Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Church, Church Growth, and Marketing
Here's a great thought-provoking read from WesleyBlog.com. I agree that everything doesn't have to be either/or in this area...
I find it interesting that mainline pastors seem to be the biggest critics of church growth. The assumption among naysayers seems to be that if a congregation is growing quickly, then it has obviously watered down its message or sacrificed something for the sake of increasing its attendance. Sorry, but I don't buy it. Obviously we can't use numerical growth as the only indicator of a healthy church (consider Mormonism, for example), but more often than not, it's a good one. The anti-Willow Creek movement thrives on false dichotomies: theological depth vs. relevant messages, solid lyrics vs. rock music, slick marketing vs. truthfulness. The fact is, none of these are either/or propositions. We don't have to sacrifice Christianity's message to meet people where they are. Paul figured it out centuries ago. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.) Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and Adam Hamilton figured it out, too. The people who haven't figured it out are the same ones who promote the idea that not growing a church is okay. They're entitled to their opinions, but they're refusing to face the truth of a basic spiritual principle: faith that isn't reproducing itself is dying. If our churches aren't growing, something is wrong.
The idea of marketing Christianity doesn't set right with many of us, and for good reason. We don't like the word marketing. 21st Century Americans been bombarded with advertising. It's in our newspapers, on our TV shows, on billboards, buses, restaurant menus and web pages. It has crept into the names of sports arenas and even invaded the walls of public restrooms. If all that weren't enough, we can't even have dinner without being pestered by telemarketers. So I understand the backlash when church growth gurus dare mention the M-word. But the reality is, any church with an exterior sign markets itself to some degree, whether it calls it that or not. Marketing is simply promoting a product or service to the public. Where it gets a bad name is when companies attempt to create a need where none exists. (How many people do you know who trade cell phones and cars every other year because of persuasive advertising?) So if this is the kind of marketing we're talking about, then the church should have no part of it. But we're not offering the latest gadget, we're offering something people desperately need: eternal life and a relationship with Jesus Christ. That being the case, shouldn't we promote this even more, not less? Jesus himself met people's immediate needs as he shared with them why they also needed him on a much deeper level. And some of you don't like to be confronted with this, but it was Jesus who came up with the fishing metaphor- not Rick Warren or Adam Hamilton. Marketing isn't a bad thing: it's actually morally neutral. It's the what and how of marketing that make it good or bad.
Really effective marketing requires you to believe in your product. The problem is, many mainline churches preach an impotent faith that doesn't even excite them, much less the unchurched. Pluralism and relativism have entered the mix as well, along with a hint of anti-capitalism. The result? A bunch of churches that are clueless about what they believe, and even more clueless about how to persuade anyone else to believe it. Promoting one's faith implies that it is superior to other religious belief systems, and that is just downright offensive to the mainline mindset. Would Coca-Cola have gotten where it is today with the slogan, "All soft drinks are about the same, but we really hope you try Coke"? Of course not. And if that's true for something as trivial as a soft drink, doesn't it apply even more to something as important as faith?
What do you think the proper balance is? How is your church making a difference in your community in this area?Add Your Comments and Ideas now...
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Tracked on May 2, 2009 9:01:51 AM
SMASH! You just blew the target apart by obliterating the bulls-eye!
Posted by: Anthony D. Coppedge | Jul 28, 2005 7:01:04 PM
"The assumption among naysayers seems to be that if a congregation is growing quickly, then it has obviously watered down its message or sacrificed something for the sake of increasing its attendance."
I don't know about Bill Hybels and the other mega-pastors, but if they don't water down the message to get big attendance, it doesn't prove that others (or most other mega wanna be's) don't.
Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Jul 28, 2005 8:53:20 PM
Bernie said..."I don't know about Bill Hybels and the other mega-pastors, but if they don't water down the message to get big attendance, it doesn't prove that others (or most other mega wanna be's) don't."
True, but...neither does it prove that they do. So don't toss the baby out with the bathwater.
Posted by: M.A.P. | Jul 29, 2005 2:07:50 PM
An excellent article! I hope it gets read a lot.
After 20 years in marketing, I am now in the pastorate, and find the aversion to marketing that I hear voiced so often by church folk puzzling (and a sign of ignorance, though I can't tell them that).
Principles of good marketing are always good - no matter what the content (product or service). There is, of course, lots of bad marketing, but as Christians we "market" whether we like to call it that or not.
Evangelism itself is marketing (persuasion)! The fact that God is himself working with us in the process doesn't change the core issue that we're intentionally serving as a persuasive agent. In fact, as ambassadors for Christ, and His body on earth, every Christian is constantly "marketing Christ."
Perhaps one has to enjoy marketing to understand this perspective, but THIS (evangelism) is the coolest marketing there is, because there are no higher stakes, and there is no greater power (no better 'product or service') that can leap-frog eternal life.
And I confess that I love to see other "marketers" (evangelists) find ways to capitalize on a trend, or an event, or whatever. Whether it be Rick Warren, DC Talk, Chuck Colson, or whomever, I rejoice to see the variety of ways God uses to draw His children to Him (persuade them to acknowledge Him for His worth). I know that all of it is for His honor, even if some of them use methods I can't use. The challenge for me is to keep my passions and desires God's, so He can do all He wants to do through me, with what He's given me.
Thanks a bunch!
Posted by: JLB | Jul 30, 2005 10:29:54 PM
"The anti-Willow Creek movement thrives on false dichotomies: theological depth vs. relevant messages"
I'm not so sure. Some mega-churches may take a strong stand for the truth, such as one of my favorites, Calvary Chapel. But it seems to me that most may think the way to big, numerical growth is by avoiding controversy at any cost. I don't know about Willow, but there are many mega wanna be's that I fear would easily sacrifice good doctrine for the sake of numbers building, and empire building.
Q1: What should you do to build a church as big as possible in the shortest amount of time?
Q2: What would you do to create the most spiritual-mature congregation?
I'm afraid the answers to Q1 and Q2 are very different, and somewhat mutually exclusive. The answer to Q2 can alienate people, the premiere sin of someone who wants to grow a large church.
I have a lot of respect for the Calvary Chapel movement, and I think they have some very large churches despite their strong stands for truth (one of the few who focus on purity and still grow). I think the Calvary Chapel movement is a much better role-model for church planting and church growth than many of the more modern self-promoting ones.
Posted by: bernie dehler | Jul 31, 2005 10:04:06 PM
"Somewhat mutually exclusive"?
Either they are exclusive or they aren't. In this case, I don't belive they are. I love your comments and thoughtfulness on many posts, Bernie, but I have to respectfully disagree. Otherwise, you are arguing that Q2 - spiritually mature believers - cannot attract the unsaved in large numbers (Q1). I think honest spiritual growth and maturity is one of the things that can best attract and retain seekers into a congregation long enough for them to become believers and ultimately fully devoted followers. Sure, a flashy speaker with some money behind them to snazz up a facility can draw a crowd, and we all can think of a few in this category. But sustain a growing church for the long haul? Produce significant stories of life change? Grow to reach, share, and influence many other churches and spread the impact of Christ in the world? I think a spiritually mature congregation would be a group who's primary urgent concern would be Christ's greatest commandment - which certainly entails a big part of Q1.
Posted by: Tim Ritter | Aug 1, 2005 3:20:11 PM
A lot of mega-church growth has to do with location, location, location. They are in big cities or suburban areas. The largest church in the world is in Seoul, Korea. This is an old marketing concept that even St. Patrick used. He would find a crossroad in rural Ireland and build an abbey.
Megachurches come in all flavors theologically. I even know of a mega-Unitarian fellowship.
Megachurches get all the attention because of their size - period. It is attracts the human attention.
I believe that focus of any size church is quality. We are called to make disciples. That requires investment into people's lives - both the lost and the saved. It is time consuming, sometimes dirty and tiring but it is worth it. If I remember correctly, it is the Lord who builds the church. We are just to be faithful in publishing the Good News and train up the new ones in Christ to maturity.
Posted by: dsurvivor | Aug 1, 2005 4:44:11 PM
CHURCH GROWTH 101
1. You keep people by how reach them.
2. The more money a church/ministry has to spend to reach people the further away it has moved from biblical ways of reaching people.
3. The more gimmicks a church/ministry has to use to reach people the further away it has moved from biblical ways of reaching people.
Posted by: Kenny | Aug 11, 2005 11:48:49 AM
Ahhh, but while the initial post was about 'marketing', my question about *some* megachurches is the 'product' they're selling. I don't see certain megachurches watering down or simply repackaging the Christian gospel. What I see is some of them replacing the Christian gospel for an different 'product' entirely. The largest church in America is now Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. But you can watch hours of Joel Osteen preaching and hear virtually nothing about Christ. Instead, you receive a 'gospel' of 'be nice to people,' 'you can do it if you put your mind to it,' and 'think positive and you’ll be happy'. That's not just a new marketing strategy. That's an alternative gospel! Regardless of their numerical successes, we still need to ask if the people are becoming disciples of Christ or just members of Lakewood's club.
Posted by: Brian William | Nov 6, 2005 1:19:41 AM
Calvin Drake, Ministries & Charities
Gospel Concert August 2006, Cleveland, Ohio
TONYA GIPSON, gospel singer will headline
the concert singing her CD," What he done for me," and "Praise Him". You don't want
to miss this talent of full gospel entertainment concert, you can purchase her
CD on her web site. Tonyagipson.org.
CALVIN DRAKE, MINISTRIES & CHARITIES
3385 East 147th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44120-4133
Posted by: Rev. Calvin Drake | Feb 4, 2006 4:45:33 AM
The State of Ohio and their black officals are corrupt and adngerous to the black neighborhoods of thr city of Cleveland, Ohio. The Judges are corrupt in their duties
as officals of the state of Ohio.
All Judges on all levels of their false Government which plays on the lives of innocents prople and their children within the State of Ohio.
Written By : Rev. Calvin Drake
Posted by: Calvin Drake | Oct 26, 2006 3:00:30 AM
ALL JUDGES ARE, criminals and corrupt in their duties as judges in the state of Ohio
Posted by: Rev. Calvin Drake | Oct 26, 2006 3:07:47 AM
KEEP POLITICAL OFFICALS OUT OF THE CHURCH, FOR THEY ARE ALL CORRUPT AND EVIL DOERS
Posted by: Rev. Calvin Fell | Nov 2, 2006 9:51:55 PM
THE EVIL DOERS IN THE STATE OF OHIO ARE
GLORIA TOWERS, STEVEN BRINKLEY, CHRISTINE MONEY, STEPHAINE TUBB JONES, LOUIS STOKES,
KENNARD MCDUFFIE,SARAH HARPER, GEORGE TRUMBO,CARL BAYER, JERRY LEE WRIGHT, SHIRLEY STRICKLAND SAFFOLD, PATRICA ANN BLACKMOND, KENNARD HAWKINS, MARY HOLT,MARY YATES, MICHALE R. WHITE, TRYRONE BOLDEN,
KATHLEEN A. SUTULA, JUDY BAYER, SCOTT BAYER,
THEY ARE A TEAM OF GOVENMENTAL MURDERS WHILEHOLDING POLITICAL OFFICE, THIS INCLUDES
THE F.B.I. WHO REFUSE TO DO A REAL INVESTIGATION AND THE STATE OF OHIO POLITICAL COOORUPTION.
KEEP GOD IN MIND AND NOT MAN , DON'T EVEN TRUST NO MAN WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR LIFE, TRUST IN JESUS.
Posted by: Rev. Calvin Fell | Nov 2, 2006 10:00:36 PM
Francine Germany was saling and smoking drugs for Detective Nate Bolden and Curtis J. Watkins, smoking drugs with judge
Shirley Strickland saffold
Posted by: John Doe | Jan 3, 2007 8:50:06 PM
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