Friday, August 19, 2005

Marketing and the Great Commission

A year ago, the Rev. Scott Schlotfelt was weighing job offers from three churches smitten by what he had to offer.

But they weren't talking about his preaching or counseling skills. What they were seeking, like a number of churches across the United States, was some savvy marketing. And like a growing number of pastors, consultants, and volunteers, Mr. Schlotfelt was eager to do some branding for the Lord.
- Christian Science Monitor
I have noticed this article "Churches seeking marketing-savvy breed of pastor" that is published in the Christian Science Monitor today. Frankly speaking, this sort of news does not surprise me anymore. Given the popularity of megachurches and the humanistic seeker-sensitive philosophy that is prevalent in many churches, it is no wonder that many churches does not trust in the sovereign will of God, but depend on men's efforts to convert the lost.
Others, however, see marketing as a necessary part of Christ Jesus' great commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19, New Revised Standard Version).

"Marketing and the church, they go hand in hand [because] we're called to bring our message to a community," says Kristal Dove, operations manager at Church Marketing Solutions. But she says not all church leaders should be involved.
- Christian Science Monitor
Marketing can be defined as "the process or act of bringing together buyers and sellers." People who studied marketing would know the term marketing mix, which consists of the four Ps: product, pricing, promotion, and placement. The marketing mix must reflect the wants and desires of the consumers in the target market.

Is this what the Great Commission is all about? To cater to the wants and desires of the lost? The Bible explicitly tells us that "no one who seeks God." (Romans 3:11) Did the Apostle Paul market the one version of the gospel to the Thessalonians and another version of the gospel to the Bereans?
Nearly every pastor is a salesman or a marketer of one kind or another because ... we have a philosophy to sell," he says. "The best marketers and best salesmen will have more converts, will have more people, will take in more money.... Evangelicals are marketers because they're really passionate about their product."
- Christian Science Monitor
I would not be surprised if churches who embraced this marketing approach experience large growth in numbers. It is already evident from the megachurches that we find all around us. But does this mean that it is God's will for His Church to grow in this manner? How do we know what is God's will then? It is from reading His Word and "correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) For it is written: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)

The root problem of this marketing approach is that it falsely places the responsibility for conversion into the hands of men instead of the power of the Holy Spirit. It reduces the God-driven evangelism of the gospel into a man-driven cheap sales gimmick. Do people believe because of good marketing techniques or because of the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating hardened hearts? Thus, marketing takes the glory of salvation away from God.

Let me end this article with the following words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)


Click here to download the article in Adobe Acrobat format (42 KB).


Blogger naniecheng said...

Hi me again.
We should not be too concerned about what these megachurches do. Afterall what they do or fail to do should not affect matters of salvation since God has also predestined the ones who will enter his kingdom. So even if they have the wrong emphasis, God's will will still be done.

19/8/05 8:58 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

This sort of thinking is endorsed by the hyper-Calvinists. It is similiar to saying, "Why evangelize when God has predestined His elect?" What the hyper-Calvinists forget is that God predestined evangelism also. We are commanded to preach the gospel.

The same goes for the issue of the megachurches. We are commanded to rebuke false teachings. 2 Timothy 4:2 states: "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction."

In Titus 1:10-14, it is written: "For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth."

In the book of Galatians, when the truth of the gospel was at stake, the Apostle Paul wrote: "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." (Galatians 2:4-5)

19/8/05 9:45 PM  
Blogger naniecheng said...

Yes I do agree with you regarding assimilating secular methods and doctrines into the church. The quote from Kristal Dove underscores the common belief that "the end justifies the means" i.e. attracting people to church so they can have the opportunity to hear the gospel is of utmost importance therefore any means to bring them in is justifiable, including incorporating marketing techniques that appeal to fleshly desires.

People who subscribe to such paradigms forget that there must be consistency between the means and the end. One cannot have an end that calls for denial of self but attempt to use means that magnify the self to achieve the end. There is great irony to such a paradigm. When such inconsistencies happen, one has to re-examine the real end he has in mind.

In my opinion if such a person is willing to be brutally honest with himself, he will most likely discover that his real end is rooted in wanting physical growth (i.e. a symbol of success), which of course is a fleshly want.

19/8/05 10:57 PM  
Blogger Liang said...

I agree with your post but I'm wondering, how do you balance that with these verses?

1 Cor 9:19-22

19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.

20To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;

21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.

20/8/05 11:28 AM  
Blogger beowulf said...

What the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 is entirely different from marketing. He was not trying to attract people to the church by catering to their desires and wants. Instead, the Apostle Paul was trying to accomodate these people culturally.

As a missionary, one must consider the background and the customs of the people in order to avoid making cultural faux pas.

Among the Jews who were under the Law of Moses, the Apostle Paul had to observe the Jewish customs. Take for instance, he had to circumcise Timothy because of the Jews (Acts 16:1-3).

Among the Gentiles who were not bounded by the Law of Moses, the Apostle Paul was free to eat any food he wants (1 Corinthians 8:1-6). He did not need to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:1-5).

Among those who were weak in faith, the Apostle Paul had to abstain himself from food that were offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:7-13). He wrote: "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." (1 Corinthians 8:13)

20/8/05 1:28 PM  
Blogger Liang said...

So can I say to bring a person who is into pop-culture to Christ to use pop-culture as a tool to reach out to them? To "speak their language", or it might possibly be the only way to build a bridge.

Because I think it is hard to speak into people's lives when you do not know them, yet I know that the Spirit is at work and the Gospel has the true salvation power.

So is there a balance between how much we should/can do and how much of it we leave to God?

Shall we not put in our best efforts in order that we might save some?

Let's say using an evangelistic gig?

But the message is still the same, not changing the facts of the gospel at all.

22/8/05 8:07 AM  
Blogger beowulf said...

The thing is, what are the facts of the gospel? Is the doctrine of the Trinity clearly explained? Does the unbeliever fully comprehend the gravity of sin? Is it put across to him that believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved, and there is no other? Does he know why Jesus Christ had to die on the cross?

By holding an evangelistic gig (for that I assuming some Christian rock concert), can you be confident that the unbelievers will profess faith in Jesus Christ based on a clear understanding of the gospel rather than being seduced by window dressings (e.g. cool music and atmosphere)? Would these window dressings detract from the message of the gospel?

When we read the Bible, how do we see the early Christians preach the gospel? Did they set up Roman bath houses to entice unbelievers? I believe bath houses during that time were pretty popular. How about public entertainment such as gladiatorial games? Do you think the apostles would endorse such methods to draw people? I am pretty sure that the merchants in Matthew 21:12-13 were trying to appeal to the "pop" culture of the Jews by conducting trade in the Temple. Perhaps the Temple authorities thought that these business activities would encourage people to come to the Temple more often.

In the end, you must ask yourself, are gimmicks required to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? Who draw the unsaved to the gospel? Is it you or the Holy Spirit? Is it the works of men or the Holy Spirit? Is it not written: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him..." (John 6:44)

23/8/05 11:57 PM  
Blogger Liang said...

that's a good reply, thanks! .)

24/8/05 12:48 PM  

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