With the right marketing and a few hundred dollars of capital, a church could send a short video message to anyone that identifies as a Christian on Facebook to upwards of ninety miles from the church’s location. Or if it’s doing an apologetics lectureship, target atheists and agnostics. The possibilities are endless. Never before has a church been able to target a specific type of person with the Gospel so closely.
It makes financial sense as well. The average “cost” of hiring a Gospel Meeting preacher can range anywhere from $1-3,000, factoring in travel and lodging expenses. Consider the time it takes to create flyers and distribute them, and you’ve got a significant resource commitment. If a church is spending all of that, why not spend an additional $300 to reach thousands of people in your local community?
Paid advertising isn’t the only option to consider. Between websites, mailing lists, organic social media reach, chatbots, and more, there’s never been a more efficient way to spread the Gospel.
Is Church Marketing Biblical?
As with everything else we do as a church, it’s important to ask the all-important question: is it Scriptural?
While Paul certainly did not have access to Facebook ads platform to invite people to his sermons at the School of Tyrannus, there is a substantial amount of evidence to show that digital marketing is completely in line with what you find in Scripture.
For starters, Paul made a habit of always going to the places where people gathered the most. Upon entering a city, one of his first stops was usually the local synagogue, where he found numerous “ready-made” converts that are already religiously-minded and ready to learn (Acts 9:20; 13:14; 16:13; 17:2, 10, 13).
The internet affords us the exact same advantage. The average American spends almost 2.2 hours every single day on social media and messaging platforms. And it’s not just on Facebook either; sites like Snapchat and Instagram are steadily making progress in terms of average daily users, so churches would be wise to start developing their presence there.
Secondly, Paul also understood the value of meeting people where they are personality-wise. His famous “all things to all people” passage in 1 Corinthians 9 stresses the value of changing the mode of delivery to cater to different types of audiences.
His own life bears this out. His message to the Athenian philosophers was totally different than what he communicated to the Jews on other occasions. In Athens (Acts 17), he made absolutely zero references to Old Testament Scripture. In Antioch (Acts 13), that’s almost all he talked about. His three defenses in Acts 22, 24, and 26 are also notable for their different approaches that are reflective of his different audiences.
Furthermore, consider the activities that we are already engaged in. Printing up flyers and mailing correspondence courses to people require money to distribute; what’s the difference in that and a short video boosted on Facebook? To further cement the case, most of the activities that a good church marketing plan consists of are free. It costs zero dollars to sign up for Facebook, launch a page, develop content, and share it. It costs zero dollars as well for a church to make their website look halfway decent. These are simple steps that every church can make today to help spread the Gospel in their community.
When marketing a church, it’s imperative that two things remain intact:
- Scriptural Integrity. Paul didn’t compromise the message to draw more people to hear the Gospel, and neither should we. His “all things to all people” approach only determined the mode of delivery, not the message itself. If Scriptural integrity is lost, all is lost.
- Church Integrity. Authority issues are absolutely included in this list, but those aside, a church should simply not be engaged in using unScriptural lures to try and achieve Scriptural goals. Having a motorcycle giveaway to attract visitors only invites people to the giveaway, not to the service. It’s dishonest at best, and unScriptural at worst.
Brethren, What Shall We Do?
Let’s get real, the time is past for us to simply sit by and wait for people to walk through our doors and hope we can set up studies with them. The very first word in the Great Commission discussed above is “Go.” We need to go also. Go out into the world and find the souls that are ripe for harvest (John 4:35). The Great Commission is not the “Great Suggestion,” it is a command for every single person to spread the Gospel far and wide.
If we don’t, someone else will. There’s a reason the denominational world is thriving, and it’s not just because of the fancy social programs and laser light shows. It’s because those churches are using every single tool in their arsenal to find people. It’s telling that the fastest growing religion over the last several decades is Mormonism, due in large part to their zealous door-to-door evangelism program.
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is very telling. Oft-neglected because Jesus appears to be condoning sin (spoiler: He’s not), there’s one verse at the end that remains central to the overall theme of the parable. “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”
We have the most powerful message on the planet, but we’re losing ground to the “sons of this age” who are actively evangelizing, while we stand on the sidelines, using outdated methods of evangelism, while crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. If your congregation has any kind of evangelism plan in place, my hats off to you. Most do not. And that’s wrong.
There are some who claim that the only “marketing” a church should do is to simply share the Gospel. “Preach the Gospel,” they cry, “and people will come.” Fair enough, but in the words of Paul the Apostle: “How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will the preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
Nobody will hear the Word of God unless we get the message to their ears; from there, God can cause the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). But I need to be doing my part to spread the Word, by any Scriptural means possible.