Learning from Donald Trump

Despising low-brow trends, I disdained “reality” programs on television. “Fake documentaries,” I scoffed. Then, stumbling across Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, I was hooked. Rather than a dumbed-down documentary, The Apprentice is a smartened-up game show offering amusement to its viewers and prizes to winning contestants.
Undoubtedly, part of the show’s popularity comes from our cultural obsession with money and accomplishment. While few people would really enjoy living in Trump’s overblown apartment, and fewer yet appreciate his overblown hair, Donald Trump’s wealth and power fascinate. Trump is Jay Gatsby.
Beyond the hype, however, here are some important lessons which come through in the series. Taking the crass worldliness with a shaker of salt (this is Donald Trump not Batsell Barrett Baxter, after all), the overall thrust of the show has showcased personal character as a foundation for business success.
You’ve Got to Believe
One resent episode opened with Trump meeting his contestants in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Divided into two teams, their task was to identify a promising artist and to arrange a showing in a New York gallery. Of course, the winning team would be the one making the most money.
One team selected an artist they liked, whose work was ordinary but pleasant. They sold $13,000 worth of his paintings. The other team went with an artist whose work was edgy and unnerving. They didn’t like her art, but thought it would appeal to other people. They only sold $869 of her work.
In the debriefing, Trump said the loosing team got “creamed” because they made the mistake of not believing in what they were selling. He focused on the need for conviction in sales: you won’t succeed if you don’t believe in what you are selling.
Saved by Faith
Perhaps we can see a lesson which applies to the church as well. We will not succeed unless we believe. The need for integrity of conviction is greater, in point of fact, in matters of salvation than in the peddling of a commercial product.
The apostle Paul commended the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (1 Thess. 1:3). Where did these Christians find the strength to persevere in their efforts? Success came from inner conviction; they worked steadfastly because of their faith, their hope and their love.
Too often Christians attempt to achieve outward results without cultivating the inner reality requisite for success. Emphasizing outer results rather than inward conviction is the Achilles heel of the Community Church Movement’s pragmatic attitude. While the “bread and circus” approach may produce impressive numbers when times are good, only true conviction will produce dependable results over time.
Donald Trump encouraged his apprentices to believe in the product they were trying to sell. Spiritually, we will succeed in our efforts to advance the kingdom if we will truly believe what God has told us. “Faith,” as we often sing, “is the victory that overcomes the world.” Believing in God’s exclusive way of salvation, the Lord’s church has a message which we can, with the integrity of conviction, commend to the world around us.

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Greg Tidwell

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