I'm currently reading The Tangible Kingdom, by Hugh Halter. I will very soon be writing on, reviewing, and regurgitating much of what Hugh has to say about missional community, it's biblical foundation and origin, and its powerful return as the main driver of the gospel to the lost world we live in. And when I say "lost world", I'm referring to the very culture, city, and neighborhood where you set your security system and shut your garage door. If the church - not "the place where" but "the people who" follow Jesus Christ - doesn't return to missionary, exile living (and abandon our sheltered, attractional ways), we will very quickly see that the Lord's main sending agent into the world has rendered itself irrelevant in America. But on to the real reason for this post.
In The Tangible Kingdom, Halter makes this statement:
"Advertisements by their very nature are intended to coerce thinking and behavior. They are needed when there is no personal relationship between the seller and the potential buyer. This type of coercion is expected when you're trying to decide what beer to drink or car to buy, but it's highly offensive when people try to tell you important truths without any tangible relationship."
In my first 2 years of college (when I was a Telecommunications/Marketing major at Texas Tech University), I was armed with just enough marketing and advertising knowledge to be dangerous - to myself and others. That said, it has actually been of enormous help to me as a pastor and as someone who knows that the power of influence is crucial. The above statement is spot on. And here's why it's important to those of us who are already IN the church:
We're quickly becoming "advertisers" with NO credibility to sell a product.
NO. I am by NO means suggesting that Jesus is a "product" (OR) that we are door-to-door salesmen. But that's my point. We act like we are. And the worst part is we really suck at it. What we ARE good at is the old "Bait & Switch". Of course the above billboard is going to get some folks attention. But when they show up and the Jesus you sell them is only half as interesting as Justin Timberlake, they're done. Seriously? Jesus is bringing sexy back?
If you don't agree with me, or you're just plain agitated with what I'm saying, then think about this question for a moment: Why do churches need to "advertise"?
Shouldn't the lives of "the people who" call themselves "the church" be so powerfully impacting the lives of those around them that the idea of needing to put a mediocre commercial on cable TV borders on absurd? Should we be "coercing" people to visit "the place where" or should "the people who" be influencing them in such a way that they just long to be a part of this thing called the family of God?
This is not a post against commercials. I have friends who make commercials.
This is a question about HOW we're attempting to reach people.
Are we even making an attempt?
Are we broken for those around us who are walking in darkness, bearing the weight of hopelessness?
Are our lives building credibility to the message our lips should be speaking:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."