*UPDATED*: Marketing The Gospel – Bad Or Good?

poor-church-marketing1

My recent article on church marketing (“Jesus Is Not A Brand”) really got me thinking about marketing the Gospel.

As I stated in the article, I don’t intend on being a rigid “traditionalist”, but I’m just tired of seeing horrific examples of cheap gimmicks that are passed off as “evangelism”.

I mean, c’mon…“Pimp My Church”?

Really?

I was recently made aware of some folks who are trying to get “it” right– and I realize that I’m not against marketing (per se…the jury is still out…), but I AM against bad marketing.

That said, what do you think?

Feel free to respond to the poll, leave a comment, or both. If you want to defend it, then do so with sound scripture. If you want to rip it apart (as I have in the past), then defend yourself.

So, what do you say?

*UPDATE 1/14/09*: When I originally wrote this article, I forgot to mention an example of tasteful (and effective) church marketing. Regular contributor (and fellow blogger) Pastor Jim was featured in an article that detailed his marketing efforts when first planting his suburban Atlanta church a few years ago:

“Reaching Out or Selling Out?”

Jim Moon started his church with cold calls. Presented with 10,000 names to call, his core group thought he was crazy. But three months later, they launched a church.

Marketing methods, such as cold calling, have long created a canyon of division and controversy within the church. On one edge of the canyon are those that claim “selling” your church with telephone calls or radio ads is “selling-out” to the world. Across the divide are those that claim marketing techniques gleaned from the consumer world can equip the church to more effectively accomplish its goals.

Here’s where a potential disaster (e.g. “emergent church”) was averted and an example of successful marketing took place instead:

“I feel like I could start a business now from all that I learned about marketing,” he continued, with a sigh of relief that the start-up stage of Crosspoint is over. Reflecting on his journey, Moon describes his overall approach as “unmarketing.” These days he focuses on straight talk about Christ and sin. “What we’re ‘selling’ is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to compete when you’re preaching the Gospel. It’s not a popular product because it tells you what’s wrong with you first,” says Moon. “There are people out there selling an experience, trying to remove all the barriers – including sin. They are an abomination because they don’t talk about Jesus Christ.

Amen, Pastor Jim.

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14 Responses to “*UPDATED*: Marketing The Gospel – Bad Or Good?”


  1. 1 Rose-Bud January 13, 2009 at 1:30 am

    This a tightrope for churchs to walk. I have seen church’s grow without a marketing plan, and one grow with a marketing plan. I personally think it is better for the church to grow through the evangelism of the pastor, and its members.
    I remember back in the day when the neighborhood church members would walk thru the hood and talk with folks. We got to know them just as they knew us.
    Then in the early 90’s something happened and church members were no longer seen walking through the neighborhood, but getting in their cars and driving home.

  2. 2 N'Catina January 13, 2009 at 8:28 am

    You’re right, Rosebud, this is quite a tightrope to walk. As a matter of fact, this very issue was raised at a home-based bible study meeting I attended just last Friday. The scene was the home of a very good friend of mine and, along with his wife, are in the process of purchasing a church property and building a congregation. In the course of discussing Ephesians 4 and the specific gifts God gives each person to equip the church for spiritual growth, the conversation turned to this very subject of marketing the church.

    Essentially, the lines were drawn between my friend’s mentioning of a nice watch, suit and other “items” as an initial draw for the people and my insistence on “marketing” the Gospel first–a draw between appealing to the eyes versus the heart of the person at first contact. After hashing out the details conerning intent–drawing people in using the goods with the mind to fleece the sheep later versus drawing them in with the Good News while having the nice watch, clothes, etc. supplied by God’s grace through the person’s work–we settled this question.

    The legitmate concern to ensure that marketing the Gospel such that the Word itself is not squelched is paramount. As a person that does graphic designing work (most recently for the church), the goal is tastefully marketing the “client” to the audience while ensuring that Jesus is made the primary “draw,” not the person themselves. It is not easy to do so in this “pump me up,” self-centered advertising, but providing the INTENT of one setting forward to build God’s kingdom is in order, then the grace of God, IMHO, should be on that person to grow His house. Otherwise, take a bulldozer to the rest.

  3. 3 speaking truth January 13, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for your comments Rosebud and N’Catina. Your remarks speak to the “grey area” that too much “church marketing” falls into. I’ve heard from others (privately) who have done marketing consulting with mega and wanna-be mega churches. They often tell of the “we want to grow” mentality and the wordly demands that their clients place on them so that the “minstry” can rival the exposure that wordly business get – in the media and on the street.

    Interestingly, the very first article I ever posted was about church marketing, and I suspect that this discussion could go on until Christ returns – then we’ll really learn if we did it properly…or not.

  4. 4 Pamela January 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Marketing is manipulation. I say this as a Christian that suffered through marketing classes while fulfilling a business minor and earning an MBA degree.

    For example the going thing in recent years has been the family church. It is sold because ‘this nation is hostile to families and that they need special ministry’. The Bible makes no such distinction between married and unmarried people. All need the gospel. There is maybe 1-5% of the Bible that teaches specifically on the issues of marriage and singleness. As a single person I knew full well that God did not tell the vast majority of pastors to minister to families. I was convinced it was marketing madness, especially when in some circles instead of saying how many members they have they now say how many families they have. This was confirmed when a friend of mine spoke with a pastor about a year ago. At the time my friend was unmarried and I believe spoke to the pastor about how she felt unwanted and ostracized when she went into a family church. I had told her that family churches do not want single people, especially single women since they suspect we are all home-wreckers. The pastor came out and told her that marketing consultants were telling pastors to do this to grow their churches.

    If a Christian is going in the power of the gospel manipulation is not needed. If the goal is numbers than marketing will get you there BUT what will be the quality of the ‘disciples’ that come.

    Show me one place in the Bible where gimmicks were used to reach people for Christ. The money used for marketing can be better spent. The time developing manipulation strategies can be better spend communicating with the Lord. He can tell people what the needs of their communities are and how to reach them with the gospel. The plans may not be what they were trained to do in Bible school.

    • 5 speaking truth January 13, 2009 at 1:53 pm

      For example the going thing in recent years has been the family church. It is sold because ‘this nation is hostile to families and that they need special ministry’. The Bible makes no such distinction between married and unmarried people. All need the gospel. There is maybe 1-5% of the Bible that teaches specifically on the issues of marriage and singleness. As a single person I knew full well that God did not tell the vast majority of pastors to minister to families.

      You make a very good point, Pamela, although some would argue that the Gospel does deal with the married and the unmarried (most folks point to Paul’s admonishments in 1 Corinthians 7:1-17).

      As a whole, God is more concerned with the salvation of the sinner (according to His will) verses whether or not the person is single, married, a youth, etc. Further, you’ll also notice that there is no biblical precedent for “Youth Minister”, Minister of Pastoral Care, etc – these positions were all born out of the (a) need for multiple people to assist in large ministries or (b) the bloated ego’s of pastors who wanted the appearance of many people working at his direction.

      I too have an MBA and I remember my grad and undergrad courses whenever I see the latest “thing” from savvy marketing “ministries”…and I wonder exactly how their packaging glorifies God and the Gospel of His Son.

      I believe that we can give more deference to the pure Word and attract and minister to the hungry without compromise…

  5. 6 escapeetoo January 13, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Marketing the Gospel (The Good News of Salvation) is not a bad thing per se. However when we apply worldly priciples to God’s order we miss the point. His ways are not our ways. The message of the Gospel is straight forward. Preachers feel thaey need to compete for “your business” just like the world does.

    I realize we need to “attract” just as a light does. However, as Christians we should illuminate a Christian lifestyle and not draw the sheep in with a conceert like atmosphere. Preachers today thin they ned to compete with the rest of the entertainment world.

  6. 7 steward January 14, 2009 at 1:04 am

    We’ve made ourselves visible through our elaborate sanctuaries, energetic conferences, social alliances, political influence, catchy billboards, pop music groups, energetic websites, tag line t-shirts, tattoos, entertainment events, radio and TV broadcasts, Christian concerts and cruises, and engraved jewelry; but our efforts have brought very little tangible results.

    The above ways of “reaching out” have very little to do with actually reaching out. Advertising is not reaching out. Making sure our church sign is lite up at night is not reaching out. Making sure there is a “got faith” billboard on the busiest street corner is not “seeking and saving”.

    Marketing only says there is a God, and is not the opportunity to prove God. On the other hand, proving God, is the opportunity to market Him. It’s all backwards.

    You don’t say to your girlfriend/boyfriend that you love them without showing it first. So why would the world positively react to anything we say about God? I don’t care if you wrote “God loves you”, “John 3:16”, or “Sinners go to Hell” on colored poster, football face paint, or a bumper sticker. If our actions showed the presence of God to the world, then we would hardly have to remind them about God.

    We have resorted to marketing God, because we have failed miserably in proving God through our actions. So to pad our ego, and cover our faults, we’ve decided to put our efforts into advertising and blame the poor numbers on hardened hearts and a declining morale.

    It’s a sad day when a creative Church staff is more valuable than a serving staff.

  7. 8 speaking truth January 14, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Excellent comment, steward…it cuts right to the heart of the motivation of some marketers.

    We have resorted to marketing God, because we have failed miserably in proving God through our actions. So to pad our ego, and cover our faults, we’ve decided to put our efforts into advertising and blame the poor numbers on hardened hearts and a declining morale.

    Nuff’ said, brother. Like the new avatar BTW…

  8. 9 jjbrock January 14, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Hello! I agree Steward we have resorted to marketing God, because we have failed miserably in proving God through our actions. The only marketing tools we are in need of, is a holy life style.

  9. 10 hiscrivener January 15, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Yeah, but when you have a creative AND serving church staff, how great is that?

    There is a church closing its doors EVERY DAY in America these days. I’m sure statistics are similar around the world. Why? For a few reasons:

    1. No one knows these churches exist.
    2. There is absolutely no differentiation between First Baptist and the schmucks running this living room church.
    3. The days of bake sales, car washes and running the church program off of MS Word 98 is long behind.

    The Gospel is the Gospel… to us. But to the lost, it has to be a product to make a dent in their medulla among the rest of their purchasing sprees. But as it was so sagely offered earlier, this is an experience.

    And how many of those travel guru schmucks do you see on TV? IJS. 🙂

  10. 11 EnochWalked January 15, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Praise the LORD!

    Awesome commentary and Happy New Year Speaking Truth.

    All of us of the faith once delivered unto the saints fully realize that WE AIN’T fulfilling the great commission–not as a whole anyway.

    What did our LORD command us? Mark 16:15-20 KJV
    (15) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
    (16) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
    (17) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
    (18) They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
    (19) So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
    (20) And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    Now let’s contrast to the typical church, organization, fellowship, etc TODAY. I pray none of you are offended to what I am going to say is happening as a whole in modernized Christianity.
    15. Now the pastors, church boards, and the people said unto to each other. You notice, NOT what JESUS commanded, but what we(man) commanded…commandments of men.
    “Let’s go to the world and use the world’s methods to reach people(not souls!) and market OUR Church, OUR Pastor, Our Bishop, Our Denomination to every creature.” Do You all see how silly and sick we have become? LOL! LORD forgive us!
    16. “He/she/they that believes in our marketing/presentation…my ministry, our mega club, make him/her a member or better…a partner to give tithes and offerings…and those like Speaking Truth and others that reject partnership are not blessed(damned).” Do you all see how man and marketing the gospel(selling HIM and not sold out for HIM) has perverted the gospel?

    Now as a whole, none of us are even close to fulfilling verses 15-16 which will fulfill 17, 18, and 20.

    I close with this…we are living in the Laodicean hour. All of us, it starts with myself, must repent and return to our first works.


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