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The Danger of Marketing the Gospel

Driving down a major highway in Phoenix, AZ, I passed a large billboard advertising for one of the mega-churches in the area. The sign was very simple. It only had the logo of the church with one sentence written on it. I cannot remember the precise wording, but it was something very similar to "Experience your best life."  Upon seeing this, I had a mixed response. On the one hand, I appreciate the well intentioned desire to reach out and find ways of getting people interested in Christianity. I also fully believe that a relationship with Jesus is undoubtedly the best possible life that one can have, and so agree in principle with the slogan. However, slogans like this (which are very common today) reflect a marketing approach to Christianity that also makes me very uncomfortable.

Slogans like this invite people to come to Jesus for the benefits which we will receive for doing so (in this case, our best life). Implied in all of this is that Jesus and his Gospel are a product that we consume (by becoming a Christian) in order to receive the benefits promised. This is similar to the way that marketers and advertising companies sell any other item - promising that if we invest in the product we will reap some promised benefit.

What's the problem with marketing Christianity like this? After all, this is the language of our culture, is it not? David Wells in his 2008 book, The Courage to be Protestant,  provides the answer: "When we buy a product, we buy it for our use. When we accept Christ, he is not there for our use but we are there for his service. We commit ourselves to him in a way that we do not commit ourselves to any product. There is a world of difference between the Lord of Glory, the incarnate second person of the Godhead, and a Lexus, a vacation home, or a trip to the Bahamas." Wells has hit the proverbial nail on the head here. When we market or sell Christianity by highligthing the benefits without teaching the truth which undergird those benefits, we (even if unintended) communicate that Christ and his Gospel exist to satisfy our felt needs. And while Jesus can use our felt needs to draw us to himself, as he did with the Samaritan Women in John 4, he also always confronts us with the truth our sinfulness and calls us to repentance. This is the inherent danger of marketing Christianity -  Instead of becoming a true disciple of Jesus, learning all of the things which he taught and commands, and seeking to life our life for his glory - We become only a consumer of Jesus, and typically we only consume those parts which we like and ignore that which we don't like or do not think are revelant to us. 

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