On Marketing the Church

Where We Stand

9 April 2015

In an effort to promote the development and growth of evangelical churches, many have adopted marketing strategies to advertize and promote churches in their communities. In the USA many of these assemblies have developed into “mega-churches” attended by thousands and offering a virtual religious subculture for their members. 

Although in Europe the slick American style mega-church is a rarer find, many smaller assemblies feel pressure to walk the same road -- make unconverted people “feel comfortable” in church meetings, and adopt methods borrowing heavily from entertainment, business and popular culture. These churches have tended to become places for therapy rather than for God-centered worship and the training of believers for ministry.  And perhaps even more dangerous, the mega-church model has tempted high-profile speakers to set up multi-site "franchises" built on personalities and church "brands".  When the mega-star falls from grace, as will almost always occur sooner or later, the failure disillusions many followers and the movement collapses. 

In recent years many of the higher-profile mega-churches have moved into the mainstream of ecumenical dialogue and a new social gospel, promoting education, eliminating poverty, promoting religious pluralism and seeking to bring a Christian influence to bear upon the unregenerate culture. In a reaction to the mega-church movement others have espoused the “emergent conversation” where church members are urged to deny many of the Bible’s more controversial doctrines, emphasize religious experience and seek broad inter-faith dialogue.

It's certainly nothing new, this marketing of the church.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians about people who "hawked" the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:17, ". . . for we are not like many, peddling the word of God").  His term kapéleuontes evokes the image of a petty retail merchant who sells his wares deceitfully and for personal gain.  The same apostle reassured the Thessalonian believers that his motivation in bringing the gospel to them was never rooted in a desire for personal gain or man's approval (1 Thessalonians 2:5-6).  His principles give us pause today, when so many feel pushed to compete as if they were selling a product few people want any more.

CCC seeks the growth and multiplication of Bible-teaching churches in Luxembourg and the greater region. However this must never be done at the expense of the health of the local body, or by the use of methods that compromise the Bible’s message. We need not “make the Bible relevant” by addressing the “felt needs” of our listeners; rather we must address the true needs of our community – felt or not – by faithfully proclaiming the whole Bible’s message to all who will listen.

The gospel is a message about something infinitely costly, paid for by God Himself, and freely available to every believing sinner.  If the church's message is forgiveness paid for by Jesus, there's no reason to make her into something that looks more like a business than a family. 

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