Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marketing the Gospel?

Wednesday: 28 November, 2012 –– 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Revelation 15:1–4 / Luke 21:12–19
Marketing the Gospel?

In my last decade or so as a pastor in the Evangelical world I began to be besieged with the idea of “marketing the church.”  There was a push to use business and commercial “principles” to make outreach and evangelism more “attractive” to what was supposed to be our potential “customer base.” The whole approach seemed like one big gimmick to me, and it was one of my motivations to make an ecclesiastical change.

I cannot read these words from Jesus and begin to understand how the Gospel can be (mis)interpreted as a divine How to Win Friends and Influence People. The principles of Dale Carnegie’s book do have a place, but it’s only one side of the truth. Sometimes Truth –– if it really is true! –– divides and alienates. Jesus would not compromise with the whole Truth, and it took him to the cross. He says again and again that if we follow him faithfully the same can happen to us.

The reading from Revelation, when juxtaposed with this Gospel reading, offers a major choice: Which “world” has our ultimate loyalty?  One world offers being hated by all because of my name.  The “other world” (the pun is appropriate) has martyrs singing the song of the Lamb.

Jesus does not “market the gospel” on the basis of public popularity. Jesus never invites people to follow him with a promise of comfort and ease and pleasure. Yet it is only right for us to recognize that these are the very idols of our society. Already we can hear the anger of a decadent populace directed at any expression of the Church that would restrict or hinder our “right” to personal pleasure.  The choice of the two worlds is increasingly coming into focus.

By your perseverance you will secure your lives –– not in this world, but the one that is coming that is forever. It is those who have won the victory over the beast who know we cannot evangelize this world by embracing this world’s values.

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