The Gospel - a branded article?

223 the gospel a brand articleIn one of his early films, John Wayne tells another cowboy, "I do not like working with the branding iron - it hurts when you're in the wrong place!" I found his remark quite funny, but it also made me to reflect on how churches can harm the gospel through inappropriate use of marketing techniques, such as the intensive promotion of branded products. In our past, our founder was looking for a strong selling point and made us the "only true church". This approach interfered with biblical truth because the gospel was redefined to promote the brand name.

Involved in Jesus' work of spreading his gospel

Our vocation as Christians is not to market a branded product, but to participate in Jesus' work with the help of the Holy Spirit and spread the gospel throughout the world through the Church. Jesus 'gospel addresses several things: how forgiveness and reconciliation were accomplished through Jesus' atoning sacrifice; how the Holy Spirit renews us (and what it means to lead a new life); the nature of our vocation as followers of Jesus joining his worldwide mission; and the sure hope that we will forever belong to the community that Jesus has with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

There are areas of application, albeit limited, where marketing (including branding) is useful for carrying out the ministry to which the gospel has been called. For example, we may use logos, web pages, social media, bulletins, newsletters, symbols, newsletters, and other means of communication that help us spread Jesus' message and awaken faith in people. In any case, such means should be useful and not discourage us from being light and salt in our citizen communities. In that sense, I am not against properly applied marketing, but I would also like to make an appeal for caution and associate it with an outlook.

Appeal for caution

According to George Barna's definition, marketing is "a collective term that includes all activities that result in two parties agreeing to exchange goods of adequate value" (A Step by Step Guide to Church Marketing) into church marketing). Barna expands the term marketing by adding activities such as advertising, public relations, strategic planning, customer survey, distribution channels, fundraising, pricing, vision and customer service as elements of marketing. Then Barna concludes: "If these elements come together in a transaction that causes the parties involved to exchange goods of adequate value, then the marketing circle closes". Let us remember for a while the idea of ​​exchanging goods of adequate value.

It was only a few years ago when some of our pastors studied a well-known book by a leader of a Southern California mega-church. The essential message of the book was that you could offer people and their communities something that they would enthusiastically accept if you market your church in a specific way. Some of our pastors have tried the recommended marketing techniques and were disappointed as their membership did not grow.

But should we market the gospel (and our communities) the way Walmart and Sears market their products - or even apply marketing methods that specific communities use to generate numerical growth? I think we agree that we do not have to praise the gospel like a consumer product of supposedly great value. This was certainly not what Jesus had in mind when he gave us the mission to proclaim the Gospel in the world and make disciples of all walks of life.

As the apostle Paul wrote, the gospel is often portrayed as reactionary or stultifying by decidedly worldly-minded people (1, Kor 1,18-23) and certainly not regarded as an attractive, much-sought-after consumer item. As followers of Jesus we are not carnal-minded, but spiritually minded (Rom 8,4-5). Certainly we are not perfect in this, but through the Holy Spirit, we are aligned with God's will (and consequently his work as well). So understood, it is not surprising that Paul rejected certain "human" (secular) gospel propaganda techniques:

Since God has entrusted us with this task in His grace, we do not lose heart. We reject all unscrupulous methods of proclamation. We do not try to trick someone, and we do not distort God's Word, but we speak the truth before God. This is known to all who have sincere hearts (2, Corinthians 4,1-2, New Life). Paul rejected the use of methods that would be successful in the short term but at the expense of the gospel. The only kind of success he desired in life and service is to result from the bond with Christ and the gospel.

Some promises from churches that praise the gospel as a recipe for success sound like this: "Come into our church and your problems will be solved. You will gain health and wealth. They will be richly blessed ". The promised blessings typically have to do with power, success, and wish fulfillment. The sugar-and-whip effect begins when those who are interested are introduced to the required conditions - when it comes to things like a high level of faith, participation in a small group, payment of tithing, active participation in church service , or the observance of certain times for prayer and Bible study. While these are helpful to the growth of following Jesus, none of it can motivate God to graciously fulfill our desires in the exchange of things he is supposed to expect from us.

Unfair advertising and fraudulent marketing

The baiting of people with statements that they could come to God to fulfill their wishes is dishonest advertising and fraudulent marketing. It is nothing but paganism in a modern guise. Christ did not die to fulfill our self-serving consumer desires. He did not come to guarantee us health and prosperity. Instead, he came to receive us into the benevolent relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to give us peace, joy, and hope, which are the fruits of that relationship. This strengthens us with God's dear and changing love to love and help others. This type of love may be felt by some (and perhaps many) to be intrusive or offensive, but always points to the source of this saving, reconciling, and changing love.

Should we market the gospel as an object of exchange of adequate value between two mutually agreed parties? Definitely not! The gospel is a gift for all by the grace of God. And all we can do is accept the gift with empty, broken hands - full of grateful acceptance of the blessings as belonging to God. The communion of grace and love expresses itself through a life of grateful worship - a response empowered by the Holy Spirit, who has opened our eyes and taken our proud and rebellious drive for independence to live for the glory of God.

A wonderful exchange

With these thoughts in mind, I would like to point out that in our lives in and with Christ and through the Holy Spirit, an exchange of a special kind, a truly wonderful exchange has taken place. Please read what Paul wrote:

I am crucified with Christ. I live, but not me, but Christ lives in me. For what I now live in the flesh, I live in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me (Galatians 2,19b-20 LUT).

We give our sinful life to Jesus and He gives us His life of righteousness. When we give up our lives, we find his life working in us. When we place our lives under the dominion of Christ, we find the true purpose of our lives, no longer to live our aspirations, but to increase the glory of God, our Creator and Redeemer. This exchange is not a marketing method - it happens by grace. We receive full communion with God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and God receives us wholeheartedly. We receive the just character of Christ and he removes all our sins and gives us complete forgiveness. This is certainly not an exchange of goods of adequate value!

Every believer in Christ, man or woman, is a new creature - a child of God. The Holy Spirit gives us new life - the life of God in us. As a new creature, the Holy Spirit changes us to become more and more involved in Christ's perfect love for God and man. When our life is in Christ, then we have a part in his life, both in joy and in compassionate love. We are partners in his sufferings, his death, his righteousness, as well as his resurrection, his ascension, and finally his glorification. As God's children, we are co-heirs with Christ, absorbed into his perfect relationship with his Father. In this regard, we are blessed by all that Christ has done for us to become God's beloved children, united with him - in glory forever!

Full of joy over the wonderful exchange,

Joseph Tkach


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