How to Become a Successful Religion
To: James, President of the Jerusalem Council
Re: Initial Impressions
Shalom Marketing Ltd. was recently contacted by a member of your council, asking us to tell you about our services. He said to make it clear that he was footing the bill for this initial evaluation, with the hopes that our sound advice will encourage the council to hire us to guide your marketing efforts for the next strategic stage in your movement's life.
We have heard reports of your movement for some time now—who hasn't?—and our initial impressions are very positive! You seem to have dynamic leadership, organizational flexibility, and a natural touch with the people. Add some sophisticated marketing—well, who knows how successful you can become! Naturally, this brief memo will, by its nature, point out areas in need of attention, but make no mistake: We have great optimism about what we call your "effectiveness potential."
Let's begin with one of your leading PR men, Peter, who is clearly a gifted communicator. We believe he would find that our seminar "Winning Techniques for Effective Communication" would help him be more effective still! Unfortunately, he has the regular habit of berating his audience, just at the moment when he has them eating out of his hand.
For example, after that day when everyone thought you all were having one giant party in the middle of the day (by the way, that was a stroke of marketing genius, to show everyone that you all know how to have a good time), Peter gave what frankly was a long-winded speech (we'd recommend no more than five minutes in the future), rehearsing a great deal of history (we'd recommend sticking with the present; nobody cares about the past anymore), and then ended on a couple of awkward notes.
First, he made a point of emphasizing the death of your movement's founder, reminding one and all of recent bloody events. This, of course, casts a rather negative spell on the moment, as people were reminded of something unpleasant. Instead he should be spending a lot more time on your founder's so-called resurrection. We do not, as a matter of policy, judge the veracity of any group's religious claims, but we certainly recognize the resurrection's marketing appeal. It appears to be core to your business, so we would certainly encourage you to exploit its potential.
The other uncomfortable note was when Peter added insult to injury, blaming the crowd for killing your founder: "This Jesus … you crucified." And then he implies that the crowd is full of "lawless men." And if they didn't get the point, he drove home this indelicate point at the end of the sermon: "Let all the house of Israel [now equated with lawlessness] therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
We understand that Peter would have likely still been grieving over the death of the founder, but insulting your audience is not the way to win friends to the movement. :-)
Granted, a reported 3,000 people were added to your movement that day, which only speaks of Peter's incredible PR gifts. For if he could convince so many to sign up after this presentation, how many more could he have gotten had he been using the tools of "Winning Techniques for Effective Communication"?
Unfortunately, Peter did the same thing after that extraordinary incident with the lame man. More history, more death, and more insults, ending with, "But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life … ."
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
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