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.