Pastor's Blog

I have always struggled with “marketing” the church or the Christian faith.  I don’t want to struggle with it.  But there’s something about marketing Christianity that makes me uncomfortable.

We market products or services.  So what product or service is the church called to provide to the world?  What is our “product”?

Some people think the product/service is “the message”.  My struggle begins with the nature of the gospel and the nature of marketing.  Marketing is about presenting your product in a way that the buyer finds attractive.  You want the buyer to like it.  If he likes it, he buys it.

But the gospel begins with things that aren’t attractive and can’t be made so. 
Sin, God’s wrath, the final judgment, eternal hell, the crucifixion of Jesus, and repentance are neither happy nor popular subjects.

Liberal Christianity jettisoned these ideas 150 years ago and replaced them with the pretty and pleasant (and more marketable) fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and of course, love.  Today the pews of liberal churches are mostly empty (save a few snowy heads) and their denominations are on life support.  Many of their churches are now occupied by evangelicals.

Evangelicals should learn from this lesson of history.  Some do, but many still feel a need to present the message of Jesus as something purely upbeat and positive.  Jesus will make you successful (happy, rich, healthy, more confident).  Others promise miracles of healing or experiences with the supernatural.  Still others promise that Jesus will cure all your emotional pain or relationship troubles.

We’ve all heard these kinds of things.  It makes for great marketing. 

If only it were true.  But how many times has divine providence pulled back the curtain to reveal ugly reality that doesn’t match the message?

I had a friend in my early days in the faith whose mother insisted she had been healed of a fatal illness.  She died insisting she had been healed.  My friend saw behind the curtain and came to hate Christianity and Christians.

I had friends who spoke in tongues who revealed that they had been taught how to do it and how to practice it to get better at it.  (One can get better at a divinely endowed miraculous gift?)

How many of us know fervid worshipers who speak evangelical jargon fluently (“Oh, hallelujah, praise Jesus!”), who seem spiritually mature, but who are discovered cheating on their spouses, hiding an addiction to pornography or alcoholism or gambling, or who cheat others in business without any guilt or remorse?

Then there are the people who pretend to be joyful publicly and talk about God’s work in their lives.  They are sweet and kind and always seem upbeat.  And then you get to know them and it’s all an act.  They are miserable, discouraged, angry, anxious, or depressed.  But to be truthful about those things is not socially acceptable in their religious circles.

And how many of us know parents who are shocked to find that their faithful Sunday church-attending Christian-schooled rule-keeping teenager has been partying with Christian friends (all saved at age three, of course), getting high, getting drunk, and having sex every Saturday night?

And how many of us remember the one-two gut punch to evangelicalism’s reputation by the revelations of the secrets of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart?

How does one keep a straight face and market “the power of the gospel to change lives” when you’ve seen so much behind the curtain – not to mention the hypocrisy in your own heart?

 

 

 

 

 

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