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Most television sports fans put up with commercials to enjoy the privilege of watching the game. When it comes to the Super Bowl, I'm one who puts up with the game to have the privilege of watching the commercials. For this high and holy feast of American culture, marketing geniuses pull out all the stops to create some of the most memorable ads of the year. It's a day when America's magnificent marketing muscle is flexed in all its splendor.

As such, Super Bowl Sunday reminds us how much marketing permeates our life. If Jesus is "in, with, and under" the bread of Communion (at least according to Martin Luther), then marketing is "in, with, and under" every facet of American life. Estimates as to how many ads Americans view each day range widely—250 to 5,000—but even the low figure boggles the imagination. We swim in the waters of advertising, we are nursed on marketing milk, we breathe the air of the latest offer—choose your worn-out metaphor!

It's not surprising, then, that a church immersed in this environment would find it almost impossible to conceive of evangelism as anything but a form of marketing. If companies have slogans that make promises to customers, churches must have them as well. From "The family church, where everyone is welcome," to "The place where transformation happens," to "Every day in every way, growing closer to God," or whatever, the message is: Join this church, and you'll get some benefit.

Then there's the ubiquitous use of come-ons: Sundays when clowns or magicians or celebrities come to church to attract visitors. And the giveaways to first time visitors: coffee mugs, Starbucks cards, pens, Bibles. And the marketing cards (though we call them "Welcome Cards") for visitors to ...

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SoulWork
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.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
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Super Bowl Evangelism
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February 2011

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