by Wes Moore

The Kingdom of God is in trouble in America. The numbers vary by source, but, in general, 70-85% of churches in America are plateaued or dying, and 66-80% of our youth are leaving the church after their eighteenth birthday and never coming back.

Visit the churches in your area. Yes, you’ll find some with full parking lots (although you might want to question why—more about that later), but mostly you’ll find white hair and empty pews. A host of church property is for sale, and many museums and adult video stores owe their existence to the “great deal” they got from the church down the street that closed down after fifty years in the community.

Our response? Rebrand! Let’s get ourselves a logo, a catchphrase, and a marketing plan. Let’s poll the pagans down the street and see what they really want in a church and a god, and then let’s raise thousands of dollars for billboards and ad campaigns and exceed their expectations!

Hey, that’s the way it’s done in America, after all. We’re Christian capitalists now, the new, wiser generation of Christian evangelists. So, dust off the pews! Revival’s on its way!

Or is it?

Fallout from Marketing the Kingdom

But what have we really accomplished with this embrace of secular marketing to revive God’s Kingdom? [1] Are our churches suddenly filled with people? Has the culture been swept away by the power of our marketing savvy? Take a look around, friends. You don’t need a demographic analysis for the answer. [2]

In the end, marketing is the process of identifying the wants and needs of a target group of customers (called the “target market”), designing products and services that meet those needs, and then persuasively communicating the value of those products and services to that predetermined market. [3]

Right there in the definition we find the core problem. Read it again. Who is at the center of it all? The customer! In the end, marketing cannot be separated from what the people want.

Now, let’s think about the Bible. Whose “wants” are at the center of Scripture? Almighty God! Remember who it is that sits in Heaven!

His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34b-35; emphasis mine).

The core problem with centering church growth efforts on marketing is that we’ve replaced God’s will for mankind with mankind’s will for God. In the end, the two won’t mix.

Marketing Meets the God of the Bible

What people want in a god today is love (giving them whatever they want), acceptance (approving any lifestyle they choose, no matter how perverse), encouragement (always being “positive and encouraging”), gentle (never saying anything harsh or offensive), and, above all, painless (requiring no personal change or sacrifice).

And isn’t this the god we’re seeing preached in so many places around America today, even in churches that have been otherwise conservative and biblical? I can tell you from personal experience, it most certainly is.

Why? Because when you do the marketing studies, you’re not going to find that people en masse are looking for a God like the one in the Bible. He simply doesn’t fit their demographic.

So, in order to use marketing effectively in the culture of the United States, you must change your message in order to attract your “target market.” You must leave off anything that doesn’t jive with what the market wants.

And, let me tell you, they don’t want to hear about sin, Hell, judgment, holiness, or repentance; they hate the truth about homosexuality, Islam, and atheism; and they despise the requirements for sacrifice, suffering, and persecution that Jesus Christ himself set down.

What’s the Real Answer?

There’s a lot to say here. Next week, I’ll continue this discussion with a more biblical approach to growth in modern American culture. For now, let me just encourage you that you don’t have to buy off on secular marketing in order to faithfully build the Kingdom of God in your community.

In the end, it doesn’t really work, and, you may just have to sell out the gospel in the process.

Read Part Two>>

 


[1] Of course, not everybody has jumped on the bandwagon. But thousands have, and many more will succumb to its pull in the years to come.

[2] As a brief side note, I attended a church in North Carolina running about 300 in attendance on Sunday. They invested a huge amount of effort in raising $15,000 for a marketing campaign. Three years later the numbers were still the same, maybe even a little worse.

[3] I have a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Nebraska, and I also spent the better part of the last fifteen years in secular sales.

 


Wes Moore is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and the founder of Evidence America, an apologetics and evangelism training ministry. You can learn more about him at www.wesmoorenow.com.