As Christians increasingly use marketing insights to communicate the gospel, CT Research Fellow James Engel has reason to watch with interest. An author of widely respected marketing textbooks, Engel has long encouraged biblically consistent application of marketing and managerial concepts. But as this article adapted from Transformation journal shows, Engel is wary of some of the potential pitfalls.

Consider these two headlines and the claims that accompanied them:

“The Sunchip Also Rises.” Frito-Lay’s multigrain salty snack, Sunchips, has generated over $100 million in sales with $30 million in advertising.

“200,000,000 Reached with Mass Media.” The electronic miracle of radio and TV evangelism generates great breakthrough.

Do you see any essential differences between the two reports? One appeared in a secular trade journal, the other in a denomination’s annual report. I suggest they are disturbingly similar.

The implication of the second is that new technology will allow us to “finish the task” of world evangelization and usher in the Lord’s return. Such approaches lead me to think we are dangerously close to neglecting biblical mandates for Christian witness and the lessons of church history, to say nothing of evidence of how conversion really takes place. While I applaud the acceleration of evangelistic efforts, I do not endorse an uncritical embracing of every method or new technology.

Properly used, the mass media (anything other than personalized, face-to-face communication) are powerful tools for communicating the gospel. But Christ’s words in Matthew 28:18–20, often referred to as the Great Commission, are in danger of being reduced to the Great Campaign, as we are urged to win as many customers for the gospel as possible ...

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