Marketing in the Church

(Matthew 21:12-13)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the first place he visited was the temple. He was angered at what he saw there for we see him take action to set things right. What was it that upset him so? Marketing in the church! Jesus drove out the moneychangers and the sellers of pigeons from the temple. These people had set up business in the temple and were using the temple as a place of commerce to make money. Jesus took exception to this saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” (Verse 13)

Now Jesus was not upset about the fact that people were changing money or selling pigeons, but rather that they were doing it inside the temple. If they were doing this in a normal place of commerce and business, that would not be an issue. But it is wrong to do this in the temple for the temple was to be holy to God.

One of the fundamental principles of marketing is to provide your goods and services where the people gather. It would be pointless running a marketing campaign and setting up shop in a place where there are no people. This idea was clear to the money changers and pigeon sellers, for they knew the people came to the temple in great numbers and so they set up shop there too. So on entering the temple your first impressions would have been the noise and smell of birds and the clink of money. This is not consistent with a house of prayer but a marketplace.

Is the church any different today? Does this teaching about marketing in the church have application today? Yes it does. Although many churches today are houses of prayer as Jesus intended, there are many too who have fallen into the trap of become businesses, some of them very large businesses. The focus on making money in the church today runs rampant through many of the large churches. You walk into some of these and your first impressions are that you have entered a gift shop. There are mugs, CD’s, books, bracelets, badges, clothing and other paraphernalia for sale all brandishing the name of the particular church, their logo or some catchy marketing message.

Who has not seen the marketing hype and gifts offered such as “The Prayer of Jabez” or the “WWJD” items (What Would Jesus Do)? It would be interesting if Jesus were to enter these churches that use Christianity as a marketing method to sell trinkets. What would Jesus do? He would probably do as he did in the temple and drive them out!

Let’s look at what the Bible says about such things. 1 Timothy 6:1-10 talks of those false teachers in the church, who among other things believe, “…imagining that godliness is a means of gain. There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (Verses 5-8) These false teachers believe that Christianity and godliness is a means of gain. They use Christianity as a means of making money and are condemned for doing so.

This scripture continues on condemning those who do this saying, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (Verses 9-10) In their desires to make money and become rich they fall away from the faith. They are snared and trapped by the love of money, which is the root of all evils, especially evils in the church.

There is no place for marketing and commercialism in the church. To preserve the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ marketing must be shunned so that no one has the opportunity to fall into the snare of greed for money. Jesus gave the Gospel to man for free, so why should anyone charge a fee for it and use it as a marketing tool? There is nothing wrong with a person receiving an income from teaching and preaching the word, but when it becomes a marketing circus and a money making juggernaut as it is in some churches, then that goes too far. Their focus is on money, not on preaching the Gospel of Jesus. The message from the platform is often about buying paraphernalia and shelling out money to the church, not on teaching the people how to live upright and godly lives. This is highly evident in many of the tele-evangelists presentations.

Look also at what the Lord said about Churches who sought wealth and money. He spoke of the church in La-odice’a in Revelation 3 by saying they were neither cold nor hot and that he would spew them out of his mouth. Not a pretty picture when you consider he is talking of a type of church. He says in verses 17-19:

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.

This church believed they had it all. Money, wealth, power and they believed they needed nothing more. Jesus said they were naked, blind, poor and pitiable. They were naked in spirit and blind for the greed for money had blinded their eyes from seeking the truth. They sought the things of this world rather than the things of God. They were the great Church marketers who used Christianity to make a buck.

This is not where Jesus wants his church to be. Jesus wants his church to be a place of fellowship, a place to worship God in prayer and to praise him for his wonderful works. It is to be a place of refuge from the world where we come to learn God’s will and learn godliness so that we can get the real gain of godliness that Paul wrote to Timothy about…contentment.

There is no place for marketing in the church and as Jesus drove the marketers from the temple, so too the marketers should be driven from the church. Take this teaching as a warning. If your church is focussed on marketing, would Jesus have approved of it or not? Would he have come in and been pleased or would he have driven out the marketers? And if you are in such a church, is it providing the food of godliness or focussing on making itself wealthy.

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