Marketing the Church

by Steve Higginbotham, February 1994


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"Everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only the shorter it is the better." Charles Spurgeon

We are living in a time when outward success is preferred over faithfulness, when theology takes a backseat to methodology, when preaching the gospel gives way to drama, special music and pop psychology, when pragmatism transcends biblical exegesis, when poor doctrine is tolerable but a long sermon is not, when a sermon is judged not by its content, but by the way it makes you feel, and when God must be delicately packaged if he is to be sold to today’s very discriminating consumer.

What has caused such a sad state of affairs? I personally believe it is because we have forgotten just who it is that is sovereign. Somehow we have bought into the marketing strategy that says, "the consumer is always right." Thus, our primary concern has shifted from pleasing God to pleasing the masses. Therefore, we hear the continual cry for the need to change. This is the reason that worship services are becoming more entertainment oriented. This is the reason for the preoccupation with the length of a service.

And this is the reason more and more faithful brethren are complaining about never hearing the plain, straightforward, distinctive preaching they used to hear. John Mac Arthur, in describing this situation in his book entitled, "Ashamed Of The Gospel" stated, "Almost nothing is dismissed as inappropriate: rock n’ roll oldies, disco tunes, heavy metal, rap, dancing, comedy, clowns, mime artists, and stage magic have all become part of the evangelical repertoire. In fact, one of the few things judged out of place in church these days is clear, forceful preaching." Some have evidently forgotten that is God who is sovereign, not the worshipper. Our primary concern should be to please God, not the masses.

In light of this marketing approach, I have a few questions that need to be answered. What will we have accomplished if we woo the masses, have our church buildings full, but dispense truth in such small diluted doses that nobody is convicted of their sins and their need for salvation? What will we have accomplished if we gain the approval of man but lose the approval of God? What will we have accomplished if our churches become "user friendly" to the masses, but in so doing we make God our enemy?

What is the answer to our crisis? Return God to his rightful place of sovereignty. Discard the marketing approach that caters to the consumer. Oppose the philosophy that declares that salesmanship can bring people into the kingdom of God more effectively than the clear and clarion preaching of the gospel of Christ. Demand that preaching from the pulpit address eternal needs that are often unfelt, rather than focusing upon the temporal felt needs of man. And if we feel the compulsion too "market the church" in order to make believers, then why not simply follow God’s marketing strategy—"These things have I written unto you that you might believe.." (John 20:31). Preach the Word!

POWER is a monthly publication of the Southaven church of Christ.* This article may be re-printed and freely distributed. If this article is to be cited in other work please credit the author. The contents of this article may not be altered in any way.

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