theolog shmeolog

Thoughts on Marketing the Church

“When the consumer is allowed to be sovereign in Church, the Church is abdicating from its responsibility because it is allowing truth to become displaced by spiritual and psychological desire. However, once the concession has been made, we then discover that satisfying needs becomes a frustrating undertaking. Needs, in a therapeutic society, multiply faster than fruit flies. No sooner is one need met than two take its place. Co-opting the needy to church is not the same thing as seeing a sinner converted and brought into the Church. [BTW, “needy” here is not a reference to poverty.]

Furthermore, needs that are identified, the ones that are felt, may in fact conceal far deeper and more real needs. The need to be amused and distracted, for example, though it may be very real and deeply felt, may conceal what lies beneath it, a gnawing, aching emptiness. And that emptiness itself would be misread as a need if it were not seen as an emptiness which has been unrelieved and unaddressed by God in Christ. Retailing help for felt needs is what the massive self-help industry is about. What distinguishes the Church from this industry is truth. It is truth about God and about ourselves that displaces the consumer from his or her current perch of sovereignty in the Church and places God in the place where He should be. There is much idolatry in the making in the current situation [the Seeker-sensitive/Church Growth model of ‘doing church.’] As sinful human beings, we have an instinctual, compulsive bias towards forms of religion that we ourselves can create and control and that is precisely what consumer-driven religion invites us to do.

What is going to happen to the Church when those from our postmodern culture bring into it, not simply their musical tastes, but the disposition, worked out in varying degrees of severity, for living as if there were no viable worldview, and no absolute truth?” David Wells–“Above All Earthly Powers” pp. 302 – 303.

What happens? We get men like Rob Bell writing Velvet Elvis, calling into question the ability to truly define orthodox Christian truth, labeling doctrinal dogmatism as impiety, and claiming that true Christianity is best expressed by saying “I don’t know” when answering questions involving the virgin birth, the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. An innumerable amount of people bought his book–hailing it as the Answer to the Church’s problems. Seeker/Church growth models produced people who think like Bell–oddly enough, many of them reject the excesses of Seeker/Church growth model churches–even speaking derisively of their Seeker-Church roots. Such ones often are connected to Emergent/Emerging churches, or movement.

The bodies chopped up in the prop-wash, floating in the wake of the boat, often feel helpless and hopeless. We meet them all the time–they have possibly been steamrolled by fundamentalists, recruited by the Christian Right to find hope through civil change, entertained by the Seeker churches, and now have been given no eternal hope by the Emerging people.

What revival the Church needs! What return to Cruciform living is needed! What phenomenal necessity for Christ-centered, grace-motivated, Gospel preaching!

God help us to do so!

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3 Responses

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  1. Joshua said, on 1 July , 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Very well said! Not that I would accuse fundamentalists of “marketing” the church 😛

  2. theologshmeolog said, on 1 July , 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Joshua,
    Thanks for the encouragement. I have thought much on the fundamentalists and how we (I am a fundamentalist, separatist Baptist pastor) market the Gospel. While we were carping at Seeker sensitives, we were having bus captains swallow goldfish during Sunday AM service if they brought in X amount of kids. While we said the New Evangelicals were compromising with their music, our Youth Pastors were shaving their heads and dying their hair blue if their teens brought X amount of visitors. While Bill Hybels, etc., marketed the Gospel to 18 – 44 year olds, we rounded off the sharp edges of the Gospel and produced church buildings full of Easy-Believism “believers.” It goes on…I am encouraged by the number of men I know in the pastorate who are eschewing the worldly ways in which we were taught to do Gospel work, and are returning to more careful theology and praxis.

  3. Twitted by doc_newman said, on 2 July , 2009 at 12:37 am

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