Selling Out the Sell-Outs" – Part 1 – An Enthusiastic Response to "Selling Out the Church"

“Selling Out the Sell-Outs” – An Enthusiastic Response to Selling Out the Church

Like my friend Evan Curry, I too wrote a paper about this book. We loved it.
I’ve adapted it and broken it to a few parts.  It takes a while to get there but my main point is that too many of our churches have become consumer-oriented instead of worship-oriented Kenneson and Street offer an excellent explanation of how and why.

Selling Out the Church is an excellent warning that pastors and church leaders (and anyone interested in the Church) should consider reading. Not only do Phillip D. Kenneson and James L. Street (K&S) reveal the many pitfalls of church consumerism, many of them hidden, but also calls on the reader to examine his/her theology. They offer an essential call to the kingdom and invite each church to evaluate which “strategy” they ought to pursue. To be sure, this is an important topic for much is at stake. Pastors and church leaders cannot afford to take these warnings lightly as not only are souls at stake, but our faithfulness before the Lord as well. This response seeks to respond to K&S’s arguments and reflect if and how they can be applied in today’s American church. It is my conviction, that if churches were willing to do the work of the Kingdom and be the faithful witnesses of the Risen Jesus while abandoning the temptation to build “the best church in town”, our ecclesiological landscape would appear drastically different and our communities would be better.

Indeed there was a certain irony as I read K&S in my church office while surrounded by church marketing titles like Barna’s Revolution, Boiling Point, and the classic, Marketing the Church (which is quoted from excessively by K&S). I surveyed other titles like John Maxwell, Bill Hybels, and newer innovators like Andy Stanley and Craig Goeshel. There are shelves dedicated to youth ministry as well. Titles like, Getting Kids to Show Up, 30 Awesome Lessons For Impacting Teens and the Doug Fields masterpiece, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry. After reading Selling Out the Church, I wondered if the idea of a good old-fashioned “book burning” was in order. Unfortunately these types of fires are illegal in my county and this left some additional time for further consideration.

Before going further, there are a couple things and a couple types of churches that I want to clarify here. There are churches that probably think they practice parts of this book. “We don’t market – Look at our church sign. Simple.” Meanwhile, many who drove by think it’s ugly and outdated. “Look at our church bulletins – flowers with Bible verses – traditional.” People who grab them on Sundays, “I think this is the same dandelion picture with Psalm 8:9 (How majestic is…) that I have seen since I was a kid. These Christians are obsessed with a nature photography from the 60’s; why aren’t we meeting in a greenhouse by now? Don’t be offended, I’m just having fun here – besides everyone knows I’m not a fan of bulletin covers.

Then there is the church that is heavily marketed. An enormous amount of energy and money are allocated towards this and in some ways, their ministry is their marketing. They have cool outdoor signs. You know you have too cool of a church logo if you actually want to make a shirt and wear it. Their websites and bulletin handouts have beautiful models from all ethnicities. And the biggest lie of all is that they’re smiling because they are just so happy to be in church! That’s right, there’s a picture of Heidi Klum, Seal and their kids running into the front doors of the church … smiling!

When we start selling the church like we sell teeth whitening kits, we have a problem.
Part 2 tomorrow. If you want to read more, check out Evan’s excellent posts here and here.

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