Selling church.

October 9, 2007 at 9:45 am 3 comments

Twelve years of excellent service to his employers and out of those 12 years his crew ended the year as number one in the world.  Four of the last five years the people he managed were in the top four in his division.  His market is the top market in the world and he was the very best at what he did year in and year out. Yet his boss said to him, unless you can perform better tonight, you are not going to be back next year.  And his boys didn’t get it done, so who knows if Joe Torre will manage the Yankees again.  I am not a Yankee fan, but Joe Torre is a good man and deserves better.  My guess is he will get what he deserves, a team with an owner who will respect him.

The corporate world is a tough one, some of you know that first hand but as one who has been part of the church world all my life, I have watched and even been part of the corporating (probably not a word but it should be) of the church.  Everything from billboards to emails are used to attract people to a particular church.  The language and practice of marketing  permeates church culture, you either do it or die, or so it seems.

There is a web-site called Church Marketing Sucks whose business it is to help your church keep from sucking at church marketing. There mission they say is to …motivate the church to communicate with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.  But I don’t know.  Isn’t the whole idea behind marketing to “cast pearls before swine” so to speak? To get people to buy what they don’t really want or need?

Mark Galli writes in Christianity today (full article here) …we find a church that doesn’t think twice about treating the gospel like slop, like fast food. About 30 years ago, the church-growth movement exploded onto the scene; churches became enamored with the efficiency of businesses like Disney and McDonald’s, and they began fashioning their life together to meet people’s needs in the same sorts of ways-except that their product was the gospel. So churches became places where thousands could be served efficiently. And where the message was served in McSermons that could be easily digested and applied. 

There is a very real fear in the hearts of pastors and other church leaders that to compete in the complex market of church growth you have to sell yourself as a place where you can “come as you are” to a place where you won’t find people dressed in 1950’s fashions or singing old boring hymns and where you can get in and out easily, have a latte and hear a “talk” that won’t offend you.  By the way, I like lattes, wearing casual clothes and not being bored but my concern is that when we market what church is about like we market burgers, beemers and beer it is pretty hard to tell the people we attract that the call of Jesus is to “come and die”.

Galli writes:  Should it surprise us that in this era, pastors increasingly think of themselves as “managers,” “leaders,” and “CEOs” of “dynamic and growing congregations,” rather than as shepherds, teachers, and servants of people who need to know God? And that preaching has become less an exposition of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection and more often practical lessons that offer a lot of “take-away value,” presented in an efficient, friendly manner, as if we were selling cheeseburgers, fries, and a shake?

When the church becomes just another “come on” voice to the culture it can’t be much of a surprise that most of the culture turns us off the way they “tivo” around all the other commercials that come their way every day.

What if we went back to living out the message of Jesus, told people we loved them and then showed that love by the way we treated them and invited them to be part of our Family led by a Father who knows all about them yet loves them still.

I wonder what would happen, Galli concludes, if we quit shouting, if we quit trying to tell the world how beneficial the faith is or what a difference going to church can make—and simply told others, when appropriate, what God has done for us, and let our lifestyle “market” the message.

(Read the whole article here.)



Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Friendship, Holy Spirit, Institutional church, Jesus, The Father, Thoughts.

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.15 Convergence.

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tomterrific  |  October 12, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    You make some good points.

    And yet, I wonder.

    Is the problem with dispensing the Gospel like fast food that the Gospel is being dispensed like fast food?

    Or is the problem with dispensing the Gospel like fast food that people aren’t being fed?

    I mean, if the McDonald’s “drive-thru” model “worked”, would we still think it was wrong?

    After all, isn’t another word for “minister,” “dispenser?” Paul said, “I am a dispenser of the Gospel of Christ.” Some dispensers dispense Coke. I want to dispense the Grace of God.

    When I was a boy, I was an altar boy. And one of the things we used to do was go to the priest after mass and ask him to “bless us.”

    We would kneel and he would make the sign of the cross over us, muttering the words in Latin.

    Did we actually receive a “blessing”?

    I have no way of knowing.

    Are people “blessed” (in all the good meaning of that word) by the service at a mega-church? Or by a 400 year old liturgy? By a band playing scripture songs with a backbeat?

    Sorry, the knowledge to make such a judgment is beyond me.

    In fact, I don’t have enough knowledge to even make a guess.

    Remember the parable of the Wheat and Tares? What did the Lord say? “Let them both grow together. Wait until the harvest.”

    We seem to be the ones who always want to get those tares out NOW before they can choke the wheat. We want a pure church NOW.

    And most of the time (o.k. all of the time), I wish God had not said “WAIT.”

    According to the book “Mega-Church Myths”, nearly all of the mega-churches in America are orthodox in their theology.

    Is that enough?

    For some it is.

    “But what do I care?” Paul said, “Whether for good motive or bad? What matters is Christ is preached and I therein rejoice. . .and will rejoice.”

    And he did. I’ll try.

    Tom K.

  • 2. sumijoti  |  October 9, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Curtis stole my line: great post. 🙂

    Pastors who see themselves as “managers,” “leaders,” and “CEOs” of “dynamic and growing congregations,” rather than as shepherds, teachers, and servants of people” are like the hirelings Jesus mentions in the book of John. They tend to abandon the sheep when the going gets tough, because of their motivation for being there.

    A hireling is in the fold because of what he can get out of it for himself…it could be the accolades of men, or the honor bestowed on him, or something as small as a selfish need to be ‘needed’ so that he can feel he is somebody of worth in this world.

    Jesus is the perfect picture of a true shepherd. He is there because he loves the sheep. He loves them so much that he will lay down his life for them!

    The church is desperate for shepherds who are not in the thing for themselves or their own gain, but rather to please the heart of God. Their primary focus is on blessing the Father, and loving his people is the outflow of that. Shepherds with a true father’s heart will be willing to walk the humble road of servanthood, die to themselves, and lay down their lives for their sheep just like Jesus did..

  • 3. curtismchale  |  October 9, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Great post. I think that if we just live a life according to the biblical mandate we will live a life that is so contrary to the world that people will not be able to help themselves. They will want to know what is up and have a part in it.

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