This is the Americanization of congregation. It means turning each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesiastical business run along the lines of advertising techniques, organizational flow charts, and energized by impressive motivational rhetoric. – Eugene Peterson The Pastor: A Memoir
As a new generation of pastors entered the ministry, having been sold from day one the concept of the church as a business (and the pastor as CEO), they did what was only natural – attempted to grow their business.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here, I have nothing against large churches or growing churches. But there are healthy and unhealthy ways to grow. One particularly unhealthy way, in my opinion, is church marketing.
As Rob Bell puts it in Velvet Elvis “The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick.”
Because when we treat our people as spiritual consumers, and market our church to them like we would the latest smart phone, we’ve not only missed our real role as a church but also set ourselves up for a fall.
After all, what do consumers do when they find a product that better meets their needs?
I cannot tell you how often I have heard pastors and elder boards express their frustration at half-hearted attendance and that one family who started going to the church down the road. But they shouldn’t be surprised.
We’ve spent years subtly teaching our congregations that they are consumers of a product we deliver, and yet somehow we get all self-righteous when they take that framework to its natural end and start “shopping” for churches.
What did we expect would happen?