Item description for Selling Out the Church The Dangers of Church Marketing by Philip D. Kenneson, James L. Street & Stanley Hauerwas...
Description: Marketing the church is hot. For many church leaders, marketing might even be the first article of their creed, which goes something like this: ""We believe that our church determines its identity and mission through the tactics of marketing strategies."" Theologians Kenneson and Street offer a thoughtful and provocative protest, with a foreword from Stanley Hauerwas. The authors ""expose the theological presuppositions that inform the marketing project. . . and help us to see that the marketer's presumption that form can be separated from content of the gospel betrays an understanding of the gospel that cannot help betraying the gift that is Christ."" The authors propose an alternative, constructive account of the church's mission and purpose that is ""not based on exchange of value but on reminding us that the gospel is always a gift - a gift that makes impossible any presumptions that there can be an exchange between human beings and God that is rooted in the satisfaction of our untrained needs."" The cross and resurrection challenge the world's understanding of what our needs should be. Endorsements: ""A well-written and thought-provoking work that provides a much needed corrective for those of us involved in church planting and church growth."" Paul S. Williams, President, ""'Go Ye'"" Chapel Mission, Inc., East Islip, NY ""Kenneson and Street open our eyes to subtle dangers, ambiguous terms, and hidden hazards that we might not have recognized in marketing approaches to the gospel. I am very grateful for their keen insight and biblical wisdom "" Marva J. Dawn, Freelance Theologian for Christians Equipped for Ministry and author of 'Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down' ""As Luther posted his theses on the cathedral door, so have Kenneson and Street posted their own point-by-point protest on the door of the market-driven church. And they leave little room for doubt--the issue is still the selling of indulgences. Take it from a pastor who has carefully learned at the feet of some of the best and brightest church marketers, this is the theological counterbalance for which we have long waited."" James E. Baucom, Jr., Pastor, Rivermont Avenue Baptist, Lynchburg, VA and Moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia About the Contributor(s): Philip Kenneson is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Milligan College. He is the author of 'Life on the Vine' and has contributed to 'Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World' and 'The Nature of Confession' (both IVP). James L. Street is Pastor of North River Community Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia.
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More About Philip D. Kenneson, James L. Street & Stanley Hauerwas
Philip Kenneson is professor of theology and philosophy at Milligan College. He is the coauthor, with James L. Street, of Selling Out the Church and has contributed to Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World and The Nature of Confession (both IVP).
Reviews - What do customers think about Selling Out the Church The Dangers of Church Marketing?
A Great Help For Pastors/Church Leadership Oct 22, 2007
It's tough to argue with success, especially the kind of success that countless churches across America have experienced as they have adopted deliberate marketing strategies and then seen their attendance grow into the thousands. For much of evangelical Christianity in America, church marketing is becoming more and more of a standard practice grounded in a very pragmatic ideal, "If it works, why not do it?" Phillip Kenneson and James Street have written Selling Out the Church: The Dangers of Church Marketing, with a bigger question in mind, however. They ask, "Can the market-driven church remain Christ's church?"
One may argue that Kenneson and Street face a danger of their own in writing such a book, the danger of theological nit-picking. Sometimes, critiques of enormously successful ventures are driven by something other than sincerity. But it seems that the authors have guarded against this danger by offering a sincere, thoughtful, and gracious book that ultimately demands a serious re-thinking of the church marketing movement.
In asking questions about the nature of church marketing Kenneson and Street have looked beyond marketing practices (slogans, image, advertising, market research, etc.) to marketing philosophy. Ultimately they convincingly argue that the philosophy that drives church marketing is often times directly contrary to the very nature of the church. A couple of examples are worth noting.
First, the authors point out that marketing philosophy is predominantly driven by the idea of "exchange." This exchange is, in essence, two parties giving something of value to one another to satisfy felt needs. Church marketers would see the exchange play out like this: We give you the gospel, you give us your attendance; We give you programs, you give us your money; We give you new friendships, you give us your time.
Kenneson and Street argue that this "exchange" philosophy destroys the idea of "gift" that is central to Scripture. God, after all, does not need anything from his creatures. This is why we speak of the gospel, eternal life, and even faith as being gifts from God, not transactions or exchanges between God and man. In light of Romans 6:20-23 the authors argue that an exchange does take place when someone becomes a Christian, but it is not the exchange that church marketers have in mind. They write:
"What Christians have exchanged, then, is one master for another. One master's gift was the gift of death; the other master's gift was the gift of eternal life. We have, by God's grace, been placed in a position to receive God's free gift; we have not exchanged something for it in the economic sense."
A second example, and perhaps the most damaging argument deals with the role of "felt needs" in church marketing philosophy. Church marketers primarily work to address felt needs. Many of these felt needs seem innocent enough, such as a need to fit in, or feel encouraged, or to learn how to "rise above it all." But Kenneson and Street comment:
"The heavy emphasis on felt needs all but drowns out the central teaching that the Christian life calls for a radical transformation and reorientation of one's whole way of thinking and behaving. Instead of assuming that membership in the Body of Christ entails far-reaching claims on our lives, church marketers assume that, at least in principle, the church can be made relevant and desirable to almost anyone if we simply know how to market it effectively. But what if one must be given eyes to see the "relevance" of the church? What if the "point" of the church is not accessible by means of human wisdom?"
They later comment, "Central to the gospel is the news that God has graciously provided something that humanity didn't even know it needed."
Although this book is relatively brief, their critique of church marketing is far reaching, challenging the very philosophy upon which church marketers build their case, and reminding the reader of the biblical standard for what the church is called to be. As a pastor I know the pressures to adopt a church marketing mindset can be quite strong. If it's succesful in getting people through the doors, why not do it? Thankfully, what Kenneson and Street remind us is that our very method of "doing church" is inextricably linked to the gospel message we proclaim. A less-than-biblical method will indeed lead to a less-than-biblical gospel. The apostle Paul says that "the word of the cross if folly..." (1 Cor. 1:18). Can the folly of the cross really be transformed into a marketable, attractive product without distorting its very essence?
On the other hand... May 23, 2006
One reviewer who liked the book noted:
"The church has no business asking unbelievers (ie consumers) what they would like in a church, for the church already knows their deepest need."
And Christians wonder why people in our culture find us arrogant and non-caring? This reviewer actually thinks that Christians don't even need to listen to unbelievers, since we already have all the answers? Proverbs 18:13 indicates that when we "answer before listening" we are acting "in a stupid and shameful manner." Jesus was deeply concerned to discover what was going on in the hearts of the people he interacted with: "What do you want me to do for you?," he asked in Luke 18:35-43. Matthew 9:36 (NLT) indicates that "he felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd."
Another reviewer astutely observed the irony (or hypocrisy?) that:
"a critic could easily say that the book itself--with its nice, glossy cover and forward by Stanley Hauerwas--ironically demonstrates the necessity of marketing and packaging in our consumerist culture (i.e. why didn't Abingdon see fit to put a plain brown cover around the 150+ pages if we are to be so concerned with our cultures obsession with consumer appetite? Why not have the forward written by someone who will not at face value lead more people to purchase the book?)."
"Marketing stratigies [sic] foundationally are ultimately geared around the self-interest of the business as well as the consumer. The business says to the consumer, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." The consumer then looks at the business as just another commodity.
"Such a mentality is contrary to two key principles of Christianity: servant-hood and giving. If the church attempts to reach out to others only so that it may profit (e.g. growth), then the church fails to truly give and fails to truly serve. Because ultimately, when it serves and when it gives, strings are attached."
I think the perspective behind this comment (and the book itself) is flawed. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with "persuading" people, "urging" people, and "imploring" people (Paul's language) to consider the claims of Jesus. If the only goal is for the CHURCH to grow, then I would agree, the motivation does not seem pure; that is not servanthood. But what if the goal is to help PEOPLE grow? What if the goal is to follow Paul's example in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, where he says that he is willing to bend over backwards if need be "to win as many as possible." Why shouldn't that be our goal as well?
Paul goes on to say, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." Would that all followers of Jesus shared Paul's passion for the lost and the lonely, the bruised and the broken, the misfit and the marginalized -- and that we all shared his determination to carry out his mission "by all possible means" no matter what the personal cost!
Just a thought.
An Incredible Book Jun 14, 2005
Much has been written in recent years about marketing the church. Of all the books I've read, both for and against marketing the church, few have been as helpful or as biblical as Selling Out the Church. The authors set out to answer the question of whether the market-drive church can remain Christ's church. While many proponents of church marketing consider this debate to be over, the authors of this book consider it wide open. "We hope to enable a more robust debate about the wisdom of employing church marketing by articulating as clearly as we can what we take to be its dangers" (page 16). They ask the reader to consider this book "a contribution to what we hope is a churchwide conversation about the identity, character, and mission of the church, and more specifically about the wisdom of employing marketing thinking and practices in the service of that church" (page 17).
Church marketers believe that marketing is a neutral force, in that it shapes only the form of the church while leaving the function alone. Kenneson and Street disagree, for they believe that the convictions that shape marketing are at cross purposes with the convictions of Christians.
Following an introduction to the history of marketing, where the reader sees how society has passed through three eras, the production era, the sales era and now the marketing era, the authors answer the church marketers who taught that Jesus and His apostles used marketing to further their ministry in New Testament times. While Jesus used components of marketing, they show that He did not subscribe to a marketing orientation as do the church marketers. In short, they show that there is no biblical basis to support such a marketing orientation. In fact, the marketing orientation is antithetical to Christianity because it presupposes an exchange mindset in which goods or services pass between parties. Yet the Gospel is a message of grace. There is no equal exchange. Instead, God gives us a gift of grace. A marketing mindset may lead us to feel that God has an obligation towards us (in which we exchange service for blessing) or may lead us to seek reciprocity in relationships, despite the biblical emphasis on self-denial.
"We believe that placing a marketing orientation at the center of the church's life radically alters the shape and character of the Christian faith by redefining the character and mission of the church in terms of manageable exchanges between producers and consumers. Much that is central to the Christian life will not fit neatly into the management/marketing scheme, and, not surprisingly, these matters are neglected in a marketing paradigm." (page 62).
The authors go on to examine the false understanding that the church is primarily a service agency that exists to meet the needs of the "consumer," believer and unbeliever alike. This view teaches that a felt need is a legitimate need because in a marketing paradigm the customer is always right. At the heart of marketing is an assumption that theology has long denied - that people know what is best for them. Scripture teaches the exact opposite - that the church has something people need, but something these people do not want and do not know they need! The church has no business asking unbelievers (ie consumers) what they would like in a church, for the church already knows their deepest need.
A chapter entitled "The Baby Boomerang" examines the danger of the marketing practices of segmenting, targeting and positioning. While segmenting is a practice that comes naturally to humans, who naturally gravitate towards people like ourselves, we do so along "natural" lines that are in reality social constructs. We look to the population of a town and divide them along socio-economic lines and assume that God does too. When the church relies on marketing strategies that reach only a certain segment of the population, the church is excused from having to be genuinely transformed to reach the world. We need to change only a little in order to reach people who are just like us, but we need to change radically to reach people who are radically different. "The unspoken message of target marketing is that the church need not be different from the world; it simply needs to package itself differently, position itself properly, and enjoy the benefits that come from engaging in mutually beneficial exchanges with its target market" (page 93).
The authors begin to put all of these concepts together in the sixth chapter. They show that marketers understand that the appeal of the marketing approach is the fixation our society has on control, measurement and effectiveness. Marketing, at its core, is an attempt to control the future. Furthermore, marketing is premised upon the need to move towards the future with limited resources of time, manpower and finances. Yet Christ tells us that in Him we have abundance! We do not need to worry so much about where we are going or how we are going to get there. Rather we need to ensure that we are learning from God along the way as He shapes us into the men and women He wants us to be. Kenneson and Street question where church marketers leave room for God in the grand drama of the church. They also point out the danger in valuing measurable objectives because this tends to filter out theological objectives that cannot be neatly weighed and measured. Thus goals tend to be number-driven even though numbers are not a reliable indicator of theological depth and understanding.
The crux of the matter is this. The authors believe that the church is called to be a sign, foretaste and herald of the kingdom. This phrase is repeated often because it stands at odds with the understanding that the church is a service agency. Strangely, if there is a weakness in this book, it is that the authors did not do much to prove that this is the purpose of the church. If a person reads Selling Out the Church who is not convinced of this premise, the book may do little to change his mind.
Reading through my review I can see that I have done little to indicate just how thoroughly I enjoyed this book. What can I say, but that of the fifty plus books I have read thus far in 2005, this is one of the top two or three. I would recommend it to any pastor or person who ministers within a church.
Truly a much-needed warning Mar 29, 2004
This is an EXCELLENT book for any Pastor or Church leader to read. It is amazingly helpful for anyone seeking to rid their ministries of unneeded fluff. Too often have we let American (Western) culture shape the minds of God's people and His Church. But Kennison and Street do a remarkable job of sifting through the enticing attractions of a marketing orientation to reveal its destructive nature when applied to Christ's Church. I highly recommend this book to anyone tired of our Chrurch's inability to shake itself free of the bonds of cultural influence.
This book is a reminder of the Church's important role of being a sign, a fortaste, and a herald of Christ's Kingdom, and explains how our willingness to accept cultural trends keeps us from realizing this God-given task.
Amazing Mar 31, 2003
Quite simply, this is an absolutely amazing book.
Kenneson and Street boldly declare that the Church's major problem today is that we simply stop looking at the Church as just another business or non-profit organization, and rather look at it rather as a (kingdom) community that God's calling to be a sign, a fortaste, and herald of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because the Church is not just another organization is why baptizing business philosophy and marketing strategy into this community fails. For the underlying principles of business marketing strategies are different than that of the foundations of the kingdom of God.
Marketing stratigies foundationally are ultimately geared around the self-interest of the business as well as the consumer. The business says to the consumer, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." The consumer then looks at the business as just another commodity.
Such a mentality is contrary to two key principles of Christianity: servant-hood and giving. If the church attempts to reach out to others only so that it may profit (e.g. growth), then the church fails to truly give and fails to truly serve. Because ultimately, when it serves and when it gives, strings are attached. The same can be said concerning the consumers mentality, which is one of "church shopping."
Also, another problem of church marketing is that those who advocate marketing are fixated on numerical growth. For ultimately to them, it is the only way to plot the success of the mission of the church. Kenneson and Street powerfully asks, what if the mission of the church is not to grow simply in numbers, but rather, what if the goal of the church was simply to manifest the fruits of the Spirit as seen in Galatians 5? Church marketers would shutter at such a thought, for their is no way to translate such things into numerical data. While the authors do not out right say it, but I believe it is hinted at between the lines: ultimately we cannot measure church growth through "scientific" methods, instead, church growth must be measured prophetically.
This book was very difficult to find, as it is out-of-print (at the time of this review), however, it is without a doubt a must read for all church leadership.
My only problem with this book is that while it offers a great deal of criticism concerning marketing, it does very little to suggest what must be done in light of this criticism. Even the authors admit this in their closing remarks, however, they do encourage us to seek from God the vision to shape our community.