As I try to gather my thoughts for other posts, something kept circling my thoughts like vultures waiting to pick my brain and I felt the need to rant.
There is something grossly wrong when churches resort to marketing and promotional techniques we would find in businesses, sporting franchises and even universities in my opinion. With my growing skepticism of evangelicalism, and I know there are exceptions, I can't help but think that this countries churches are ultimately pragmatic and very this-worldly. I have a number of friends that are affiliated from one degree to another with the churches I have in mind, and I think that a lot of the leaders and attendees have the best of intentions, but that doesn't change anything. Here we go.
Calvary Chapel. The picture of the dove has become a trademark for the churches. In addition to that I have seen shirts, bumper stickers, carrying bags, hats, license plate frames and who knows what else they sell all advertising the denomination (and yes, I know that it's not officially a "denomination", but it practically is). This frustrates me on a few levels, and I can't help but get upset the more and more I see this church advertisement spread across the suburbs. There are a few serious reasons I have objections to this.
First, this type of advertisement seems grossly commercialistic and consumeristic. Is this how we want to build our church? "Hey, give your tithe, and then buy a (fill in the blank) to take home with you!" Our culture is filled with consumerism and brand advertisements. Better marketing techniques and name recognition are the backbone for our consumeristic culture it seems. This tactic has been employed to do everything from sell a hamburger to win an election. And apparently now to grow churches. How is this not the church bowing to the wisdom of the culture? Grow churches by plastering the name in front of the masses, throw out the flags of being a church "of the word", and when people are looking for a place to go where "the word" is taught, have no fear, Calvary Chapel is here! My contention is this, do we trust clever marketing techniques and name/brand recognition to grow churches, or do we trust Christ to grow churches? Are we concerned about selling church merchandise or teaching the disciples we've made to obey all that Christ commanded.
My second main contention is that I have a huge problem with a church being in the business of selling merchandise for profit. If you want to give stuff away, whatever. I still think it's much more American wisdom than it is biblical wisdom, but that point aside, at least it's not turning the house of God into a den of robbers. I'm not so much against selling books as most of the churches I have seen that have done so have taken donations or just covered the cost of the book. I have no problem with that, and think (at this time) that is categorically different than turning a profit of goods. I'm sure there are churches that turn a profit of selling books, and that falls into this same complaint. Did not Christ act premeditated and make a whip when this happened? This is a rare time we see the Prince of Peace acting with a hint of wrath in his early ministry. Our Lord made a whip and cleared out the temple! Is this any different? Does not turning the place of worship into a place of capital gain fly against the very nature of what it is supposed to be? I can't help but think that it is a blatant contradiction of when Christ said that we "cannot serve God and money".
Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe I'm overreacting. I just get frustrated with seeing the bride of Christ sold for profit. Christ's bride is no whore. I think we have better more pressing needs than competing with other churches with clever marketing gimmicks. We ought to be about our Father's business and not getting our name out into the public's eye. Isn't one of the grand themes of scripture that it is not our name but is the name of God that "will be great among the nations"? That passage in Malachi is about polluted offerings and the money changers were selling livestock for offerings. Coincidence...