Consumer Culture and Church Marketing
Black Friday is here and the shopping craze is in the air. Traffic has been horrible lately and it seems that people have been practicing for the big run this weekend. Sale fever has spread online and filled my inbox with deals and bargains. Every retailer is trying to get me to come into their store. They want my business. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from the marketers who attract hundreds of thousands into their chapels of commerce each year. Or, perhaps, we have been deceived by the product of Christ in a world of mass marketing. Everyone agrees that the message of the church must always remain the same. The truth of Jesus Christ is always relevant. We also agree that the methods employed to share this truth may change. Each generation has pioneered new ways of sharing the gospel. One group bans roller rinks and trick-or-treating while the next hosts skate nights and hell houses. Apostles leverage the influence of the Internet, film, television, radio, and the printing press. As culture changes so does the church, but where do you draw the line between culture and church?
There are three major perspectives on church and world culture. Consider the following:
- Church over culture
- Church in culture
- Church under culture
Church over culture believes that Christian living supersedes, and is separate from, the rest of the world. Those who hold this belief see a dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. Their boundaries of their faith are clear and right choices are easy to formulate. Church over culture, however, may produce an atmosphere of isolation or withdrawal. People in this context go on mission instead of living mission. They are often fearful of the world and sin, and choose to build walls instead of bridges into their communities.
Church in culture believes that Christin living should coincide with the rest of the world. It believes in the inevitability of Christ in any given situation. These people believe that Jesus wants to redeem every part of world culture. There is no secondary class of culture. There is what God created and then there is sin. The idea of secular is a misnomer. God created everything and he intends to redeem it unto his self through the Church. These people can err on the side of the soft gospel. They may eventually compromise absolute truths in order to fit in or reach out.
Church under culture believes that the Church must align itself with culture as often as possible as to integrate Christ in the world. Those who hold this view tend to abolosh the idea of the secular and sacred. They see the whole of God's creation as good and embrace the intent of the created world instead of the reality of its sinfulness. These people are as idealistic as the church over culture folks. They have an altruistic view of society and insist that Jesus is comfortable in the darkest of places. They may host a fatal go with the flow mentality and allow their faith to be mixed with sin. Sometimes it seems that nothing is off limit and their faith becomes difficult to see.
How do you promote your church? It depends on where you land on the above scale. If you stand on one side of a great divide between the secular and sacred then you will promote the church in one way. If your faith is thoroughly mixed up with the world you live in then your promotions will look another way. The importance is for us to be thinking about how Jesus relates to the world we liven.