Mark Galli on Church Marketing

“When the church starts marketing itself or the gospel, something odd is taking place.  It subtly turns the free gift of grace into a transaction.  It harnesses the unpredictable God and shackles him to a transaction.  It suggests that the church is offering people some benefit they can consume.  At the same time, it inadvertently suggests that the church somehow receives a benefit in return–more warm bodies at its services, for one.  When you market a church, the assumptions of the marketplace–that it’s all about an exchange of value for goods and services–begin to pervade the church…

“No wonder we find church people more transient than ever.  If church is like a business, members will demand more and more from their churches, and if churches don’t deliver, people will take their spiritual business elsewhere…

“And should it surprise us that in this era, pastors increasingly think of themselves as managers, leaders, and CEOs and that preaching has become less an exposition of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection and more often practical lessons that offer a lot of ‘takeaway value,’ presented in an efficient, friendly manner, as if we were selling cheeseburgers, fries, and a shake.

“The problem, again, is not marketing as such or trying to help people know the wonders of the gospel!  It’s when the means becomes the ends, when the method becomes a kind of madness, when we subtly imagine that a result–more members in the pews or more money in the offering plate–is dictated by our marketing model.  The problem is that a living faith in the dynamic and unpredictable work of the Spirit has turned into a dreary business with predictable results.

This is not freedom but a new legalism, the mere following of rule–albeit the rules of marketing…  To live at the beck and call of marketing logic is a form of slavery.

“Instead of trying to manage our reputations or our church brand, how much more freeing would it be simply to point to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?  Instead of selling faith as a transaction (‘believe in Jesus and you’ll benefit in this life and the next’), wouldn’t it be more liberating simply to describe what Jesus has done for us?  In short, instead of marketing the faith, wouldn’t it be so much easier to be witnesses?”

Mark Galli “Chaos and Grace: Discovering the Liberating Work of the Holy Spirit




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