Thursday, May 27, 2010

Marketing the Church

by Bruce Mills
One of my significant concerns about the American evangelical church is that it has no idea what the purpose of the church as a body is to be.  It has largely abandoned the method which Jesus and the apostles used; namely, preaching the truth of the gospel, teaching the Scriptures, and exhorting believers to obedience.  Instead, it has chosen to adopt the world’s marketing methods to determine what its message will be and how it will be presented.
Afraid to offend the listeners and choosing rather to entertain them, many pastors have decided that preaching in a lecture-listener format is too old fashioned and boring for the educated, erudite American ear.  Thus, they believe it is necessary to use drama, skits, movie and television clips, popular secular musicians, and a watered down presentation of the gospel which is devoid of any serious mention of sin, judgment, repentance, or the lordship of Christ. 
Going to church is now supposed to be entertaining and, seemingly, only superficially enlightening about one’s human interpersonal relationships, rather than instructive on what God has to say in His word about who He is, what He commands, how we are to relate to Him, and what we need to do in order to grow and change to be more like Christ.  Moral absolutes are out; subjective recommendations on how to live are in.
I am now re-reading John MacArthur’s book, Ashamed of the Gospel, which has just been updated and released in a third edition.  The following is an excerpt which I found particularly pertinent regarding today’s American church culture and I decided to share it with you.
Having absorbed the world’s values, Christianity in our society is now dying.  Subtly but surely, worldliness and self-indulgence are eating away the heart of the church.  The gospel usually proclaimed today is so convoluted that it offers believing in Christ as nothing more than a means to contentment and prosperity.  The offense of the cross (cf. Gal. 5:11) has been systematically removed so that the message might be made more acceptable to unbelievers.  The church somehow got the idea it could declare peace with the enemies of God.
When on top of that punk rockers, ventriloquists’ dummies, clowns, knife-throwers, professional wrestlers, weight lifters, bodybuilders, comedians, dancers, jugglers, ringmasters, rap artists, actors, and show-business celebrities take the place of the preacher, the gospel message is dealt a catastrophic blow.  “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom. 10:14).
I do believe we can be innovative and creative in how we present the gospel, but we have to be careful to harmonize our methods with the profound spiritual truth we are trying to convey.  It is too easy to trivialize the sacred message.  And we must make the message, not the medium, the heart of what we want to convey to the audience.
Don’t be quick to embrace the trends of the high-tech megachurches.  And don’t sneer at conventional worship and preaching.  We don’t need clever approaches to get people saved (1 Cor. 1:21).  We simply need to get back to preaching the truth and planting the seed.  If we’re faithful in that, the soil God has prepared will bear fruit.
I don’t think anyone could have said it any better.  Many within the American evangelical culture have decided that it takes a skit and a slick, market-driven “conversation” to win Christ-followers.  Such a view completely ignores the fact that no one ever comes to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws that person, and when He does, His effectual call will result in that individual coming to Christ in saving faith, no matter how “out-dated” the method of sharing the gospel may be.


SandMan said...

I must admit that I have heard of these schemes and market-driven tactics, but on some level believed the problem to be exaggerated.

Until, that is, we were invited to visit an extended family member's church for a dedication service for their child. There were the rock band guitar riffs, drum solos, breathy pleas for folks to really worship (which I assume must mean be more emotive because people were singing). Then the special music: A King's of Leon (secular band) song that goes something like this:
Don'tcha know that I could use somebody, Someone like you.
I assume this song was originally intended to be a guy trying to convince a girl to give him a chance because you know, he could use somebody. Anyway, the pastor went on for a while about how we need to be better fathers, equated sin to poverty, sickness, and human frailty and then when he finally mentioned Christ made a blanket statement about how Jesus died to free us from our (new definition of) sin, and how God is intending to right all these "wrongs" in our lives.

We were surely glad to be home to Lakeside the next week. Thank you Bruce and all of our Pastors for the faithful teaching of God's Word. May God richly bless your ministries.

ABurkholz said...

I really wish that this problem was exaggerated. The 'pastor' at the 'church' I work for reads more business strategy & 'How to change the church model' books than the Bible. I also have been told that "in seminary, a professor told me that if I couldn't sell a vacuum cleaner, how could I ever expect to sell Jesus".

In addition to the marketing/business leader slant there has been more and more talk lately about social justice & equality and racial reconciliation at the same time that a $1000 new laptop becomes a 'need' for the 'pastor'. Last Sunday, the message consisted of VBS pictures and stories, which have their place; but I'm wondering where these people go to be fed/taught, and if they don't know the Word, who are they worshipping?

Praise God for leading us to Lakeside and giving us meat to chew on. We are so grateful for His provision of our Pastors/Elders/Teachers, and thank God that when we 'examine the scriptures daily to see if these things are so', we get a resounding YES. God Bless You!