How does the purpose of marketing change the purpose of business? Here’s an example. Manufacturers will substitute a less expensive ingredient for a higher quality ingredient. And the marketing department will shift attention away from the disadvantages of such a change by conjuring up some new and improved element of the manufactured product. We are all familiar with this process.
The point to be made is the shift in purpose from function to finance, from performance to appearance, from essentials to periphery, from substance to style. I am not arguing against profit or against marketing or against efficiency or against financial concerns. All I am saying is that when a business shifts its primary purpose from production to marketing, the likelihood of an inferior product increases.
It doesn’t have to, but it usually does. The concerns of marketing take precedence over the concerns of product quality and performance. There is a shift of concern from what is best for the customer to what is best for the business. It is a shift of priorities from other to self. This shift is evidenced in the wide-spread decrease in customer service that has happened across the board over the last fifty years.
So, how does this play out in the church? Worldly wisdom tells us that gospel success means more people in the pews. The emphasis is on the pew rather than on the Lord. Whereas, biblical wisdom tells us that gospel success results from the glorification of God (Shorter Catechism, Question 1). The purity of the church requires the right people in the pews, people who are covered by the righteousness of Christ. The biblical emphasis is on right belief or right values, on the righteousness of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.
The traditional focus of the churches was on Christ. The central focus of worship and evangelism was Jesus Christ. Churches and Christians were concerned about serving the needs and desires of Jesus Christ. Whereas the Church Growth Movement is concerned about serving the needs and desires of the people in the pews. Biblically, worship and evangelism are Christ-centered, and are understood to be byproducts of faithfulness. Biblical worship and evangelism are accomplished through faithfulness to Jesus Christ. They are not accomplished through the mechanics of marketing and advertising (human effort).
Again, marketing and advertising do have legitimate functions in the church. However, they are not to be self-centered, they are to be Christ-centered. Biblical marketing and advertising should not be about the church or about the people in the church. Rather, they should be about Jesus Christ.
Christians should understand that Christianity is not about us, it is about Jesus Christ. We don’t bring salvation, Christ does. We don’t produce sanctification, Christ does. Salvation is not about what we do or who we are, it’s about Jesus Chris — what He has done and who He is!
The Church Growth Movement and virtually all contemporary Christian marketing and advertising, while it pays lip service to Jesus Christ, is actually focused on the people in the pews. It is primarily concerned with noses and nickels related to particular institutions. It understands the purpose of evangelism to be to get people in the pews — and that focus lobbies against preaching or sharing any biblical truth that has a hard edge, that will make people uncomfortable, or that may be difficult to understand. And, like it or not, biblical truth will make us all uncomfortable. Various aspects of biblical truth are hard to understand — faith is required. All growth is painful at times.
Growing, or stretching our limitations, is often uncomfortable. Christian growth — sanctification — requires thinking outside of the box of our spiritual immaturity. It’s hard. It’s painful. And it will take us where we don’t want to go. The Spirit opposes the flesh. “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17).
Go to the church page of any newspaper and you can see what I mean. The ads are church-centered rather than Christ-centered. The basic message is “come visit our church,” rather than extolling the excellencies of Jesus Christ. By and large the messages preached are about what Christ can do for you, rather than biblical exposition or extolling the excellencies of Jesus Christ.
As we go through our exegesis of First Corinthians I want you to look for Paul’s invitation to visit the church at Corinth. You won’t find it, but it is important that you see that it is not there. Why? Because this is not an evangelism-centered book. It is a sanctification-centered book. The focus is on the maturity of Christians. And then as now, the focus on maturity will not immediately increase local church membership, it will likely decrease it. Please understand that I am not suggesting that churches initiate programs in order to decrease their membership rolls. Rather, I am simply pointing to what Paul did, and his concern for Christian maturity and growth in grace.
Author of many Christian books, Phillip A. Ross has been a pastor for over 25 years. Loaded with information about historic Christianity, Ross founded http://www.Pilgrim-Platform.org in 1998. Demonstrating the Apostle Paul’s profound opposition to worldly Christianity, he published an exposition First Corinthians in 2008. Paul turned the world upside down and Ross captures the action in Arsy Varsy — Reclaiming the Gospel in First Corinthians.