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August 19, 2005

Marketing the Gospel: They will know us by our PowerPoint® presentations

From the Christians Science Monitor...

A year ago, the Rev. Scott Schlotfelt was weighing job offers from three churches smitten by what he had to offer.

But they weren't talking about his preaching or counseling skills. What they were seeking, like a number of churches across the United States, was some savvy marketing. And like a growing number of pastors, consultants, and volunteers, Mr. Schlotfelt was eager to do some branding for the Lord.

"I've kind of had a heart for marketing, [and] I think a lot of churches are looking for outreach" specialists, says Schlotfelt, outreach pastor at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Md. He received his undergraduate degree in marketing, then studied for the ministry and helped congregations build up their images through advertising in Las Vegas and Amarillo, Texas....

To succeed, a number of denominations and local congregations alike are seeking marketing know-how, whether among church staff or from from hired experts....

"The church in more ways than not is mirroring Wall Street and the world and Madison Avenue," says H. B. London, vice president of pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family, a national resource network for evangelical Christians. "We're [lagging] behind them to a certain degree, but we're using all their techniques."

Ever notice how much better plastic food looks than the real stuff? There's a reason we're lagging behind Madison Avenue --people expect gloss, sparkle and slick marketing from them, because they understand that more often than not it's there to make up for the lack of quality in the product. By adopting their techniques we're saddling ourselves, also, with their reputation for deception.

Twice I worked in a sales capacity, once in a grocery store which often sold bulk to institutions, and I was expected to bargain for a good price for the goods. The other time selling eyewear. I found that there are two approaches to sales: the Salesman and the Technician.

The Salesman dresses nicely, talks fast, uses vague, but impressive sounding words and more or less does a song and dance to get the customer excited about buy whatever he's selling.

The Technician, on the other hand, is generally plain spoken, often wearing a lab coat or work clothes. But when he talks he speaks of down-to-earth things. How the product or service actually functions. He's not trying to sell the product. He's simply relaying the facts, and letting the product sell itself.

I always took the Technician approach, and did fairly well. The reason is, people are used to the song and dance, and will automatically put up their guard when they sense it. The Gospel doesn't need to be “marketed” it simply needs to be presented, by someone who understands it. It's as simple as that.

It is a really, really bad move to try to advance the Church by imitating the world. It will do the exact opposite of what those using it say they want to do. It's been tried over and over again, and failed miserably every time.

Posted by Danny Carlton at August 19, 2005 09:38 AM

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