Thoughts on church from the marketing world

In their book, Authenticity, Gilmore and Pine wrestle with the question, “Can businesses help individuals find authenticity in a world where people no longer esteem our most basic social institutions?” As they wrestle with this question in the section of their book titled, “Failure of Institutions: The Obviously Ineffective Reality,” they comment on various institutions such as car companies, the political arena, and the university.

In regards to the church they comment on the priest’s molestation of youths and the ordination of homosexuals and then state this:

“Evangelical Christians have created megachurches that resemble shopping malls, with bookstores, food courts and restaurants, cafes (‘Holy Grounds” seems to be a popular name), skate parks, fitness centers, water parks, and hotels. Sanctuaries resemble movie cinemas, with cup holders (for soda pop, not communion wine), rock bands (instead of choirs), and PowerPoint presentations on jumbo screens (in lieu of real preaching from pulpits) 28.

The authors go on to state that the cure to overcoming these inauthentic messages to culture, an organization must first “abandon any incestuous business dealings that cloud your real purpose. Embrace your own raison d’etre, and let that drive your every pursuit” (29). (i.e. for the church to simply proclaim truth to all who will hear.)

Second, the authors also state that a cure comes from returning to the “primary method of funding your enterprise befitting to the nature of your institution” (29). So for the church their impression is that, “all activities should be financed solely through tithes and offerings. (Efforts to have only those who benefit from a particular ministry–say a couples retreat–pay for it renders the ministry a commercial offering and not a caring act of love.) (30).


~ by Dave Smith on August 19, 2008.

3 Responses to “Thoughts on church from the marketing world”

  1. Well, it seems they’ve missed the obvious solution: priest and pastors who molest children should be fired, permanently.

    As a point of critique: if the only method of financing a church’s ministry is through tithe and offerings, then small churches are devastatingly crippled. I’m not sure how a church of 100 could offer a marriage conference if additional money is not provided by those attending.

  2. My gut reaction to the original question – ‘no’…and perhaps I’m missing more to the story…the answer seems so obvious that it fascinates to me that one would even pose such question, let alone write a book about it.

    Isn’t the conflict of interest between purposes (profit vs. meaning) obvious?

    Isn’t the attempt of the advertiser to create positive associations with their product or service that are ultimately empty obvious?

    Isn’t the snycretism of the today’s Evangelical church with secular business strategem, philosophy, and language obvious?

    The author’s solutions might be a bit too simplistic; skate parks, et. al. can have a wonderful ‘out there’ touch the church at home is often guilty of not having, but the phrase “incestuous business dealings” resonates with my past experiences.

  3. Thanks Anthony.

    Yea, the book is not really asking a question, but going deep into this economy of authenticity…moreso in the business world and our culture in general.

    Definitely comes down to basics, but interesting how hard it is for some corporations to lose sight of their values and purpose.

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