Marketing and Christianity - Radiant

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Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

There seems to be a recurring theme that I'm bumping up against a lot in the last few days and so I'm feeling compelled to write about it today. It's the foundational discussion about whether marketing has a place within the Church. It's a topic that we obviously have a pretty strong opinion on at the office here, given our focus on Church communications. 

After a couple other brushes with the topic in the past few business days, today, Brian forwarded an article that was in the January issue of Christianity Today. The article was authored by Tyler Wigg Stevenson (sorry no online bio to point you to), the author of a book called Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age. It's a longish article based on the book, but one that I found absolutely fascinating and I look forward to picking up and reading the book.

The one sentence that really encapsulates a big part of Stevenson's argument was this: "...any salvation that needs a sophisticated sales pitch is a salvation that won't really do anything. It will make you holy the same way a new pair of Nikes makes you athletic—which is to say, not at all. It only changes your religious brand."

Perhaps surprisingly, I actually largely agree with Stevenson's thought process in that we can not presume that our marketing will draw people into a meaningful relationship with Christ. But that's really not all that different than the idea of preaching is it? Most Christians today would agree that preaching in church holds a special place in the call to evangelize and yet the apostle Paul refers to it as "the foolishness of preaching" because without the anointing of the Spirit, even preaching is a foolish enterprise.

So our belief is that despite all the weaknesses inherent in marketing, we cannot simply use a broad-brush to say: "therefore, since marketing doesn't save people, we shouldn't do it" - it's too heavy-handed and short-sighted. It is the intent of our heart that makes any evangelistic effort a success or failure. Changing of hearts doesn't belong to any of us or our devices, whether we're a church, a preacher, a marketer or just a person attempting to live his/her life in a Christ-like way. But that doesn't remove us from the responsibility of using all the tools available to us to do our part in communicating the Gospel.