I have come to embrace the fact that the debate about marketing for Christian churches and ministry is never-ending. This was discouraging to me at first, but now I see the process is healthy and necessary. The focus of far too much marketing is not where it should be, resulting in a lot of misplaced messages, bad materials and poor results. In the arena of public perception, marketers have almost sunk to the level of ambulance chasing lawyers and used car salesman. Marketers are all considered to be consummate liars, bombarding us with thousands of lives every day in an effort to sell us stuff we don't need. Marketing has become a “hot button” word often spoken in combination with other words such as misleading, aggressive and scam. It's no wonder that some people take offense to the concept of using marketing in the context of ministry. I understand that some of the opposition to church or ministry marketing is not wholly unfounded and that the “selling” of Jesus we sometimes observe is misguided. The focus of ministry and outreach must never be on any type of “selling” or even exchange. Of ourselves, we have nothing to offer. Our job is to exalt Christ. John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." We are merely laborers in the field collecting the harvest; drawing out the spirit within a person that the Spirit of God has awakened. Matthew 9:35-38 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." We are harvesters. The church is not a business organization and the principles of business marketing strategies are different than that of the foundations of the kingdom of God. If a church attempts to reach out to others only so that it may grow, then that church fails in its service. If those who advocate marketing are fixated on numerical growth as the only way to plot the success of the mission of the church, they are doomed to failure. So what role does marketing play in ministry? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, marketing is “the process or technique of promoting, selling and distributing a product or service.” As it pertains to ministry or the church, I don’t particularly like that definition myself. A better word, the one I prefer to use is “promotion.” Promotion is “encouragement of the progress, growth, or acceptance of something; furtherance.” (American Heritage Dictionary) My definition, in the context of the work I do on this site for ministry, is even simpler: promotion / marketing is the process and means used to get attention and drive awareness of the greatest service ever offered: redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ. In the parable of the great banquet, Christ describes the master of the house instructing his servants to “go out and compel them to come in...” Luke 14:23 Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. The instruction is clear: motivate others by communicating stronger convincing reasons why they should come to the house so that they could be served and enjoy the Masters best. Unlike the earlier invited guests, this time the servants were instructed to counter the complaints and excuses for why they could not comply. In order to compel, in order to share, we must first get attention. In order to help with the harvest, we have to make people aware that we are here. Whatever word you use, the process is a means for getting attention. It is a way of reaching out to those who are being prompted by the Holy Spirit to answer the knock at the door. In today's world, the church is scrambling to get attention for what we know is a most incredible gift we've been given. We want to share it. Some of us have an opportunity to witness personally, but we can reach out to many more people by using the tools available to us today. The message of God is consistent, although the style may be changed. Paul makes this apparent in the letter he wrote to the church in Corinth: 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. As Christians, we don't pander to the masses to entice them with worthless junk. We offer the truth -- a message and a gift from God with the power to dramatically change lives. Through Paul, the message of Christ, the Gospel of salvation was made to fit each audience that he addressed so that they could best relate to it. This is what I believe in. Whatever we do, however we do it, we must not compromise the message. I have found that it is frequently necessary to alter the means of communication in order to reach people. We must meet people at the point of need. What is important is that promotion or marketing, outreach or evangelism (whatever you wish to call it) – that the process or campaign in and of itself never becomes the focal point of your efforts. The message of Christ and the glory of God must remain front and center. Too many times I’ve seen the message itself and the people that would be reached, practically sacrificed for the sake of the medium or the process. This should never be. In any effort, attention must be on the people as was Christ's throughout his ministry. Our job is to collect the harvest. To do so, we must stay focused on reaching out in divine love with the message of the gospel. The tools – be they print, Internet, television, outreach, missionary service or whatever – cannot and must not supplant or take precedence over efforts of sharing the good news with people and in person. We must never forget that our job is not to change the message, but to present it in truth, with excellence and love for all men. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. This is my philosophy as it pertains to marketing and promotion. If you find you agree with it, then I may be able to assist you in your outreach efforts.

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