Marketing makes the world go round.
It shapes our impressions, our desires, even the words we use. Used cars quickly become “previously owned automobiles”, abortion advocates are rebranded “pro-choice” and euphemism like “erectile dysfunction” spring up overnight. (sorry)
Without a good hook, tagline and a carefully orchestrated plan even the best product may be ultimately destined to fail. This makes the rise of Christianity truly remarkable.
JC may have turned water into wine, but I am not sure He spent a ton of time on brand messaging.
Oh sure He saved the world and all, I get that, I am just saying the Sandled One could have used a consultant or two mixed in with all the fishermen, tax collectors and shepherds He hung with.
Don’t get me wrong, eternal life is one heck of a value proposition, props on that, and the focus group testing with the disciples was smart but overall I’d give the marketing of Christianity a B minus at best.
If a lightning bolt doesn’t kill me after typing that, I’ll continue.
OK, seems safe.
Without further ado I present the Top 5 Marketing Fails of Christianity
#5 Failure is the only option
There are few things you strive to do in life that you are guaranteed to fail at, but avoiding sin is one of them.
You can strive to live righteously. You can pray unceasingly. You can win most of the battles but ultimately you are destined to fail. The deck is stacked against you. Christianity acknowledges this on the front end.
Why would anyone hold themselves to such an unattainable standard? A yardstick that always shows you fall short? That seems hard… too hard.
This is a tough sell to new recruits. It is hard to brand guaranteed failure. As a church we should consider back-loading any discussion of this… at least until after a few years of tithes are collected.
#4 Your Teacher never got tenure and mostly taught in riddles.
When God took human form and roamed the earth His public ministry only spanned about three years. A scant three years of teachings to govern how you should live your life. Think about the brevity. You’ve had more algebra than that and you still don’t understand it. Worse yet, at least Algebra was straightforward, JC rarely was.
While some of His teachings are laid out clearly, a large chunk of them are parables, object lessons and analogies for us to ponder. In fact the meanings of many of those parables are still hotly debated today, thousands of years later.
Ivy League divinity professors—men whose lives are dedicated to figuring them out– still argue about what they mean. These are intellectual fatcats; guys with big beards, tweed jackets and pipes!
And yet Christians are supposed to figure this out? Who in their right mind would choose a Teacher who doesn’t just say what He means, but expects us to figure it out and study? Is it any wonder so many people sleep in on Sundays and bail on the whole thing?
#3 Your human nature and society are conspiring against you
I feel an object lesson is in order.
Consider the National Basketball Association. It is essentially a traveling brothel. The questionable morals and sexual exploits of the players are documented in myriad sources too numerous to mention. So much so that Wilt Chamberlin alone claims over 1,000 women shared his bed.
Enter into this equation AC Green. A player who holds the career record for consecutive games played. Yet over the course of 17 seasons in two leagues and despite amassing over 17,000 points, he never scored. With teammates openly trying to sabotage him he stood strong, retired a virgin and was married the following year.
To be a Christian is to be AC Green; to be alone, to swim upstream and keep your guard up at all times. And just as AC’s teammates tried to sabotage him, society tries to sabotage Christians. Worse yet you are hard-wired to sabotage yourself.
Who signs up for a lifestyle that defies their very nature? That has to dis-incent early adopters.
#2 Service Service Service
The old saying goes “There is no rest for the wicked.” I couldn’t disagree more. Wicked people can flat out lounge. To truly embrace Christianity is to serve, they bear the true burden.
Soup kitchens, charity boards, small group bible studies—do the righteous never sleep? Consider the five tenets of Christianity, Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Ministry and Fellowship. All five are words that require action and commitment.
Grand larceny takes what, a long weekend? Grace may be free but signing up to follow the Big Man is arduous.
#1 It is all incredibly counterintuitive
Most things make sense inherently. This helps when you try and market them. Christians are told things like “pray for your enemies” and “blessed are the meek”.
Do any of us have enemies who we think deserve our prayers?
Does letting people walk all over you *ever* feel like the right choice?
Does forgiveness ever satisfy like revenge?
Can any of this be crafted into a catchy jingle?
Christianity and a moral life are the living embodiment of doing the opposite. The Savior of the world was born in a filthy stable, washed people’s feet, walked on water, hung out with castoffs, submitted to men He could have destroyed, and rose from the dead.
Is any of this intuitive? Could any of it be explained in a two minute ad, or even a three hour infomercial?
And yet despite all of this, there are 2.1 billion Christians thriving on this planet and more accepting the challenge of these five things and even worse tests.
The world’s largest religion is flourishing. Africa and Latin America see hundreds of thousands of baptisms each year as missionaries are ushering in new Christian converts. God is moving across the globe. The teachings of JC are reaching billions, all a couple of thousand years after Christ was murdered.
There may just be something to this Christianity thing.
Imagine if they only had a marketing plan.
What do you think?
• Which item listed is hardest?
• Is it a burden to know that YOU are God’s marketing plan?
• How can you rise to the challenge?
4 thoughts on “The Great Christian Marketing Fail”
If there was a true marketing plan, then I think it would hinder the evangelism, ministry and fellowship. Without that marketing plan, we have to take a stronger role in those last three tenets. A marketing plan would take away from the personal relationship that God wants us to have with him as well.
If being a Christian is not always easy, then you have to wonder how the story has survived over 2000 years, when it originated from a town across the world, no bigger than Fargo, and still has a higher populace of Muslims and Jews today (than Christians). There certainly is something to this story. Maybe there is a master (marketing) plan – and I think “everlasting life” serves as a most solid tagline.
I’d love to comment, but today’s mainstream media has programmed me to mock and ridicule you for even discussing Christianity as anything other than a laughable crutch for weak minded fools. The only other option would be to blame all region for violence in the world, bigotry in the world, or other generalized evil components of our world.
Lastly, I’d say JC used the “Opposite Fantasy Football Draft” principles in his marketing scheme. Traditional marketing targets those that have material so that those that have will spend. JC’s reverse marketing concept, based on his fantasy football experience, targeted those that had little material wealth and engaged them to invest their ethereal wealth.
Mize, I have nothing witty or insightful to add 🙂 Just wanted to say I’m glad B shared the link to your blog with me. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing in college and even more so now with the JC emphasis… keep up the great work