Are we losing our moral authority in the culture, by trying to reach a larger audience? In my book “Unique” I talk about what I call the “Marketing Conflict.”. We can plead a life of poverty, until we realize that reaching a mass audience through the media costs millions of dollars. We can make a hard stand for an issue, until we
realize that without some negotiation, we’ll never have much influence in government. We can be strident about public morality, until we come up against other belief systems who want equal voices in the conversation. As Walter Brueggemann points out, the Jewish nation wrestled with the divisive issue of cultural accommodation thousands of years ago, so this is nothing new.
That doesn’t cause us to stop, but it does make us aware of the tension involved in presenting our message to a 21st century audience.
Financial challenges are a great example. Pastor Gary Keesee in Columbus, Ohio was a financial planner before he was called into ministry. From that unique perspective he likes to say, “You’ll never achieve your destiny until you get the money thing fixed.” For instance, just try to walk away from your job and be a missionary with a huge financial debt hanging over your head, or attempt to go into fulltime ministry with a poor record balancing a budget. Without a miracle, you’re in for a real challenge.
Life happens. As fallen creatures we live in conflict everyday.
But many refuse to accept the conflict, and on the one hand, some Christian marketing “experts” relentlessly extol the virtues of marketing churches and ministries with little regard for the damage it can cause. But on the other hand, academics and ministry leaders have written carloads of books decrying marketing as the end of the church as we know it.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle, I wrestle with the task of getting the Christian message to as many people as possible, and at the same time, keeping the church distinctive and unique, without making us look weird and crazy.
The conflict will always be there, and our goal is to seek balance. Getting people into the seats without harming the integrity or perception of the church as a life changing entity, and yet extending grace to those who walk away in spite of our best efforts.
Academics or critics can sit at a distance and make their pronouncements, but for those of us in the trenches, wrestling with that conflict is a way of life.