Over the years I’ve worked with literally hundreds of churches, ministries, and nonprofits. As part of that process, I’ve sat in more fundraising, donor development, and marketing meetings than I can count. After all those years and all that experience, I know two things:
1. Creating an enemy helps raise money.
2. Creating an enemy doesn’t necessarily help the cause.
Criticizing a community, industry, business, project, or idea will rally the troops. Protesting at abortion clinics will get people riled up. Boycotting a movie or business will build a mailing list. Launching a petition drive against something political will mobilize your people.
People rally against a perceived enemy. The question is, while it can raise money, as Christians, does it ultimately help the cause? Does being known as “The people who are against everything” help our long term goal of reaching the culture with the gospel? Does criticism really make people stop and take our message to heart?
I didn’t come up with it, but on this blog I’ve often used the example of missionaries. If criticism, petition drives, or boycotts worked to reach people, then why don’t missionaries do it? Let’s surround a local village, criticize their beliefs, and threaten to not buy anything from them until they convert. Will that win them to Christ?
So if it doesn’t work for missionaries, why do we think it will work in Hollywood, for political causes, or people who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” What do missionaries do? They develop a relationship with the people – even if that means taking some abuse at first. Live with them. Build their trust. Then share the message.
The bottom line is that because being negative is good for raising money, I worry that it’s become a default position for too many Christian organizations. Believe me, I understand the need to raise money for the cause. I just wonder if the long term perception by the culture is worth it. I do think there is evil out there, and we shouldn’t be afraid to call it by name. But if we really want to make people re-think their beliefs, sharing (or shouting) what’s wrong with them may not be the best approach.
What do you think actually impacts people’s behavior when it comes to spiritual change? Is there a better way to raise money AND change minds? What do you think?