Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's All About Marketing

Develop a creative sermon series with a high "felt need" appeal.
When you put creativity and a high felt need together, you get real growth. Last year, I (Bil C.) preached a series titled "What Does God Have to Say About Sex?" and we saw an increase of 1,000.
["5 Keys to Explosive Growth," by Bill Easum & Bil Cornelius, Outreach, Nov/Dec 2006]

If you're in one of those churches undergoing transformation and restructuring, this article cited above is a must-read. "5 Keys to Explosive Growth" is all about numbers and it is all about marketing. The authors claim that it is biblical and promise you will have success if you try their methods. This article reads like a sales training manual for church growth:

"Not only is crazy, go-big, huge growth possible, it's biblical. Like the early church of Acts, your church—if growth is part of your and your people's vision—can go big with these five keys that both of us have discovered in our experience of leading churches and people."

Compare these "five keys" with the writings of other church change agents and notice the similarities. The formulas for "success" are all nearly identical. No matter whose name or ministry is on the master plan for success, the basic principles are all the same. It is the same-old, same-old program for "doubling the number of people finding Christ and worshipping with you every Sunday."

The first recommendation is, of course, visioning. Elsewhere on this blog "visioning" is explained as a method that is derived from the occult. These Christian leaders mistakenly believe that they can actually "create the future" by picturing a bigger church in some sort of "mind over matter" type envisioning activity:

"People develop the habits necessary to create the future they want. Another way to put this: You get what you expect and believe will happen. Yet, most people don't believe this. But we've learned that a large part of your future is what you picture it to be. So maybe what you need is a bigger picture of the future."
[emphasis added]

The second recommendation is a new variation of the "name it and claim it" teaching which has now cropped up like wildfire in church growth circles. "BIG RESULTS" are promised if you just pray big:

"When was the last time you challenged your church to pray for your goal of doubling the number of people finding Christ and worshipping with you every Sunday?…

"…We cannot ignore the prayer principle: When we pray diligently, we get big results." [emphases added]

A particular twist on the old formula for success is the focus on external appearance. For "big results" your church needs to spiff up the joint, and the pastor needs to spruce up his wardrobe:

"Appearance of space. When you walk into your building, does it rival the quality of a popular mall or other 21st century venue that's in the business of attracting people? Does the atmosphere of your facility send the right message to first-time guests? Does it say "God is moving today" or "God moved here 50 years ago"?…

"Personal appearance. Does your appearance send non-verbal messages that you're current or outdated?

Under "KEY #3: BRING IN LOTS OF NEW PEOPLE," marketing techniques for church growth are spelled out. Besides radio and newspaper ads, and a "professional-looking Web site" that "can close the deal," the authors propose an advertising budget for things like:

"Direct mail. We both repeatedly used direct mail and highly recommend it.…

"Television and cable. The larger the church, the more important TV advertising becomes, if for no other reason than creating and maintaining your church's image.…"

And, of course, once you get visitors in the door, how do you keep them coming back? -- "KEY #4: RETAIN THE LION'S SHARE." Like all other church growth plans, the first thing to do is set up small groups -- not with an emphasis on discipleship (that word is seldom mentioned in church growth literature) -- but with an emphasis on multi-level marketing multiplication:

"Small groups that multiply. Any small-group pastor who never talks about multiplication doesn't need to be a small-group pastor. Get as many people as you can into small groups, but keep the focus on multiplication.…"

And KEY #5 is cited above in the opening quote to today's post. Most high-level evangelical leaders were trained in the psychological gospel of "felt needs." They learned that people are easily manipulated by appealing to their "felt needs," just like the advertising industry appeals to people's senses and emotions. If people "feel" like their "needs" are being met by a church, then that "experience" becomes the focus -- rather than the Gospel message of the Cross.

The Truth:

The truth can be found in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)