Friday, December 14, 2007

Marketing the Church

In the January 2008 issue of Tabletalk magazine, Michael Horton had some very good things to say about marketing the church. You would have to purchase the magazine to get the whole article, but let me give you a thought-provoking snippet.

It has often been observed that Sunday morning between 11 a.m. and noon is the most segregated hour in America. While there are some hopeful signs that race may not play as great a role in defining the body of Christ in the future, covenant families are increasingly broken up according to the demographic niches that have been created and enforced by a culture of marketing.

The world trains us ... to think in terms of its own headlines, regardless of how the passing fashions come and go. Daily exposed to the relentless bombardment of advertising that would define us and our children, we enter the Lord's Day as the "today" of salvation into which God creates His own cast for the real drama of the ages. On this day, the Lord of the covenant publicly placards Christ before us. It's a campaign that is not manipulative, nr is it one that leaves us with one more "make-over"; it's nothing less than the crucifixion of the self and its resurrection in Christ unto new life.
That's why the current fascination with church-planting and home missions based on niche demographics (that is, dividing the market up into age, race, gender, socio-economic strata, politics, etc.) is such a problem. The church becomes a collection of consumers or tourists rather than a communion of saints and pilgrims. However, it's not our choices, but God's, that create this new society.
The older denominational divisions are tragic enough, but at least many of these were due to different interpretations of biblical teaching. Today, in the same denomination, even in the same local church, there are new divisions that are not only tolerated but encouraged by the leadership. Where the only division that we find in Scripture is "in Adam" or "in Christ," our churches are increasingly divided by consumer loyalties - which means they can no longer be united by the public ministry of Word and sacrament. This means that where the whole church learned God's Word together, it is possible for the different segments to meet only in passing on their way to their specially-formatted events. Where the older men and women used to teach the younger (as Paul enjoined Timothy), now the likelihood of the youth learning the catechism of their parents and grandparents is diminished.

What is called for in these, as in any other time, is a church that is a genuine covenantal community defined by the Gospel, rather than a service-provider defined by the laws of the market.... When the Word creates community, the result is a church and not a lobby, special interest group, or market niche.

May God help us to be a Word and Spirit created covenant community!

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