Marketing the Master

“We always try to connect to the energy and events of our time,” said Erica Archambault, Levi’s director of brand marketing and public relations. “What’s the pioneering spirit of today? A lot of people are rallying around marriage equality and fighting for that and so many individuals within our company feel so strongly about it.”

Doesn't this sound strangely and uncomfortably like things we hear said concerning matters within the church? It is actually an excerpt from an article that is talking about the Levi's brand of clothing's support of the gay rights movement (which is no new thing for them). They have displayed their support by adopting the donning of a white ribbon on their manikins in their storefront displays. It is said to be reminiscent of the "knot-tying" that takes place in the context of a marriage (although what they are supporting is NOT marriage).

While it comes as no surprise that Levi's would support this, it is disconcerting that the popular way of calling sinners to salvation these days, sounds very similar (because it is more like calling customers to a product). If the "seekers" are seen as customers shopping for the "best thing" then why wouldn't we try to make our product as marketable as possible? Why SHOULDN'T we support gay marriage if it appeals to a crowd that we can reach for Jesus? If faith is a product and the "customer" can associate with the marketing company by means of a certain issue, why not be pragmatic for the sake of the gospel?

Along these lines, I have recently been digging into a book written by David Wells entitled "The Courage to be Protestant." In it he critiques the current state of Christianity in churches across America. In a section specifically addressing those he labels "Marketers," or those who are always experimenting with new ways to "sell" Christianity, he comments, "However innocent are the intentions, the form is actually affecting the content in this experiment. The methodology is transforming the faith that is being sold. That is what we need to see."

SO, if the form is wrong what exactly is wrong with it? In identifying the root of the problem Wells points out that this strategy of making Christianity "marketable" and attractive is actually a vain pursuit seeing as it denies a foundational tenet of Christianity: original sin. Marketing to a dead audience who has completely godless, unregenerate desires are only going to want that which caters to those desires - thus requiring the marketing of a different PRODUCT. Christianity does not sell. God saves through His offensive gospel. Disguising Christianity to make it attractive to the world only confuses and deceives as to what it actually is - it doesn't help anything. It's harmful.

I'll close with one final (extended) quote from Wells on the topic.

"There is a yearning in the evangelical world today. We encounter it everywhere. It is a yearning for what is real. Sales pitches, marketed faith, the gospel as a commodity, people as customers, God as just a prop to my inner life, the glitz and sizzle, Disneyland on the loose in our churches - all of it is skin deep and often downright wrong. It is not making serious disciples. It cannot make serious disciples. It brims with success, but it is empty, shallow, and indeed unpardonable.

It is time to reach back into the Word of God, as we have not done in a generation, and find again a serious faith for our undoubtedly serious times. It is now time to close the door on this disastrous experiment in retailing faith, to do so politely but nevertheless firmly. It is time to move on. It is time to become Protestant once again."


skh said...

Glad to have you back in the blog game, ITL. I appreciated the courageous Protestant thoughts as well as the Wells quote.

bean said...

yay ian!!! nice post.

Andrew said...

Ian Lugg! First, I just want to say that it is very good to see you back in the blogosphere. Your thoughts are too good to keep to yourself. Second, thanks for the post -- very insightful. It is good to remember the that Gospel is NOT a product and sinners are NOT customers. Third, what are your overall thoughts on The Courage to be Protestant? Fourth, ...Psych! There is no fourth! ;)

Micah James Lugg said...

It was good to read some of your thoughts again!