Real Live Preacher on Church Marketing

August 29, 2005 by

Real Live Preacher, the quasi-famous blogging pastor who recently published his first book,, ranted about church marketing recently. He complains about both churches doing marketing and businesses that market to churches. For the examples he gives, I can certainly feel his pain.

But it sounds oddly familiar, ragging on the very idea of marketing based on the examples of people who do it poorly. Wait—isn’t that what people do with Christianity all the time? Write it off thanks to a hypocrite who doesn’t practice what they preach? Or even an entire system that doesn’t seem to be doing it right?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again…): Marketing is a tool. It all depends on how you use it. But don’t condemn the idea based on a poor example.

At the end he yearns for a pure and authentic church, and I’m right there with him. He speaks of his own church as messy, and I like that image. It goes along with my favorite image of the broken church. But you know what? It’s still marketing. Who ever said marketing had to be impure and disingenuous? It’s not a bad word, marketing. It’s just executed poorly, and as often as the business world screws it up, the church screws it up even more.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done right.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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3 Responses to “Real Live Preacher on Church Marketing”

  • Ron
    August 29, 2005

    On the bright side, I never would have found this site if it hadn’t been for that post.
    Love the site.

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  • Aj
    August 31, 2005

    Thank you for writing this post, for putting these concepts into terms such as “marketing is a tool”. I’ve been struggling with the idea of marketing and churches: I think I confuse advertising and marketing (or are they the same thing?) – advertising seems somewhat sleazy or deceiving, perhaps from my experience of typical American advertising. I wonder what authentic marketing would look like. I appreciate reading your posts and gaining insight into what you think it looks like.

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  • Phillip Ross
    September 5, 2005

    You said, “It’s (marketing) just executed poorly, and as often as the business world screws it up, the church screws it up even more.
    But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done right.”
    The problem is not merely that churches execute marketing poorly, though that surely happens. However, I’d rather see poorly executed marketing than excellent marketing of false (shallow, misguided, worldly, etc.) Christianity. Doing the wrong thing poorly is better than doing the wrong thing well.
    Marshall McLuhan was a mass communications expert who was famous for saying, “The medium is the message.” Essentially, this means that in mass communication (marketing) the content of the message tends to takes a back seat to the medium. In other words, from a marketing perspective *how* someting is presented is more important that *what* is presented. Execution trumps content. Style becomes more important than substance.
    One of the problems with the marketing mentality is that friends don’t market to one another, they talk or share or whatever, but definitedly not market. Thus, the search for authenticity must always necessarily exclude a mass approach and focus on an individual approach. The nature of friendship is that it requires a unique approach to each friend. Marketing attempts to clone that individual approach and export it to a mass audience.
    The most successful marketing efforts employ cloned expressions of individualiity. But as soon as those expressions are cloned they lose their authenticity. So the marketers must search for another expression of individuality. So, marketers are always seeking the latest and greatest thing that is just begining to grow in popularity.
    The problem is that authenticity cannot be cloned and marketed. But it can be expressed and shared.
    If you are not familiar with this phenomenon, see:
    I’m not arguing against marketing per se. I’m only pointing out a serious internal flaw of the marketing approach to communicating the gospel of Christ.

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