Marketing a Noncommercial Message

The church today has a weakness for numbers. We are infatuated with measurements and quantified data: statistics, opinion polls, market research, attendance figures, bestseller lists, budgets, and so on. We want specific numbers so we can keep tabs on things like market saturation, return on investment, and consumer satisfaction. We want to monitor what the masses are buying, where the people are flocking, and what is hot right now, so that perhaps our warehouse churches will overflow with seeker-consumers. In other words, the church today operates like a corporation, with a product to sell and a market to conquer.

But what happens to our faith when we turn it into a product to sell? What does it mean to package Christianity in a methodical manner so as to make it salient to as wide an audience as possible? What does Christianity lose when it becomes just one piece of a consumer transaction? These are questions that the brand managers of “cool Christianity” would do well to consider. …

Let’s think for a minute about what Christianity is and why it doesn’t make a good “product.” For one thing, products must be subject to markets, yet God is not subject to the consumer needs or wants of any market. God only and ever deals on his own terms. … Another reason why Christianity doesn’t make a good product is that it doesn’t lend itself to an easy commercial sale. Sure, there are appealing things about it, but there are also not-so-appealing things about it (um… taking up one’s cross, avoiding sin and worldliness, etc.). And although the Gospel is wonderfully simple in the sense that even a child can recognize its truth, it is also mind-blowingly complex in a way that doesn’t lend itself to thirty-second jingles. Marketing requires simplifying, cutting out all friction and obstacles to a sale, and focusing solely on the beneficial, feel-good aspects of a product. To market something is to empty it of all potentially controversial or difficult elements, which is maybe not the best method of communicating the gospel…

Read the rest of this excerpt (from Chap. 13, “Reversing the Ripple Effect,” of Hipster Christianity) over at Q Ideas Blog.

3 responses to “Marketing a Noncommercial Message

  1. Brett! I’m SO sorry I missed the book signing. I had to get out of L.A. fast; it’s a long story. I just finally ordered my copy and am looking forward to reading it when it arrives. Hope the event was fantastic.

  2. Hey man, like this list. I am preparing a book review of HC – it should have had these pictures in it for ADD people like me! Should be up next week, I’ll keep you posted. also, I just posted a list of my 100 fave tracks from the 2000’s. It’d be interesting to see what it would rate vs an uber-hipster list. you should do one yourself. It’s a lot of work though!

  3. oops, meant to leave the last comment on the other post for types of Christian hipsters… whoops!

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