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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 ...

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Displaying 1–24 of 24 comments

Roger McKinney

February 08, 2011  1:48pm

Obviously, one's attitude toward marketing depends upon one's soteriology. It appears that many people think that ugly Christians block sinners from salvation and beautiful Christians attract them, so we need do nothing to evangelize but to be beautiful Christians. It's as if they think salvation is a beauty contest. But Jesus and the disciples were the most beautiful Christians ever and they got crucified. The vast majority of Israel rejected Christ. Was it because he was a poor example? I think not! What did Jesus say was the reason people reject him? He said their hearts were hard, like stony ground. He said they love darkness more than the light because their deeds are evil. Through Paul, Jesus wrote that people know the truth but suppress it with immorality. Even crass marketing is nothing but an attempt to persuade sinners to listen to the gospel one more time. But if you think salvation is a beauty contest you won't be interested.

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Clem Boyd

February 07, 2011  10:59am

We settle for a marketing approach because it's easy, plain and simple. There is a place for marketing, but it's secondary (or third-ondary, maybe fourth-ondary) to what Mark writes about. With marketing we can say we've done our bit for evangelism without getting messy or being put out. We don't have to go to the messy, sinful person's house and have dinner with him. We don't have to deal with their complicated life choices. We don't have to visit them in prison, dig around in our closets to give them a shirt or do anything that's uncomfortable. I was struck the other day how Jesus said people referred to him as a pig and a drunk who hung out with low-lifes (my translation of Luke 7:34). Would people accuse us of that because we're trying to love some folks who don't know God? I hope so.

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Matt Pennock

February 07, 2011  12:06am

It's sad how many have come to believe marketing is equated with publicizing. The painful part is the scores of people being sold salvation on the cheap who expect to receive this nice, wonderful "abundant" life that Jesus in fact did not promise (there is a world of difference between "abundant life" and "life abundantly") only to be bitterly disillusioned down the road when they find out that it's actually a hard life ("the way is hard") and that there is a cost of discipleship which goes way, WAY beyond your church attendance, tithe, and a $75 leather bound Bible. You must lose your life, your whole life. Jesus did not come to give you your dream life. He came to take it. Think about his words to the rich young ruler living the good life. Some marketing strategy! Check out for more on how this has been detrimental to our witness as a church.

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Karl Dahlfred

February 06, 2011  1:00am

Excellent analysis. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is nothing new. Going back to Charles Finney's 19th century revivals in NY and on the American frontier, the church had been using a man-centered approach to get people "saved" for almost 200 years. The underlying problem is that we have little confidence in God's appoint methods to save people - His Word (Rom. 10:17) and the love of the Christian community (John 17:22-23)

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February 05, 2011  3:11pm

@steve m - It sounds like you read only the first page of this article. If you read the other two pages, you'd have seen that Mark did offer an alternative -- trusting in God's grace instead of our own abilities, and living out lives of genuine love for our neighbors.

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Peter Brown

February 05, 2011  1:03pm

excellent insights and comments. thanks mark. for all those interested in reading more on the subject, please read "the Heart of Evangelism" by Jerram Barrs. Jerram addresses just such these issues and gives healthy perspectives of how we are to live in light of the Gospel.

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Carol Krebs

February 05, 2011  9:44am

The contrast between a marketing approach to evangelism and the reality of the Gospel is excellent, but it takes too long to get there. The ironic placement of numerous ads within and around the article depresses me. Thanks for making us think.

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steve m

February 04, 2011  10:16pm

I counted 17 ads on this article's page....... It is always easy to criticise, but what about solutions? Alternatives? What benefit is an article that seems to just rant. If handing out freebies is no good... then what are some other ways a church can show appreciation consistantly? If getting there info on a marketing card is too much then what are some thoughts on ways to keep accountable with those who invest their time to worship with you?

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February 04, 2011  4:22pm

Jesus did say "Gotherefore and spread the Gospel throughout the Nations and baptise the people in the Fatherm The Son and The Holy Sprit".

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Matt W

February 04, 2011  3:54pm

Gee, I went to church and they gave me free travel coffee mug for just being there. It even had the church's name stamped on the mug. Then they invited me to a free lunch. I didn't think it was a marketing gimmick. I like going to a church that displays kindness to strangers. Then the pastor preached a great sermon with two stories from his own life. Again, I didn't think he was selling Jesus. I like listening to a pastor who is a specific human being with a real life. Sure, the church goes overboard with marketing gimmicks, and, like Mark, I hate that. But, then again, I don't want get jaded about people just being nice and real.

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Roger McKinney

February 04, 2011  2:48pm

I think Mark's problem is with certain examples of bad marketing and not with marketing the gospel in general. Marketing is not different from speaking to large crowds on the shore of the lake as Jesus did or speaking to large crowds in the marketplace as did Paul. Jesus attracted large crowds through his miracles and promises of a better life if people followed him. But he understood that most of those following him did so for the wrong reasons. They either wanted food or for him to lead a military uprising. In Athens, Paul had no way of attracting crowds, so he went to where the largest crowds gathered by habit, the marketplace, and spoke to them. Both are examples of mass marketing. Later, Jesus and Paul worked one-on-one with those who responded to their message. In the same way we must do mass marketing of the gospel in order to find those who are open to it. Mass marketing is appropriate for the gospel. Some do it very badly, however.

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Basil W

February 04, 2011  10:17am

Marketing if done ethically is fine. But often times the 'end justifies the means'. This leads marketers to lie about their product or make promises they can't keep. Is this something we want to be guilty of when evangelizing?

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Tiffany Long

February 04, 2011  5:07am

Bruce: I would like to refer you back to Ephesians to check something I think you must have missed. It says that we are saved by grace through faith, and this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Don't miss out that the gift of grace through faith is the gift. We naturally response in our dead, sinful state because of God's gift.

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n s

February 03, 2011  8:54pm

In a way marketing is a lot like evangelism too. I'm thinking of the religion of Starbucks here....

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Mark Galli

February 03, 2011  3:46pm

Oops! I forget to make one thing clear. I think marketing is an amazing thing, and I love to see thoughtful, witty, effective marketing campaigns (E*Trade baby ads are currently my favorite). I bless the marketers who sell my books, and my magazine! Marketing is a perfectly legitimate enterprise, and sometimes is so well done, it is an art form. It's techniques and assumptions are perfect for how we must interact in society. But they become problems when we're trying to share the gospel. That's my only concern. There are techniques required to throw a shot put well, but if applied to throwing a football, they are pretty much useless--though both involve hurling an object far and accurate. That's how I feel about marketing the gospel--it's just the wrong tool/technique for the job.

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Bruce Hollenbach

February 03, 2011  2:27pm

Another great article by Mark Galli. But I have a quibble. If we didn't have Luther, Calvin, or Barth, but only Scripture to draw from, where would we get the notion that saving faith is "pure gift, pure miracle, pure work of the Spirit. There is nothing we can do to bring this about." ? And please don't point me to Ephesians 2:8-9, which says that saving grace is a gift from God but says no such thing about faith. Faith is us responding to God's command-invitation to believe. If we don't believe, can we lay the responsibility for our unbelief at God's feet? I doubt it. I think that Calvinists sometime systematize too much and read too little, or maybe too carelessly.

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Levi Worthington

February 03, 2011  1:49pm

This is a great article and desperately needed. Perhaps another problem is that so many within Christian culture are economically tied to organizations that "market Christianity" ("christian" schools, "christian" entertainment, "christian" yoga, "christian" under garments, "christian" breath mints, etc) that the application of this article has severe economic repercussions for those who want to make a buck off of Jesus.

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mike p

February 03, 2011  12:54pm

Another fine, thoughtful essay. Thanks for this. You are right in describing marketing in sacramental terms. Arguing over "how much" misses the point here; we are so saturated by the technological/marketing vision of reality that the kinds of methods and strategies spoofed by the essay are only symptomatic of a much deeper loss of faith in God's gracious initiative in all we are and do. Marketing does not require God but bearing witness in our character, life, and speech indeed does, since our character, life, and speech are not simply products of our own making but signs of God's own self giving through Christ and the Spirit. We are so addicted to marketing God and oursleves that we do not know how we might be and live by any other manner and means according to divine grace.

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Roger McKinney

February 03, 2011  12:00pm

Mark seems to view marketing as persuasion. I see it more as broadcasting seed, as in the parable. Mark appears to want us to plant just one seed at a time and love it to maturity. Jesus wanted us to broadcast the seed far and wide to as many people as possible because we can never tell which seed will take root and grow. The parable is brilliant in its analysis of evangelism. The sower isn't trying to persuade the seed to grow. That all depends upon the ground being fertile. When the seed hits fertile ground it grows naturally and immediately. The same is true of mass marketing.

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Finch Sprouse

February 03, 2011  11:57am

Curious where 1 Cor 9:19-23 fits in to Mark's strategy. I agree that the church can go way overboard on "marketing", but I also see Paul being very observant of his audience & doing all that he can to get a hearing for the gospel.

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Jim Jacobson

February 03, 2011  11:42am

Mark, thanks for this thoughtful article. I would take issue with some of your Calvinist leanings, particularly the ideas that "there is nothing we can do enable or prevent the Spirit's converting work" as well as "God does not offer forgiveness on the condition that we repent. There is no quid pro quo, no this-for-that, no exchange." I simply disagree with these statements. If repentance is not a condition or salvation, then everyone is saved. See Acts 2:38 ""Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 3;19 ""Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;" as well as Acts 8:22 ""Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you."

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Tom Wiersma

February 03, 2011  11:28am

Mark, I like what your witty and winsome editorials. And I liked this one too. But you make some assumptions about marketing that are a little long in the tooth. I'm a business-to-business marketing professional. You say a marketer's first premise is that people are basically in pretty good shape. I say they are totally depraved and need to know more about grace (Fortunately, as Smedes once said - Anyone who's totally depraved can't be all bad). Your second premise is that people just need an attractive offer to entice them to accept the deal. I say if people knew more about the truth they'd be more open to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Your third premise is that marketers believe that that life is fundamentally a deal. Perhaps some do, but good marketers assume that people usually act in their best interest and are always seeking. You also said: So while I poke fun, I don't think it wise to condemn a method a gracious God is willing to stoop to use. Me either.

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Roger McKinney

February 03, 2011  11:12am

There is no conflict between loving your neighbor and "marketing" Christianity. Marketing is nothing but mass communication; loving your neighbor is personal communication. I believe most Christians can handle both. Jesus and the Apostles spent most of their time in mass evangelism speaking to very large crowds. Those who responded were dealt with as individuals. That's what marketing evangelism does. It gets the good news in front of large numbers of people. Only a small number will respond, but that was true in Jesus' day as well. A lot of what churches do is silly and based on bad marketing techniques, but the problem the American church faces is too little mass marketing, not too little personal evangelism. Christianity is virtually absent from the marketplace - non-religious TV. Yet where did Paul go to meet large numbers of non-Christians?

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Repentance and faith are both gifts from God.

February 03, 2011  10:24am

You state: God does not offer forgiveness on the condition that we repent. Yet it is written that repentance must be granted from God (see 2 Timothy 2:25), so repentance is also a gift from God, just like faith is a gift from God, this is true because it is all of grace. Real saving faith is always with godly repentance, they are two side of the same coin.

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