Tuesday, July 12, 2016
The Problem of Marketing Megachurches
In architecture and style…the megachurches are a gigantic mutation in the churches’ age-old “edifice complex.” They are natural counterparts of megamalls, super-super-markets, and multiplex cinemas, and resemble a cross between shopping malls and theme parks—modernity’s ultimate in people-moving selling-machines. The result is “spiritual emporiums” or the “malling of religion”—grand cathedrals of consumption, one-stop church complexes premised on controlled environments with multiple-option boutiques catering to diverse needs. Through cars, their “local church” catchment area becomes citywide; through television, worldwide. Or in its public appeal, niche-marketed church growth threatens to reduce the gospel to the level of what Phillip Rieff calls the “rubber nipple therapies” on the great “anxiety market.”
But for Christians the most important impact of marketing is always on the message itself. One church-growth marketer claims that the difference between “growth” and “evangelism” and “marketing” is only semantics. He is absolutely wrong. As historian David Potter pointed out in his penetrating analysis of advertising: once marketing becomes dominant, the concern is not with “finding an audience to hear their message but rather with finding a message to hold their audience.” After all, when the audience and not the message is sovereign, the good news of Jesus Christ is no longer the end, but just the means.
Os Guinness, Dining With the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity, pg.77-78