Marketing the Church Part 3
Bob Hyatt put up his best of 2006 yesterday, and I ended up reading this post, Burger King Christianity, that fits perfectly with this topic. (Make a point of reading the whole thing, please.)
If it gets people to church, why should we not do anything possible, short of something immoral or illegal to get people there?
Because the goal is not to pack a room, and it’s not the Pastor’s job to get your friends saved. And shame on any pastor whose model allows people to think it is.
This is the phrase that has been going through my head recently: What you win them with, you win them to. The problem with the attractional model is this: We bring people in on the basis of consumeristic impulses and when they fail to make the transition from church consumer to servant of all, we scratch our heads and wonder what’s wrong with them.
There’s nothing wrong with them (well, there’s something wrong with us all, but that’s a different post). As Peter Senge says, your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.
Have a church filled with spoiled, selfish people who “want it their way?”
Well… guess why.
…the “user friendly” approach to church won’t work. There is no way to entice people off the streets with hymns that are based on advertising jingles and end up with the cross-bearing, self-sacrificial, burden-bearing Jesus. Evangelism cannot be based upon our basic selfishness (“Come to Jesus and get everything you want fixed.”) and end up with anything resembling historic Christianity.
One of the reasons why Church is difficult is that the modern media culture (a culture which has no other purpose than giving us what we want, since “getting what we want” is the main purpose of life) has been so successful in forming us into such consumers.
I used to want the church in the third world/global south to send missionaries to America. I wanted Chinese and African Christians to tell us what its like and to tell us what’s wrong with us. Honestly….I don’t know if it would do any good. The Gospel of American materialism is infesting other churches in other cultures. It’s a powerful virus, and we don’t know how to kill it.
You see, Jesus doesn’t just want us to have a theology that deals with failure. He wants to overturn the tables of our success and call us to an entirely different way of living in community. A way where worship is more important than food, clothing, houses and cars; a way where character in Christ shines far brighter than a new SUV.
Western Christianity has become a huge market (with our penchant for “Christian-related toys, doodads and décor”) worth $4.5 billion dollars according to USA Today. And we’re a market that’s ripe for the picking.
Out of Ur quotes the Wharton School of Business’s article “outlining why companies are adding churches to their marketing strategies.”
Church pastors last year had a chance to win a free trip to London and $1,000 cash—if they mentioned Disney’s film “The Chronicles of Narnia” in their sermons. Chrysler, hoping to target affluent African Americans with its new luxury SUV, is currently sponsoring a Patti LaBelle gospel music tour through African-American megachurches nationwide.
Advertising has begun to seep into churches, and the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, say academic, religious and marketing experts. Among the wave of early adopters: the Republican Party, which successfully sold its platform to church-goers in the 2000 and 2004 elections; Hollywood, which discovered the economic power of faith when Mel Gibson’s church-marketed film “The Passion of the Christ” became a blockbuster; and publishing, with Rick Warren’s best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life, heavily marketed by a Christian publishing house.
Megachurches offer a particularly tantalizing opportunity for those intent on network or “word-of-mouth” marketing, a strategy that capitalizes on social relationships to spread product information and influence purchasing, according to Wharton marketing professor Patti Williams. “Megachurch members are drawn together by a strong common bond. Networks that exist naturally facilitate word-of-mouth marketing, because people tend to share information with those they are close to,” she says.
Pastors make “great connectors,” adds Wharton marketing professor Christophe Van den Bulte, “because they reach a large audience once a week, and their words carry extra weight.”
Advertisers see us for what we’ve become – a waiting target market of consumers who gather together once or twice a week. They are looking for the most effective way to get their message to us. South African marketing webzine, Marketing Web, explains who we are to advertisers:
Today, 70 million Americans (a quarter of the population) call themselves evangelical Christians, more than seven million Americans go to church on Sunday, and nearly 50% of people who attend church go to just 10% of churches . These are the megachurches, famous for their massive congregations, vibrant styles, and high concentration of African-Americans. They are also threatening to some of their long established, traditional counterparts, especially considering their relative decline. Evangelical churches are the new brand of religion.
This new brand is not without its critics, particularly as it uses many of the tools of marketing: marketing surveys, wealth-creation advice, and even priests who call themselves “pastorpreneurs”. The head of the World Council of Churches claimed it was a church being organised on “corporate logic” . Whatever its logic, it appeals to people who have grown up with corporate-speak, and who see the new church as something novel and exciting. Attendance at evangelical churches has gone up by 57% in five years, and their average income in 2005 was US$6-million (US$7.2-billion for all churches) . (Bill: Note that the attendance at “evangelical churches” growth of 57% is debatable. See Barna, Revolution. The actual number of professing Christians is in decline in North America.)
The teachings of the bible do not sit comfortably with materialist or capitalist leanings, (Bill: Good grief, even they recognize this*) so it is perhaps surprising that new churches, like Hillsong, have found a way to bring wealth into the chapel. This church goes so far as to say people can become wealthier with God. Brian Houston, one of the founders, wrote a book called You Need More Money: Discovering God’s Amazing Financial Plan for Your Life .
A new industry has sprung up, of faith-based consultancies, chief financial and chief operating officers, and leaders with MBAs. One church even provides mortgage brokers and real estate agents.
Is it any wonder that church leaders think marketing tools are the best way to get consumers into church. God help us all.
I’ll respond to these quotes in Part 4.
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