Making The Gospel Free

(2 Corinthians 12:11-15)

One of the great things we see in Paul was that he chose to make the gospel free to all those to whom he preached. He did not put any burdens upon any of the early churches because he did not want to burden them in any way. His aim always was to ensure there was no cost associated with preaching the gospel so that no-one could accuse him of feathering his own nest or lining his own pockets.

Making the Gospel Free
Making the Gospel Free

Clearly this was not the case with some of the other teachers and preachers of Paul’s day. He specifically refers in this section to some “superlative” apostles or, in some translations, “super” apostles who were going into the churches and preaching for profit.

And as much as I hate to say it, how many of the churches today, especially the big televangelist organisations, are doing the very thing Paul was preaching against? Too many!

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Marketing Christ

(2 Corinthians 2:12-17)

One of the things that bothers me is when churches, pastors and Christians in general use Jesus for the purpose of marketing to make a profit, that is, where their sole or primary purpose is to make money from the name of Jesus.

Marketing Christ for profit
Marketing Christ for profit

Don't get me wrong here though, because it is quite acceptable for a person doing the work of the Lord to receive their wages from that work. This is an accepted and acceptable practice in the bible. But it is unacceptable where the primary or sole purpose is to profit from the word of God.

We see Paul talk about this point at the end of this section scripture where he says,

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. – (2 Corinthians 2:17)

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Jesus Drives The Money Changers From The Temple

(John 2:13-17)

Imagine a market place at the time of Christ. The sounds of animals intermingled with the shouts of vendors selling their wares and the clink and rattle of money as it exchanges hands. An intoxicating combination of sounds, sights and smells attacking all of your senses.

Well that’s all fine in a market place, but these were some of the things that confronted Jesus as he entered the temple. And he was NOT impressed.

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A House of Prayer

(Luke 19:45-48)

There has been a lot of discussion in recent times about the separation of church and state. It comes up in all kinds of places and we see those opposing the church in general focussing to remove any mention of Jesus or God from schools and public places. Well the situation in this section of scripture is similar in some ways, but with a different result.church marketing

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Driving Out the Merchants and Money Changers from the Temple

(Mark 11:15-19)

Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem and saw the merchants and money changers carrying on their business. He made the point saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Verse 17) And with that he drove them all out, overturning the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling pigeons.

driving-out-the-moneychangersNow let’s fast-forward a couple of thousand years to today. In many churches there is an inordinate amount of focus on selling stuff in the church. There are stands for books, CD’s of sermons, music CD’s and so on. In addition there are bumper stickers, costume jewellery, bracelets, necklaces, scripture verses, bookmarks with scriptures on them, coffee mugs, pictures and all manner of things that are sold under the banner of “Christian.”

Now the Bible says that it is fine for those who work in the Lord’s service to earn their living from that work. The scripture says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

But I cannot see how the marketing of these things above, especially the bracelets, CD’s, coffee mugs, jewellery and so on has anything to do with the ministry work of God. Selling these things is no different from the movie or music industry who sell all this same kind of paraphernalia for profit pure and simple. Films and music may make a lot of money, but the marketing of these toys and trinkets is where the real bucks are, and the marketers know it. The licensing of names and brands is where the real money is at.

So has the church sold out to capitalism? Is the dollar the almighty rather than the Almighty God in their minds? Has the love of money and the greed for gain turned them aside from the path of the truth?

My point is this. Jesus drove out the money changers from the temple because they had turned it into a marketplace rather than a place of worship. Today there are some in the church who are using Christianity and the name of Jesus to market goods for the purpose of making profit. This is not about making their living, unless making a living means having the fanciest houses, the finest clothes, expensive cars and a lifestyle of the “rich and famous.”

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) Who are these preachers who have focussed their energies and preaching on wealth creation serving? They have replaced the truth of the gospel with the lie of this world. Money will not buy you security, it will not give you happiness and it will not commend you to God so as to gain entry to his Kingdom.

When I see tele-evangelists who spend more time and energy promoting their latest books or some other trinket, supposedly in the name of Jesus, rather than preaching the word of God, I wonder who they are serving. The marketing is slick and polished and designed to get you to put your hand in your pocket to give them money. The only thing missing is the classic infomercial line, “But wait! There’s more! With this trinket you get six steak knives!”

What does the world see in this? Do they see anything better in the church when they see this kind of marketing than what they see in the world? Do they see Jesus in this kind of thing? No. It is no kind of witness but is a sham and it turns people away from the truth.

But the churches and people doing this, and I must add it is not all churches but just a very high profile few, are blind. They do not see the error of their way and believe they have reached the penultimate of Christianity. Their proof? They believe the Lord has blessed them with wealth. But what does the Bible say of them? They are like the church of Laodicea described in Revelation 3:14-19.

14 “And to the angel of the church in La-odice’a write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
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.

They think they are rich, but they are spiritually impoverished. They think they need nothing, not knowing they have nothing. They are pitiable, poor, blind and naked for they are clothed with righteousness. They are neither cold nor hot because they don’t want to rock the boat. When you rock the boat in this world, you upset the marketing and you don’t make money, which is why they are lukewarm, following the dollar. The message to them is to go and find the truth and to repent of their self-serving ways.

There is a lesson here for all of us. For if the churches who do this kind of thing are seeking your money, then what is the quality of the teaching. Which master do they serve, God or mammon? And more importantly, what truth will you get from those who promote such a ministry?

(Picture sourced from oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com)

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.