Bouncing off Kevin’s entry about Purpose Driven Business, I am reminded of a book I read earlier this summer.
Tony Campolo, in Adventures In Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel, a book he co-authored with Brian McLaren, gives some poignant comments on church marketing. In their chapter titled “Seminary,” Campolo says this:
What if the credits eaten up by subjects seminarians seldom if ever use after graduation were instead devoted to more subjects they will actually need in churches – like business and marketing courses? It is not true that with a gifted preacher, a church will inevitably grow. Good sermons may get visitors to stay once they come, but getting folks to come in the first place may take some marketing expertise.
It was a marketing degree, not an M.Div., that Bill Hybels had when he launched the tiny fellowship that would one day be Willow Creek Community Church. It’s not that Hybels is a theological lightweight, contrary to some critics. His sermons are biblically sound and brilliantly relevant to the needs of his congregation – and the relevance comes not from giftedness or theological discernment, but from thoughtfully studying his congregation. As any good marketer would, Hybels deliberately surveys his people with questionnaires in order to determine what they worry about, what their needs are, what’s important to them. During the summer months he reflects on their responses, studies the Bible for how it speaks to their issues, and reads extensively about the same issues. Then he schedules what subjects he will preach on in the coming year, and circulates the schedule to those on his team responsible for music and drama in the services.
The result is preaching that is utterly biblical and acutely relevant. But the process isn’t something you’ll learn in most seminaries. Maybe it’s time that some business school courses find their way into seminary.
Right on Tony.
What’s the point of all that theology in our heads if we can’t even get people in the door to hear it?