Making Sense of Church

September 23, 2004 by

Spencer Burke, creator of the, wrote Making Sense of Church, a book that dives into a lot of the post-modern/emergent conversations about the church.

While the book is more of a conversation about God, community and culture, there’s a few things we can learn that are applicable to the church marketing conversation.

  • The church has trouble admitting we’re sinners:

    “As a culture, we’ve long since abandoned the idea of perfect leaders and perfect plans. When we see individuals and ideas presented in neat, airbrushed packages, we’re cynical. … The church, however, has been reluctant to admit this reality. Despite all our talk of sin and needing a Savior, we insist on looking like the exception. By fixing our attention on tightly worded tracts, well-executed programs, and other people’s problems, we avoid having to see ourselves as we really are. People attending church today, however, have little patience for this kind of sanctified denial. Instead, we hunger for a place where honesty and authenticity are embraced.” (37)

    I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Perfectionism seems to be constant complaint about the church today. Let’s be clear about one thing: we suck.

  • The third chapter of Burke’s book explores methods of learning. He makes the claim that the current teaching emphasis in the church has given the body of Christ a big head. We’re great at head knowledge, but when it comes to worship or service we’re sadly lacking. I’ve felt that way so many times growing up in churches where a Sunday “worship” service involves a 45-minute lecture and seven minutes of actual worship.

    One of the things I’ve always thought is cool about the emerging church is their willingness to dismantle what’s considered the traditional church service and try something new.

    People leave church because it’s too similar to their everyday lives, according to Thom S. Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church. (54) Burke argues that seeker-sensitive churches are missing out on postmodern people because they emphasize knowledge rather than any of the other senses. People today, call them post-moderns or whatever you like, want a deeper, more meaningful experience. Some post-modern churches are meeting that need by exploring something new.

    Of course the goal isn’t to try something different for the sake of being different or to reorient church simply to reel in a few people. That’s just slick marketing, and it sucks. The church needs to explore new methods with authenticity.

  • It’s the sixth chapter that most directly addresses marketing, when Burke talks about missions and the tendency to want to dress up the Gospel and present it in a flashy package.

    While I agree with Burke, I have a knee-jerk reaction to any effort to hip-ify Jesus, I think that simply results in marketing that sucks. Any packaging that ultimately goes against the message it’s trying to deliver is self-defeating. That’s poor marketing. We can’t help but present the Gospel in some way, which will always involve some level of marketing. The best we can do is ensure that the methods of communication and presentation remain true to the message itself.

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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One Response to “Making Sense of Church”

  • thoughts
    January 15, 2005

    2004 Reading List

    It’s time once again for the annual reading list. Well, actually it was time two weeks ago, but I’m just now getting to it. Yet again my reading list numbers are low. It seems not riding the bus to work…

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