I am a marketer – a maker of pretty things, a teller of pretty stories, a designer of fancy titles and compelling pictures and such. I’ve been a marketing chick for a while now. I’ve worked on campaigns for TV shows, big events, soda pop and DVDs – even fundraising campaigns and disaster relief efforts and trips to faraway places. In fact, I would venture to say I can’t NOT market. It’s just in my blood.
I now do marketing for a church – one with multiple locations serving lots of different communities. In many ways, it’s the same marketing I’ve done for years. It’s all about finding an emotional connection, and sharing it with just the right mood and tone and style, so that it makes folks long to be part of it all. To be sure, there are some differences. The call to action is one of commitment rather than consumption, and there’s a push to give rather than receive. But it’s still about finding the right words and images and such, then weaving everything together to make something pretty.
And I worry about that.
It’s not the storytelling that concerns me. I love story. There’s nothing more beautiful to me than testimonies of struggle and pain and change and transformation. In fact, if I could, I would live to share them daily, in every way possible. And it’s not the product that bothers me. There’s nothing more significant than a life laid down and a Kingdom that’s bigger than self. It’s honestly not even about the creativity. Someone once said that we are creative creations created by a creative Creator. While the alliterative whimsy drives me crazy, the truth resonates. God is Creator with the most magnificent of imaginations – so it only makes sense that we are born to imagine in ways not yet imagined.
It’s the pretty. I worry about the pretty.
You see, in the midst of the color palettes and perfect taglines, I hear a voice echo.
“Lift Me high and I’ll attract people.”
Jesus was telling folks about what was to come – about a gruesome death that would mark eternity with divine blood, and a messy grace that would turn lives upside down. And yet He was doing more than predicting the future. Christ was sharing the simplicity of the essential.
He didn’t say, “Here are 5 easy ways to increase your reach,” or “Whatever you do, please make sure my name is written in Futura Condensed.” He simply said, “Lift Me high.”
But somewhere along the way, someone decided that the cross needed to be painted and the crown of thorns needed a few jewels. Someone noticed that culture was colorful and people were distracted, and decided the only way to cut through the clutter of it all was to create more clutter with pretty Heavenly things. So we did. We added lots of texture and used witty words and built shiny objects and talked about relevance and authenticity and commercialized the Gospel. We worked hard to make the Good News more attractive. We chased cool and become competitive with the noise. And then we complained – complained about a culture that treated our message with the same care they treated any other, and complained about people who consumed rather than committed and took rather than gave.
And as a marketer, I can’t help but feel I’ve actively contributed to it all – to the commercialization and the consumption and the taking.
And again I hear the voice. “Lift Me high.” And I wrestle with the tension. Not just as a marketer, but as a gal who is walking the road of faith.
Because I believe in the message. I want to tell the story. And I want to use every ounce of creativity given me to share the raw, gruesome, graceful beauty of the Gospel – and let it do the work of attracting.
But I worry about the pretty. Because in my heart of hearts, I feel Jesus – and you – are worth more.
So, what do you think about marketing the Gospel? Where should the line be drawn when it comes to church marketing? And what about you? Do you ever try to make the Gospel more attractive?