Early on in my marketing career, I had an old buddy come up to me at an event and ask me accusingly, “As a Christian, how do you navigate the constant lying in marketing?” Throughout the years, I have heard similar sentiments from other Christians when talking about marketing. The word “marketing” often
has negative connotations for some people. In turn, the role it can play in the church is often downplayed or ignored.
The following are just some of the objections to “church marketing” that I have heard:
- We don’t want to commercialize the church.
- Marketing feels like it reduces the church to silly gimmicks.
- We don’t want to be like the hypocrites and be too showy.
- The church isn’t about giving people what they want. In other cases I have seen, some people are just turned off by the idea of
marketing because they have had bad experiences due to deceitful or sexualized consumer marketing practices from large corporations. Sometimes, marketing gets a bad rap because it can easily be misused if not done with care [James 3:1-12, Colossians 4:6].
When evaluating these arguments, one must ask if they are backed by scripture. If scripture is used, is it used in the correct context? For example, the argument “We don’t want to be like the hypocrites and be too showy” is referencing Matthew 6:1-6. The argument may be used against an eye-catching video that gets people’s attention, comparing its flashy nature to the hypocrites praying at the corner to be seen. The question is, what is the purpose in your heart for making and sharing a video like this? Are you trying to be seen so others will know how great you are, or are you trying to plant a seed?
Many of these concerns deal with personal feelings or lack of understanding of what church marketing truly means. It is clear that scripture addresses how we market the church, ourselves, and ultimately Christ’s salvation.
Marketing is just the basic act of promoting or selling a product or service. “Church marketing” is not much different. When talking about the church, the product is often salvation, and the act of promoting might be planting a seed [Matt 13:1-23]. Just as there are different seasons and roles when planting and harvesting [John 4:34-39], there are also different seasons in marketing. Another example of promotion in a different season could be preparing the soil before the seed is even planted. John the baptist did this when he “prepared the way for the Lord” [Matt 3:2]. You might hear aspects of church marketing often called evangelism, outreach, encouragement, opportunities, or communications from either an individual or local church’s perspective.
There isn’t a silver bullet or quick approach to church marketing and evangelism. Often, the goal of it shouldn’t even be to convert someone or change someone’s mind. Converting and winning souls is God’s job [John 6:43-45, John 10]. Our responsibility is to go into the world, spread the seed of the gospel [Mark 16:15-16], and be a shining light within the community [Matthew 5:13-16]. This takes time, patience [Mark 4:26-29], and trust in the Lord [Prov 3:5-6]. I appreciate Gregory Koukl’s point of view from the book Tactics, “All I want to do is put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give that person something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore...” Church marketing should be more about opening doors and creating opportunities so that God’s seed can be planted, flourish over time, and one day be harvested. We might only do one thing like plant the seed, prepare the soil, or merely distribute the resources needed for those planting, but the actual harvesting might come from someone else years later [1 Corinthians 3:6-7].
Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 about how, in order to preach to those who were weak, he had to first become weak. In Acts 17, he spent days conversing and understanding the Athenians before finally teaching them about the Unknown God. He also often uses analogies that are familiar to his audience like “finishing the race” in 1 Timothy 4:7. It’s amazing how Paul took on this user research mindset where he tailored the message to the audience he was speaking to. He really took time to listen to and understand the people first. We should do the same thing when we try to promote the gospel. The Bible doesn’t teach us to wait for people to come to us. Instead, we go to them, build relationships, and truly understand them so we can have a personal dialogue.
As individual Christians, we are marketing that we are Christ’s [John 13:34-35] just by separating ourselves from this world [Romans 12:1-2, Romans 13:1314] and being who we are supposed to be. We should be a shining light in the community around us [Matthew 7:15-20] and will be judged by what comes from our efforts as individual Christians [Matthew 7:15-20]. We should mind the way we live our lives, take care of our body [1 Corinthians 6:19], and realize that we are a walking billboard for God.
We already market the church based on biblical principles here at Cedar Park, whether we realize it or not. We share our live feed and recordings on social media. We have a website so people can learn more about us. We send flyers out to advertise for our gospel meetings. We have a church sign in the front so others can find us. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is plenty of room for improvement. Whether we call it church marketing or something else is of little significance because the concept is sprinkled throughout the Bible. At the end of the day, we need to get out there and “just do it,” because faith without works is dead [James 2:14-26].
- James Dow