Friday, September 14, 2007

Marketing the Church

I'm currently reading David F Wells' book God in the Wasteland, in which Wells argues that the church has essentially sold out to modernism.

One area in which he says this has happened is the area of seeing what the Church is about as marketing - that of identifying a group to "sell" a "product" to, of marketing it and so on. In particular, he sees the danger as being the willingness to change or adapt the product to fit people's perceived needs rather than their actual needs, and of being faithless to God in order to be faithful to culture.

To my mind, however, he presents the issue as too black-and-white. We certainly should not sell out wholesale to the marketing philosophy. We should not change the God we proclaim or seek to worship him in ways which he has said are unacceptable. And it certainly seems to me that some churches, especially in the US, have gone too far in that regard. The whole Purpose Driven Church movement, for example, runs that risk because of the lack of clarity as to what the gospel actually is.

But neither does that mean that we should not be wise in the way that we seek to relate the unchanging truth about God to a changing society, or that there is some valuable wisdom which is used by marketers. Some marketing techniques imply a worldview opposed to that of the Bible. But not all do, and some can be co-opted for serving God.

Here's an extract.

Today, evangelicalism reverberates with worldliness. In first impressions, this worldliness does not appear ugly at all. Quite the opposite. It maintains a warm and friendly countenance, parading itself as successful entrepreneurship, organizational wizardry, and a package of slick public relations insights that are essential to the facilitation of evangelical business.

Now, there is nothing wrong with entrepreneurship or organizational wizardry or public relations or television images and glossy magazines per se. The problem is with the current evangelical inability to see how these things carry with them values which are hostile to Christian faith. The problem, furthermore, lies in the unwillingness of evangelicals to forsake the immediate and overwhelming benefits of modernity, even when corrupted values are part and parcel of those benefits. What is plainly missing, then, is discernment, and this has much to do with the dislocation of biblical truth from the life of the church today and much to do with the dying of its theological soul.

I agree. But I think that at times Wells overreacts. Maybe that's necessary in the kind of wake-up call he was intending to give though.

What we need is discernment.

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