Surely our faith goes deeper than bumper stickers, testa-mints, and family friendly movies. This begs an important question. Can we really get people to buy into what was freely given? The notion that we may have turned the cross of Christ into another product, the house of God into another business, and the people of God into another corporation is a haunting thought. Marketable Christianity is an unfortunate reality that demands the evaluation of our dependence upon the gospel and some tough questions.
Dependence on the Gospel
In the land of the American Dream the concept of reckless abandon for the cause of Christ seems foreign and our tendency is to gradually, but persistently, adapt the radical message of the gospel with the cultural climate in which we live. In this way we think ourselves clever by marketing the message of Christ to a greater audience. However, the danger of making the message marketable is that you also eventually make it meaningless. When we commercialize Christianity it’s just another “expensive ad for something cheap” (quoted phrase by Caedmon’s Call).
The reality of the gospel is true, powerful, cutting, and transforming whether it’s presented in American megachurches or the caves of China. As evangelicals spend billions on bigger buildings, technological advances, and entertainment driven programs, our brothers and sisters around the world must wonder if the Christ they know and the one we market are one and the same. We desperately need to consider the logical gospel ends to our methodological means. If we truly want to see the genuine conversion of a generation who will relentlessly follow Christ no matter what, then how might we think through the design of our marketed version of Christianity?
To varying degrees, we are all blinded to our own level of cultural compromise. If the message of Christ were truly marketable, then why did thirty coins bury him and his betrayer? There is a layer of marketing in western evangelicalism that permeates our thinking, goes largely undetected, and must be resisted. There are tough questions to be asked and answered and we would do well to give them much thought.
Questions for pondering:
- Could the money we spend on buildings and programs be better allocated for global gospel causes?
- Are our endeavors to be appealing to our culture actually creating a culture of spiritual immaturity?
- Have we invested more time, energy and passion in building the kingdom or our own “invisible empires”? (Social media presences)
- Is there a better way to do ministry training than making students take on crippling debt so that our seminaries can have million dollar facilities?
- Are the celebrity pastors we’ve created along with their blogs, books, and conferences actually contributing to the idolatry they preach against?
If we adjust the message of Christ, trade authenticity for relevance, and emphasize numbers at the expense of faithfulness, then what might the long-term results be? Is it possible that we create a shallow experience-based faith that will crumble when the false expectations of “Christ” and “Church” that have been presented don’t pan out? Of course there is room for innovation, imagination, and creativity. But the cost of marketing overshadowing the cross is losing the pearl of great price for the mere appearance of gain. What if the whole paradigm of our perspective is so impacted by our culture that seeing the world around us aright requires a loss of sight?