Marketing in the Church

I watched this video today, which I will title, Marketing for Food.

As I thought about that (I worked at marketing for a Fortune 100 company for 7+ years), I began to think about marketing in the church. Have we covered up the ugly aspects? Have we twisted what the Church is by changing the message?

Easy Targets for Marketing

It is easy for us to point fingers at the false marketing of the Christian life. For instance, this one DNA of a Winner by Joel Osteen, or this one “I want to deserve fire” by Benny Hinn. And the list continues. Yes, each one has a major problem behind the marketing demonstrated in the videos.

Sadly this kind of marketing always leads back to the person, and always disappoints, despite the marketing. Many have spoken to these issues, exposing them. If you have further questions, read your Bible, not just those proof texts promoted by the marketers above.

Harder targets for Marketing

But let’s move to the darker side of marketing in the Church. That darker side meaning you and me, as we live out the Christian life. Do we market the Church as we want people to see us on Sunday morning while in worship? Do we want to control the environment so that none of the ugliness of sin is seen, much less dealt with? Not sins “out there” but the sin in my heart, my hard heartedness, my loneliness, my withdrawal from someone who needs help, because I, too, need help?

The hard part is no one is paying for this marketing. I am doing it myself. No one is using a test panel to see which is the most effective tool to manipulate. No one is asking about the right color palette to use. No one is worried about their marketing jobs.

Marketing the Crucified Life

No, in the Church, we market by our lives, by what God is doing in and through us, by means of His Word and His Sacraments. Consider these marketing strategies:

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NAS)

[Paul said:] “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20 NAS)

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me — to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NAS)

When we get to life in the Spirit, as Paul presents it, notice that it isn’t outward deeds that receive attention, rather the forming of “Christ in you” (Galatians 4:19). Paul notes the deeds/works of the flesh are evident.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, bstrife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NAS)

But the marketing of the life in Christ is portrayed by Paul this way:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23 NAS)

So which is easier to market? Our flesh likes the first option. We are attracted to the flashy, catchy phrasing, the easy Christian life, that we only model on Sunday morning. But the life in the Spirit is marketed when we walk with someone through a divorce, through cancer, through rebellious teenagers, through fractured friendships. We will be misunderstood, misrepresented, misquoted, and even just plain missed.

There won’t be headlines to boast of this life, but it will be “Christ in us” through the Spirit that God will use for His purposes. No marketing campaign, no catchy YouTube videos of 10 minutes to success. But humility in the mud of sin and life, prayer in the pit of despair, and ultimately the Word that speaks to our condition, Baptism that reminds us of whose we are, and the Lord’s Supper that bring life and forgiveness to one who cannot see life or hope in anything.


HCSB Thinline

I am in my final preparation for this Sunday’s Pentecost sermon I was reviewing Acts 2 in HCSB. I found some printing problems in the Thinline Bible.

In the HCSB translation, quotes from the Old Testament use bold font and are indented. But notice in this passage in Acts 2:36



Also, I noticed the problem of the Old Testament references repeated with two separate footnotes. Here is another example in Acts 2.

I remember Dr. Carter mentioning something about this. Couldn’t remember if this was specific to the Thinline Reference Bible, though.


Interview: Book Review and More

Back on April 28, I reviewed the book Gospel Assurance and Warnings by Paul Washer. Shortly afterward Jordan Cooper (aka justandsinner) invited me to join him on a podcast to discuss the book review and further topics. The interview took place this morning. It was an honor to be interviewed and to discuss not only the book, but Law and Gospel, and true assurance of salvation. Interview.

We also had a chance to discuss the practical implications of getting this correct. Here are some additional links that will help:

Law and Gospel: Passive and Active Righteousness

Liturgy—Confession and Absolution

Liturgy—Brokenness, Forgiveness, Praise

The real world meets Law and Gospel

Matt. 18:15-20 Pt 1

I will give the text in Greek, then in English (NAS)

15 Ἐὰν δὲ ἁμαρτήσῃ [εἰς σὲ] ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου. ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου· 16 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα· 17 ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης. 18 Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν· ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ.

19 Πάλιν [ἀμὴν] λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν δύο συμφωνήσωσιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς περὶ παντὸς πράγματος οὗ ἐὰν αἰτήσωνται, γενήσεται αὐτοῖς παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς. 20 οὗ γάρ εἰσιν δύο ἢ τρεῖς συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, ἐκεῖ εἰμι ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν.

15 “If your brother sins [fn: against you], go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Textual and Issues:

There are really only two textual variants that call for attention. In 18:15, we have face the question whether the words “against you” (singular) is original. The manuscript evidence is divided, but early mss tend not to have the phrase. The listing of translations shows the variety; when a footnote is included about the manuscript differences, it is noted in parentheses.

omit clause   B 0281 ƒ1 579 sa bopt ; Orlem

NAS (fn), NIV (fn), GW (fn), NJB, REB, NET (fn)

“against you” D K L N W Γ Δ Θ 078 ƒ13 33. 565. 700. 892. 1241. 1424 M latt sy mae bopt

NKJV, HCSB (fn), ESV (no fn), NRSV (fn), NLT (no fn), NAB [bracketed]

NET has an extended footnote that is worth noting.

The earliest and best witnesses lack “against you” after “if your brother sins.” …However, if the MSS were normally copied by sight rather than by sound, especially in the early centuries of Christianity, such an unintentional change is not as likely for these MSS. And since scribes normally added material rather than deleted it for intentional changes, on balance, the shorter reading appears to be original. NA27 includes the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity.

I think it is easier to explain the addition of the phrase as a later manuscript change, which would match Peter’s question in 18:21 “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” Thus, the original would seem to lack the two words. In a later post, I will consider the implications of this difference.

The other texual issue involves how to translate the verbs in 18:18. There are varieties of ways to translate this verse:

HCSB I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

ESV Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

(fn: shall have been bound . . .  shall have been loosed)

NIV “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

(fn: “will have been” in both cases)

NKJV  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

As a future perfect passive participle I translate it this way:

ἔσται δεδεμένα (will have been bound) ἔσται future indicative; δεδεμένα middle perfect passive, neuter, nominative, plural

ἔσται λελυμένα (will have been loosed) ἔσται future indicative; λελυμένα middle perfect passive, neuter, nominative, plural

The idea behind this understanding of the verbs is when the disciple binds or looses (forgives) it will have already been bound or loosed by God in heaven prior to the declaration. So, the disciple is not in charge but declaring what God has already done.

On the other hand, if we accept the ESV or NIV (text) reading, then it would change the dynamics dramatically. The disciple now becomes the determiner of binding and loosing. That is, the disciple would seem to have the power to go and do any binding or loosing with the expectation that God has to come along forgive because the disciple has done the first act. More will be mentioned about this implications of this understanding as we explore all of 18:15-20.

Limits of this section

Sometimes Matthew 18:19-20 is used as a proof text for Christ’s presence with the gathering of any two or three Christians. The principle is itself okay, as it is supported elsewhere in Scripture. But in light of the two verses intimate connection with the preceding four verses, we have to interpret them as part of the entire section 15-20, not as a thought independent of its context.

For this study we will examine and interpret the totality of 15-20 rather than as two independent pericopes. This approach also then provides a natural segue into the following section, vv. 21-35.