things and I appreciate pressingon's heart, but where and when do these type of questions end? I ate at McDonald's yesterday - could I have had peanut butter and jelly instead and given the $5 to a mission agency? Certainly, and could I shop at Walmart for clothes instead of Kohl's and give more to the church - yep. Where does this end, and how guilty do we really have to feel about all of this in a biblical framework? I'm not sure I have the answer.

candy said...

A good measuring stick to know you've gone too far in your merchandizing is if your gear shows up on Purgatorio. :)

Kim said...

Please don't get rid of the Pyro Gear until mine comes in the mail.

Mister Larry said...

Hey, I didn't know you guys had a Pyromaniacs beer stein for sale! I want one, and I'll drink some wonderful Yuengling Lager from it. Cheers!

PressingOn said...

I agree with Pastor Steve. Where do we draw the line?

This is an area in which I have struggled, so I certainly do not mean to sound ungracious or judgmental. The Lord has loosened my white-knuckle grip on so many excesses and comforts in my life, and yet I have so far to go.

All good things come from the Lord, and I don't believe He wants us to go around wringing our hands over ever dollar spent, wondering how it could be better spent on reaching the lost. This can be a real joy stealer. I've been there, too. However, I think we should each examine our lives for excess, be aware of how much waste is in our lives, and make sure we are allowing the Lord to use us to minister to the poor and the lost. The scriptures concerning the poor are numerous, and any brief study on the subject will bring much conviction. There are curses and judgment promised for those who ignore the poor while living in comfort.

Let us live our lives in such a way that we prayerfully consider how we use our resources and don't turn a blind eye to those in need. I think we mustn't underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit here. Pray that the Lord will bring conviction to each of us when we are in danger of stumbling in these areas.

I believe that responsibility and self-control in our spending is part of our spiritual act of worship.

Okay, now my toes are sore. I'm so thankful for His grace.

Family Blogs said...

Did someone say there's a Pyromaniac fleece available? Sign me up for one of those...it will keep me warm in the high andes!

Loving the blog and reading it daily!

Craig Schwarze said...

I rather like the Pyro merchandise. I always understood it to be an ironic statement on consumerism, rather than PJ trying to get rich.

Phil Johnson said...

Frank's got competition.

Not to belabor the point, but what makes me smile about the t-shirt-and-baby-clothes business is that it fits so well with the longest-running gag at the Pyroblog—viz., my penchant for putting the Pyro logo on everything (including Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon).

The t-shirts actually put the logo on our readers in the real world. Something about that makes me smile.

Besides, the little onesies make great baby gifts. Have a baby in my vicinity, and that's what you'll get as a gift.

marc said...

I appreciate your comments and motivation. I, however, would like to sell some stuff from my blog and make lots of money and not give it to the poor. Can you help me set that up? I want to begin fleecing as soon as possible.

PressingOn said...

You know, Purgatorio was neck in neck with Pyromaniacs for my favorite blog, but Marc lost some points on that last comment, wooden nickel or no wooden nickel.

I'm sure he's devastated.

As for Phil's comments...oh no, not monergism.com, too! Where will it end? Lastly, do you think if Charles Spurgeon were alive, he would sport one of your t's? I mean, the zippo lighter is a given; it would look stunning with his stogie. But, I just can't picture him in the t-shirt....hmmm.....

PressingOn said...

And in the "Get a Life" category, for the most postings in a single day, Centurion's Wooden Nickel goes to.......PressingOn!

Thanks for the conversation! I'll show myself out. :o)

Steve said...

pressing on said, "do you think if Charles Spurgeon were alive, he would sport one of your t's?"

Absolutely. Spurgeon was noted for his distinctive taste in ornamental attire.

Miss Susannah Thompson, the woman who eventually became Spurgeon's wife, made these remarks about him the first time she saw him: "...the huge black satin sock...and the blue pocket handkerchief with white spots...these attracted most of my attention and I fear awakened some feelings of amusement." And, "So this is his so-called eloquence! It does not impress me. What a painful contrified manner! Will he ever quit making flourishes with that terrible blue silk handkerchief!" (excerpted from Mrs. CH Spurgeon by Charles Ray and The Shadow of the Broad Brim by Richard Ellsworth Day).

Char said...

But you can't take the link to the gear off. The baby is too darn adorable, I'd miss her. :(

I have to admit though my favorite blog gear is at Geoffrey Chaucer's. Some of them made me laugh out loud. They use zazzle, I don't know if that's better or worse than cafepress.

irish calvinist said...

Phil said: "the longest-running gag at the Pyroblog—viz., my penchant for putting the Pyro logo on everything (including Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon).

The t-shirts actually put the logo on our readers in the real world. Something about that makes me smile."

That is hilarious!

I can see Edwards in a TeamPyro muscle shirt.

Mike Y said...

Frank, et. al.,

I understand the point of the note and was a little caught off guard when I saw the T-shirt post too. But I got over it. In general, I would prefer a little more to the shirt. I actually kind of like the iTune one. It's catchy and looks like you get more graphics for your buck. But that's as far as I would go with it. I'm not too in to wearing such a T-shirt with a message, no matter where the proceeds go.

The closest exception I've made to this general rule is I once received and wore a T-shirt that simply had the following text on it:

rm -rf /bin/laden

This was right after 9/11 and you have to understand a little Unix semantics to appreciate the political and patriotic message. But then I only wore it twice because most people didn't understand it and it never really became a conversation piece.

Anyway, I don't particularly care if there's merchandise. In the future, I'd like some consideration made for things I might use more, like COOKIES or PIZZA. Perhaps a Pyro-log'd pizza would be a great thing. I don't know how you'd do it or even get it to me. But I would exceeed Phil's 40%. Perhaps not. But it would be a close race.

Again, I like what goes on at the site and I don't mind the commercials either. The rapid succession of posts on top of posts may be another story. Sometimes I feel like I'm at Triablogue and can't keep up.

Best regards,


candy said...

Just out of curiosity...how much did Challies ever get for the pyro sticker he put up for sale at Ebay??

Momo said...

I can see Edwards in a TeamPyro muscle shirt.

I like that picture. And be honest, if you saw him in one would you hesitate to say, "Lookin' sharp, Bro. Johnnie!"


Seth McBee said...

responding to the post that was published on the blog this morning, whatever happened to not letting your right know what your left hand is doing? How self righteous to have a T-Shirt that shows you are giving money to missionaries, why don't you where camel hair and say "I have fasted, what have you done lately you fat boy" I am tired of people wanting to be seen for what they do, why don't you give to the Lord in secret so your works aren't burnt up (1 Cor 3)

Phil Johnson said...

A reminder to all: This blog is not a tavern. As I've said before, we're more like a virtual pancake-house—a family-friendly place where homeschool moms are welcome and made comfortable.

For the record, while we're not prudes and wouldn't automatically consider a stogie or a beer "sinful," neither do we consider such things fitting emblems of Christian liberty.

Let's not allow the comment threads to devolve into that kind of banter. Lighthearted joking of that nature fits under the rubric of things that offend my wife and my mom, and therefore such comments aren't really appropriate for this blog.

By the way, the Pyro-stein is not anyone's attempt to make a statement about Christians and alcohol consumption. I use mine for double lattes. They make perfect pencil-holders, too.


(I deleted the comment in question because 1) it was technically off-topic, and 2) it had a link to a retail/wholesale website.)

I'm also taking the unprecedented measure of closing this comment thread before it disintegrates further.

Daniel...James...Frankanyone: post something edifying soon. I'm bogged down with other duties at the moment.