I spend a lot of time thinking about marketing.
Not because I work in a purchasing department (by the time I get involved in a cash-for-goods/services transaction, all the details have been hammered out, and I’m basically here to tie the bow on the package), but because in this society, you cannot escape marketing. In such a society, whenever there’s an idea that needs transmitting, it has to be couched in the language of marketing. Even the conversation my cubiclemate and I had regarding a television show last night is, to the network that aired it and the show’s producers, marketing the show.
We have been marketed to so much that we are simply running out of attention span. So, the marketing has to become bolder, more outrageous, more pervasive, insisting constantly that it’s the NEW GREAT THING, and that you need to buy t-shirts and books and stickers that proclaim it as such. Look around next time you’re in a public space, count how many corporate logos are displayed boldly on cars, buildings, and people.
I like to think that I don’t fall into this category, that I can look at myself and see someone who is not shilling for corporations, but I carry a coffee mug with my favorite coffeeshop’s logo. The plastic bag I toted my made-at-home lunch to work in has the grocery store’s name in big green letters. The shirt I’m going to go home and change into was a promotional item I purchased at a fundraising screening of a film, so it not only has the distinctive logo of the film, it’s got the equally distinctive logo of the charitable agency we raised the money for. Even my shoes leave traced in the dust as I pass the name of the company that sold them to me.
Within all this marketing babble, I am a Christian. Which means I have something that I think is pretty cool, that’s changed my life, that’s given me a completely different perspective on the world, and that calls me to tell others about this amazing change in my life.
Well, shoot, what’s the best way to tell others in a market-driven culture about Christianity? Mass-market-multi-media campaign, of course! Books, movie tie-ins, t-shirts, pins, commercials, slick print ads, and firms who will not only give you reports on the statistical makeup of your neighborhood, but the percentage of those people who would go to a church if only it had program n available.
How did Jesus and the Apostles do it without these useful marketing tools?
Think about how they did it. A large percentage of the Gospels is Jesus talking to individuals. A large percentage of the New Testament are letters, and those letters have advice, greetings, and prayers for specific people. Christianity, in my mind, is about the relationship between God and humans, a relationship that cannot be carried out by individuals alone. Jesus didn’t say, “Whenever you sit at home and think spiritual thoughts, I am there”, Jesus said, “Whenever two or more are gathered…”
The mass-market-multi-media campaigns can help that, sure enough. Get some behinds into the seats, some more pocket change into the collection plate. But you cannot rest on those headcount laurels. The individual connections, the relationships formed between members of the church are equally as important. And it’s not the sole duty of the Welcoming Committee, the Greeters, the Parish Council, to make those connections.