I have the unique privilege of being one of America’s preeminent marketing minds – specifically within church marketing- as well as being a pastor and church planter. Some see it as an impossible marriage of secular vocation and Kingdom calling. Others see it as a distinct advantage in reaching the world for the Kingdom. Oftentimes, I find myself straddling the line between both.
After I conclude my signature Messiah Marketing presentations at church conferences, workshops, and seminars around the country, I get two general reactions. There are those who thank me and hug me like I just gave them key to unlimited riches. They think I’m a “messiah”/savior for their “church marketing,” member/guest attraction, and church growth needs.
Then there are those who, quite frankly, think I’m the antichrist and an undercover agent of satan. They tell me that what I’m doing and teaching churches to do is part of the reason why the Church today is in such bad shape. In fact, I’ve even had pastors preach against me and my marketing strategies on Sunday morning in front of capacity audiences.
And honestly, I vacillate between both positions, depending on the day. Sometimes when I’m struggling and having a challenging day, I wonder if I’m on the right path. When pastors just don’t get what I’m teaching pertaining to our strategic marketing systems and tactics, I get a little down- because I believe in these principles so much and because I only want the Kingdom of God to be advanced and glorified in the earth. Then there are days when everything clicks with pastors, I’m on top of the world and I look behind me to see if a cape really is there (lol).
Nevertheless, this misunderstanding and “battle” of purity in the gospel and church growth is the inspiration of this article. My goal is to articulate the difference between marketing and preaching the gospel.
Too many times, people criticize and condemn church marketing by saying it’s unnecessary for God to draw people, it’s a hindrance to people receiving Jesus without hype, and that church marketing will lead the Church in America down an insatiable hole of gospel-dilution. I respect the passion and zeal behind statements like these because as a pastor, my first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God and it’s King- Jesus. I live to help maintain the purity, glory, and sacredness of the Faith.
Consequently, I understand where sentiments like this are coming from. However, the marketer (and pastor) in me says this view, although passionate, is still absolutely incorrect. Even damaging to the future of the church. There are a host of reasons why, but I’ll only talk about three BIG ones in this series of articles
Marketing isn’t Preaching the Gospel
In today’s climate, it’s definitely necessary to make sure we “keep the main thing the main thing” and that we do not lose the power and truth when seeking to “reach people.” With that being said, it’s still import ant to know that marketing is NOT the same thing as preaching the gospel. There is a big gap between the two, in terms of processes and steps a “prospect” would make.
Moreover, marketing is simply the processes, strategies and tools used to allow prospects to experience your product or service. In the case of ministries, marketing would be the processes, strategies and tools used to get people to your church, event, small group or etc. The key thing here is that it is NOT the product or service.
So many people get so caught up in trying to protect and preserve the purity of the Kingdom that they instantly denounce and reject concepts that are foreign to their “way” of doing church. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction that some have.
When you understand that marketing isn’t about the gospel (your product/service) as much as it is about developing a system that constantly delivers people ready to experience the Kingdom. When you get that truth, you will see how marketing is a necessary tool to help people hear the Gospel more.
If you have a marketing system in place for your ministry, it in no ways discounts your preaching and biblical standards. It simply allows you to keep the house full of people who are ready for what you have to offer.
You can still be faithful and true to your doctrinal and theological persuasions and still have a powerful marketing system in place for your ministry. The two are not mutually exclusive- they work hand-in-hand.
The Marketing Match
You’ve likely experienced this truth in your life but you’ve never looked at it from a church perspective. If you’ve ever seen an ad that got your mouth watering for a fantastic, mouth-watering entree from a new, exquisite restaurant…but when you arrive the food was horrible, the establishment was subpar, and you left with bad taste in your mouth (literally and figuratively).
The marketing was NOT the food; the food was the food. The marketing was simply designed to get you to come to the restaurant to eat and pay for the food. It’s the same thing with church. The gospel is the gospel, our marketing is simply a tool to get people in a place to sit down and take a bite in environments we can control.
If you are going to put your ministry in a position where it can succeed in any circumstance, environment, and economy you need to have a marketing system in place. Why wouldn’t you do everything you could to get people to pay attention to the most important idea they will ever experience.