Wednesday, May 13, 2009


As someone who writes marketing copy for a large technology company I'm familiar with big business strategies and the rules of marketing. I've attended seminars and workshops and sat through corporate sponsored tutorials on image, branding, messaging and the ABC's of marketing based on how humans behave, how they react, and what they respond to.

At the end of the day it's all about manipulation.

Of course, as I've read and studied and discussed these concepts on a professional level, it's easy to see how someone in the church business might want to take adavantage of these ideas in order to attract more attendees on Sunday morning and put more butts in the seats. Why not? If we know that people today like this or prefer that or expect X, then what's wrong with giving them what they want so that we can achieve what we're shooting for?

Perhaps because, as I have already mentioned, it's really all about manipulation. Perhaps it's also because utilizing these methods blurs the actual, intended purpose of the Church itself?

Jesus did not command us to gather large crowds of people. Good Marketing can help you attract and keep a crowd, but that's not what being a Christian, or following Jesus, is all about.

I ran across a quote today from Janet Schijns of Motorola. At a recent conference for Data Capture and Point of Sale (DC/POS) vendors and resellers she said, "You cannot achieve tomorrow's results with yesterday's methods." From a business perspective this makes sense. Things change and in order to continue to remain profitable it's necessary to keep up with the changing trends and latch onto the most cutting edge technologies available. This works for big biz, but does it work in the Church?

Well, for one thing success in the world of big business is about selling things. It's not about making friends or loving people or serving others or coming alongside the poor or the lonely or the broken. It's not about teaching people how to follow Jesus. Big business defines success as making money, and lots of it, as fast as possible and at the expense of the business down the street from you.

Success in the big business world is about competition. It's about growing your profits. It's about money.

Sadly, the Christian Church in America has decided that success for them is also about competition with the church down the street and about growing larger and making more money. But, if we scan the New Testament we can plainly see that this isn't what Jesus had in mind for His Church.

The major disconnect is that the Church was never meant to be run like a business. The Church, according to the New Testament, is a relational army of servants who give and share and love those around them. It is a family, a bride, an organism and a body. It is a living, breathing, loving, giving, serving representation of Jesus on this Earth.

Was Jesus concerned with competition? Did he affirm his disciples when they chased away someone who was healing in his name, or did he rebuke them for that behavior?

Was Jesus concerned with money? Or did he celebrate both the widow's mite and the harlot's extravagant alabaster expression of love?

Was Jesus concerned with attracting large crowds? Or did he do his best to thin the crowds? Did he retreat to the mountains to be alone? Did he guard his time with his disciples and pour his life into a few?

The quote from Motorola's executive may work for big business, but in the Church if we abandon the example of Jesus and the patterns of the early church in favor of a more business-savvy approach we are in effect improving on Jesus. Is that even possible? Can we improve Jesus?

As a contrast to the quote above let me suggest that if we really hope to enjoy the fruit that the original christians experienced in the book of Acts we must plant and water and nurture as they did. I would suggest that if we want what they had we will have to do what they did.

Let me respectfully suggest an alternate take on this quote for the church: "You cannot achieve yesterday's results with today's methods."

Instead I see pastors beating their heads against the wall trying this method or that program to achieve the community and the discipleship and the passion for Christ that they see in the book of Acts. They continually attempt to get what the Acts Christians had without trying to do what they did.

I call this BBQ Waffles because it's like trying to duplicate someone's waffle recipe by reading and following the advice of gourmet BBQ chefs.

Big business executives know how to make money and increase profits and beat the competition. They do not know how to teach people to love or to serve or to give or to share and they most especially do not know how to teach people how to follow Jesus in their everyday life.



Caren or Danielle said...

Whew, fabulous article, Keith. Your cogent thoughts always affirm my own. Thank you ~ Caren MacMurchy

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your stuff for the last couple weeks. By and large I have been challenged and found myself re-thinking my views about torture and war from Christian perspective due to your insights.

Although you make some good points in this article for the validity of the home church concept, I think that you have missed the mark in this case. World population has grown geometrically since the NT days. With 7 billion people in the world now, other new methods are required to get the message of the gospel out. The use of larger churches, advanced technology, seeker friendly environments are necessary for the non believer to hear the Gospel. Romans 1:16.
Having a neighborhood get together is also a good way but I think we should use all avenues in order to reach the masses for Christ.

Ordinary Guy said...

Good post Keith. I recently read someone’s blog that compared the church to the American Dairy Association. Independent dairy farmers were competing against each other to sell there milk. Eventually they realized they both had similar products (milk) and not enough customers, so for them to sell more milk, they needed to find more milk buyers. The marketing idea of “Got Milk” was born. Now more people then ever are drinking milk.
One day, the church may revert to simple marketing (something wildly creative like “Got Jesus”) and we can reach a new market of people. If we do it in love, there’s no telling what will happen.

Keith Giles said...

My point is that either we're following the Bible or we're not.

There are very good reasons that Jesus established His church the way he did. It wasn't an accident. It wasn't a cultural decision (if it was they'd have adopted a Jewish temple/synagogue system and/or a pagan form of worship).

Jesus established a new temple for himself that was not made with human hands. It was built with people who were the living stones. It was (on purpose) a new form of worship without a formal priest or clergy-class.

The reason there were no formal priests is that everyone was a member of the priesthood of believers.

The reason there were no temples built is because they understood that they were the living temple of the Holy Spirit of God.

The design was genius, not happenstance.

If we decide to come up with our own way of doing things then let's throw out our Bibles and make it all up as we go along.

I'd rather not...

Adam said...

Keith, you said,
"If we decide to come up with our own way of doing things then let's throw out our Bibles and make it all up as we go along."

I think this is in fact what we've been doing.

My own church is in this rut...I believe the pastor truly wants to do what is right...I don't think he is trying to compete as it were, but any tweaks we make are very much programmatic, not substantive.

I keep going back to this quote from Kierkegaard:

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand it, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

I would lump modern church liturgy/programs in with "Chistian scholarship."

What did Christ say?
Mt 5:16:
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

What did Paul (sic) say, BEFORE saying not to forsake the assembling of ourselves?

"..let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works..."

I think we are seeing such a decline in true Christian faith today because of failure to exercise good works.

Grace and salvation by faith is AWESOME, but unless our good works can illustrate the work of Christ in our lives to a larger world, then His love is lost on our own self-centeredness and comfort of and in the pew, inside the walls of our cave.

Only by breaking out of that can we truly be salt and light.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"The use of larger churches, advanced technology, seeker friendly environments are necessary for the non believer to hear the Gospel."

Is this really what God says? Or is that our own conclusion?

If part of the Gospel (the good news) is that the God dwells in the hearts of men, and not in temples built by human hands, then how does building physical temples (though we call them churches instead) really spread that message?

If part of the gospel is that we are to be a "Kingdom of Priests", are we really sharing the whole gospel, if we ignore that teaching, and divide ourselves into clergy and laity?

As Keith said, the measure should be the Word, period, not whatever we think is most "effective"... Because more often than not, the man-made ideas we adopt altar and distort the very thing (the Kingdom on earth) that we're supposedly bringing to the lost....


Ordinary Guy said...

To clarify why I wrote what I did (about the milk commercials)… I’m more concerned about the church NOT trying to minister to the unreached than I am about how people practice their worship.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your writings (and admire your compassion as well as your writing abilities), but as we look at Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well, we can see where they worship is not as important as how. (In spirit and in truth) – There are many within the institutional church that do worship as we do, but don’t mind the institutional setting.

By no means am I trying to debate with you. I just don’t think we’re going to change peoples minds about where to worship…but perhaps, we can help the people see the need to reach the ones that have never entered church doors.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised by your negative comments about the tradition church especially in light of your Christ like views of terrorists ( an enemy).
It seems to me that the Bible is God's message of His love and plan of redemption and that we are commanded to make Christ known among the nations. There is no command on how to do church. It isn't a blueprint for how and where church should be done.
I like your heart but insisting on the only way to do church at the expense of getting the Gospel message out seems odd to me.
Although I do not agree with you on this point, I am blessed and challenged by your insight into other areas of Christianity.
Thank you.

Keith Giles said...

Surprised that I'm critical of the Church? Jesus was only critical of the religious leaders of His own day. There's no difference now.

No blueprint in the New Testament for how to do church? Really? Have you read the New Testament?

I don't even have time to reference all the verses from Jesus, Paul and Peter about how we are the Temple, we are the priesthood and we are the daily sacrifice.

Jesus constantly prophesies against the physical temple and at the cross He destroyed the Temple, tore the veil, ended the daily sacrifice and performed the final act of the Jewish high priest on Earth by sacrificing the final Lamb of God (Himself) and fulfilled all of it on the very day that God promised he would (the Passover).


So that you and I could be the priests of God.

So that you and I could be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So that you and I could be the daily, living sacrifice.

How can anyone say that the New Testament doesn't act as a blueprint for how to behave as the Church? What ELSE is it about?

"As you come to him, the living also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 2:4-5

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." - 1 Cor 3:16

"But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." - Hebrews 3:5-6

"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." - Ephesians 2:20-22

Read this article for more verses and explanation:

or this one:

It's because I love the Body of Christ that I take the time to write these things and take the hits for it. Why else would I bother?

My prayer is that God's people would let go of their man-made versions of Christianity and fully embrace God's complete vision for His Body and His Bride as found in the New Testament.

Personally, I am done with Man-Made Church.

Give me God's blueprint for Church and nothing less.