Courage to Be Protestant: Marketing the Gospel

“That is where this gospel really parts company from the way in which products and services are marketed in our modernized world. These products and services are nothing more than products and services. They are simply there for our use. The gospel is not. The gospel calls us not to use it but to submit to the God of the universe through his Son. A methodology for success that circumvents issues of truth is one that will rapidly emancipate itself from biblical Christianity or, to put it differently, will rapidly eviscerate biblical faith.

That, indeed, is what is happening because the marketing model, if followed, empties the truth of the gospel. First, the needs consumers have are the needs they identify for themselves. The needs sinners have are needs God identifies for us, and the way we see our needs is rather different from the way he sees them. We suppress the truth about God, holding it down in “unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). We are not subject to his moral law and in our fallenness are incapable of being obedient to it (Rom. 8:7), so how likely is it, outside or the intervention of God through the Holy Spirit, that we will identify our needs as those arising from our rebellion against God? No, the product we will seek naturally will bit be the gospel. It will be It will be therapy of some kind, a technique for life, perhaps a way of connecting more deeply with our own spiritual elves on our own terms, term that require no repentance and no redemption. It will not be the gospel. The gospel cannot be a product that the church sells because there are no consumers for it. When we find consumers, we will find that what they are interested in buying, on their own terms, is not the gospel.”
Wells, David F. The Courage to Be Protestant (pp. 52-53). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

The above quote summarizes much in the first chapter of David Wells’ new book. It is the complaint that many have had about the seeker-centered movement and even today, the emergent movement. I don’t really see the seeker and emergent as being much different. Both, in a sense, offering the benefits of the Gospel rather than the Gospel itself. The seeker model seems to try and fill the self-centered wants of people while emergent seems to try and fill emotional needs by way of comfort and acceptance. In the end, neither seem to clearly call their ‘consumers’ to the Gospel.  Wells is going to show how these two movements are both actually types of individualism that only points to self without an objective truth.

A very recent example of the effects of the above insight Wells offers is today in the SBC, my own denomination. Timmy Brister recently pointed out in that we’ve essentially lost the Gospel. Ed Stetzer offers a report and some suggestions on the decline of the SBC though I would put the third issue of the loss of the Gospel as number one. Nathan Finn also offers some very good words on the subject.

The clearest parallel in my mind is that in many ways the modern approach to the Gospel is like Amway recruiting.  The Amway recruiter will tell you that you can have the world, tell you stories of people who have earned the world with check stubs to prove it.  But it is almost impossible to figure out what this “business” is until you go to one of their official meetings.  At least they finally tell you it is Amway and that you officially have to sign up for it. Though many people do not appreciate having this sprung on them once they go to a meeting.

Maybe I’m wrong and this is a poor comparison because Amway officially calls you to make an actual commitment.


in Church Issues,Culture,heresy,relativism,theology

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