This post (forgot to link earlier – oops!) explains really well why starting or running a church based on the "felt-needs" of a community is a self-defeating endeavor, and the difference between marketing a church and simply serving people as a natural extension of the demonstrating and proclaiming the gospel.
"The gospel calls us to surrender our desires, take up our cross, and
follow Christ. How can a church effectively invite people to ‘die to
self’ while constantly appealing to their self-interests?"
The author bases this on the practice of Jesus (a good place to start), quoting N.T. Wright in the process: "Jesus never performed mighty works simply to impress." Jesus didn’t perform healings to "get people to hear the message." Jesus’ healings were the same thing as the message, the healings accomplished the same thing as his preaching: restoring exiled sinners to God. He proclaimed and demonstrated the kingdom, in speech and action. Telling a parable about the kingdom or telling a lame man to get up and walk were an organic whole for Jesus. He didn’t heal to "market" his preaching. His healing proclaimed the kingdom, his preaching proclaimed the kingdom: two facets of a holistic message.
So Heartland is having something called Community Day on July 27th. We’re going to offer a free meal to the people of our neighborhood, an afternoon of fun, and free school supplies for families in need. But it’s not a clever way to "market" our church to the neighborhood, it’s a way of demonstrating the gospel. That subtle difference of motivation makes all the difference in the world.
Ron Allen says
“Jesus’ healings were the same thing as the message, the healings accomplished the same thing as his preaching: restoring exiled sinners to God.” EXACTLY!!
Dan Warnke says
The interesting thing about brand and marketing is that what you’re promised needs to be delivered. Companies can (and do) chuck tonnes of money at campaigns to ensure people (a) know who they are (b) what they’re offering and (c) how it benefits you.
If you ‘market’ successfully, then you’ll tap into the desires (or fears) the audience possess and essentially promise the answer or solution. Our issue is that we’re prone to believing the ‘solution’ lies in consuming something. What we end up trusting in, relying on, focussing on and worshiping, is essentially ourselves.
So if we discover our identity is not found in our desires, but in the midst of a community shaping one another to pursue the way of Jesus, it becomes less about exchange and more about process. As Stanley Hauerwas puts it:
“What Jesus offers is a journey, an adventure. Once undertaken, we discover that what we once held valuable, even the self, we no longer count as anything.” (1)
So, given businesses exist to make money (otherwise they’re not a business) and the idea of ‘marketing’ is about product and exchange (often economic). Then surely the nature of the church and marketing are entirely opposed to one another. If not, then does the church risk becoming an activity of economics?
The revolutionary nature of the gospel doesn’t appeal to our changing desires, so when confronted with it’s message, surely there isn’t going to be any appeal.
So what I’m wondering is how honest to the message are we? And who should the church identify with anyway?
1. S. Hauerwas. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. SMC Press (2003) p87