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Marketing in the Church

a purple cow is remarkableMany people don't like to think in terms of marketing a church. Many people are uncomfortable with the 'consumer/product' terminology when it's applied to the church - and in many ways they're right. God's love for Creation is not a commodity to be exported. It's not something you swing by a local church on Sunday morning to pick up your supply for the week. There's a danger when faith becomes consumer driven. Faith is an invitation to live in a relationship. But it is helpful, though, to make use of marketing language as we look for compelling ways to show people the truth of God's love.

Many have been calling for an overhaul in how the Christian church in the US functions. I think the "need for an overhaul" is not as recent as the economic situation we're currently in, and I think the needed "overhaul" has been happening, little-by-little, in small ways for years now. And I think it's a good thing. It's a necessary response to changes in culture.

Just as the first century Church had to figure out what it meant to live as Jesus followers under Roman government and Jewish religious influence; just as the advent of the printing press revolutionized communication and changed the availability of the Bible; just as other significant changes in history have come along, the Church has continually sought ways to "go and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to obey all" Jesus had taught. As cliche as it may sound, the Internet has changed the world we live in. The availability of information, the global connectivity of people, and the volume of our entertainment are just some of the ways that our world has changed in significant ways in the last twenty years. Historically, about every 500 years the Church has undergone intense renovations, much in response to cultural shifts, and I think we're in the midst of one of those times.

SO... I think that Church marketing (visible, remarkable ways of showing God's love) can be helpful in gaining someone's attention, but in a world that is not at a loss for information, presenting information is not enough. It's about (and maybe always has been about) where that information is coming from, or rather WHO that information is coming from. And that's where we see the importance of relationships in ministry. Call it customer service, call it followup, call it incarnational ministry... whatever... but it is important to consider how God's love is presented, and then how that's lived out in context of relationships -knowing and caring for people.

As we think of marketing in the church (telling the story we've got to tell), the message doesn't change, but the means of communicating that message must change. And I think the best way of communicating God's love with people, here and now, is not through force (think Crusades) or cultural institution (think government backed religious systems) or through just intellectual arguments and information (think the Renaissance and the Enlightenment), but is best communicated through personal relationships expressing the love of God.

(Btw, maybe read seth and cms.)

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