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Jay Lemke On Church Marketing and the Ol’ Bait ‘n’ Switch

3 July, 2009

Here’s an excerpt from a fantastic (really) Modern Reformation article from this time last year, Jay Lemke’s ‘Church: It’s Time to Stop the Spiritual “Bait and Switch”.’ Lemke’s a public relations professional, so he knows a thing or two about coming across to people — so how does the church stack up? Are we on the right track?

‘Marketers on the cutting edge know that today’s consumers are savvy and easily see through cunning spin…. So why, in the church of all places, does such apparent dissimulation exist? Many in the American church seem intent to communicate under false pretenses, even as the secular world is learning its lessons. We’ll bring people in with music, food, fun, and games; and we’ll make them think being a Christian is about whatever interests them. We’ll play on their felt needs, and we’ll do research to determine what “seekers” want in a church. We’ll stick our collective fingers in the air and then we’ll become what people want us to be.

Finally, after all that work, once we have people in the church, we may eventually get around to telling them, “Oh, by the way, Jesus died for your sins.” In my public relations world, that’s called the old “bait and switch.”

But we in the church do it all the time. We tell people they should read the Bible because it will help them in their daily lives. While there is a sense of truth to it, that is like telling someone to read Moby Dick because it will help them with whale spearing.

Whether overtly or subtly, we are telling people they should be Christians because it will make them better in their particular area of interest. The American church is playing a huge game of spiritual baith and switch. At some level, we must be ashamed of the basic message of Christianity, and we don’t believe that on its own it is powerfully interesting — to men, to women, to boys, and to girls. We are scared to give people the best message of all — because we believe we know better than God….

Dorothy Sayers, the British novelist, was right when she claimed:

We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much on doctrine — ‘dull dogma’ as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man — and the dogma is the drama.’

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2 Comments
  1. 4 July, 2009 6:34 pm

    I agree 100%. And am disgusted with bait-n-switch visitation/ministry; “You ought to come to our cookout” while I am here I’ll not ask you ask you about Romans 3, maybe our pastor will switch the focus for me; This has been a predominant error in the SBC.

  2. 5 July, 2009 2:23 pm

    Good article. Here is an example about the church closest to my home.

    The Baptist Church in my neighborhood features a free movie every Friday night. This Friday, it featured “Pink Panther 2”. Their big sign out front (on a busy street) proudly displays for what seems to be half a week what the upcoming movie will be for Friday night.

    I ran into one of the church’s leaders at the grocery store, and he proudly reminded me of that feature (as if I could miss it). It was particularly interesting because I attended that church for a few years about 15 years ago. He didn’t mention the preaching or anyone in the church or any spiritual blessings, as a reason to attend the church. He only mentioned the movie as their way of getting people into the church.

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