Evangelism or Mass Marketing?

Rethink Church is the new outreach plan released on May 6 by United Methodist Communications.  A website dedicated to seekers ages 18-34, www.10thousanddoors.org uses images of doors, demonstrating numerous ways one can enter into a relationship with a congregation.  The campaign raises several important questions, such as “What if our budget served the people outside more than those inside?” and “How does our church go out there rather than waiting for them to come to us?”  These are great questions, considering the growing number of people who no longer consider church a part of their lives — no matter how we improve or programs. 

However, this campaign is also susceptible to the market’s influence, where churches ultimately focus on (according to an article in Interpreter magazine)  “what people are trying to find.”

As churches consider their own involvement in the denomination’s Rethink Church campaign, we must also consider the market’s influence in our decision-making.  Are we seeking a more flexible movement in the Church in order to more quickly and adequately respond to the particular needs presented by various emerging groups of potential young members, so identified by demographic studies highlighting “lifestyle segments” (themselves created by the marketing industry)?  This is all to ask:  Are media campaigns like Rethink Church possibly another effort to determine a church’s function and relevance in changing circumstances within the boundaries and definitions given to the church by the secular market?

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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