Should We Market the Church?


I’ve just finished reading Selling Out the Church: The Dangers of Church Marketing, and I think it provides a helpful warning to churches who want to grow. Philip Kenneson and James Street say that church marketing does more than change a church’s style, but their substance as well. Because church marketing defines the purpose of the church in terms of attracting the surrounding community, the market oriented church focuses on effectiveness and customer satisfaction, rather than what the vision for what the church ought to be: “a sign, a foretaste, and a herald of God’s present but still emerging kingdom.” church-signs

To be true to its nature and purpose, churches should stop thinking attractional (“Come and check us out”) and start thinking missional. In a post-Christian culture where many have no understanding of the basic Christian message and do not identify with the traditional Christian subculture, churches are forced to step out of their buildings, and take the Gospel into their diverse communities. Some of Jesus’ most revealing interactions are not with the temple authorities, but with the Gentiles, the poor and the outcast. The Kingdom of God typically lies outside existing religious structures.

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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