Seth Godin Addresses Linchpin and Church Marketing

January 26, 2010 by

Recently, Jeff Goins, who has blogged for us before, had the opportunity to interview Seth Godin as part of a blog tour for his new book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? If you’re interested in learning more about the book, you can read Jeff’s review.

Their conversation turned to church marketing, and Jeff was kind enough to allow us to reprint that portion of their interview. These two questions contain ample material for us to read, digest and discuss.

Without further ado, here is a portion of their conversation:

Jeff: In Tribes, you wrote about faith versus religion. You spoke at a Catalyst conference awhile back. You even endorsed Anne Jackson’s book Mad Church Disease. It seems that you’ve made intentional efforts to participate in the Christian conversation recently. Can you explain why or what brought that about? How has faith framed your own worldview?

Seth: I have a huge problem with large bureaucracies, including organized religions. I think they stomp on humanity and kindness and connection. On the other hand, faith is so important. Faith in your future, in other people, in your ability to make a difference. What Anne showed me is that there are many people who are starting to distinguish between the status quo of religion and the essential humanity of faith, and I endorsed her book because she did such a good job of leading a conversation about faith. Faith is largely personal, and if you talk about it too much or proselytize, it can start to fade on you. Just do it.


Jeff: What’s the different between building a permission-based tribe and proselytizing? In All Marketers are Liars, you explain how everyone has a message to share; how do you do that without your company, church, etc. turning into another bureaucratic system? In other words, is there room for marketing and storytelling in faith?

Seth: Lots of terms here, so let’s try to sort it out:
Religions do marketing. They always have. Big religions tell stories that spread, stories that resonate and stories that people are attracted to.

There’s nothing wrong with this. The job of marketing is to make connections with people at a level they wish to be connected.

Faith is not religion. Faith would exist even without a particular book or dogma. Faith makes religion work better, and sometimes religion makes faith work better. I don’t think there are particular “faiths”. I think there are lots of religions, but at their core, there’s pretty much one faith. How can one possibly tell someone that they have the wrong faith?

If your religion gets in the way of your faith, or in the way of sharing the way your faith makes you feel, that’s possibly because it’s become a stuck system, one that accrues power, not a lever to make it easier to be faithful.

Proselytizing, in my view, is like spam. Ringing a doorbell, standing at a bus stop, buying a billboard… those are not permission-based activities. On the other hand, delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them… that works, and it always has, and it’s working better than ever. I think that sharing ideas with people who want to hear them is the essence of what it means to be a marketer, and being a good person makes this a lot easier.

Post By:

Joshua Cody


Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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18 Responses to “Seth Godin Addresses Linchpin and Church Marketing”

  • Andy Wittwer
    January 26, 2010

    I really appreciate the last paragraph (probably because it aligns with our marketing philosophy :D). No public advertising, just personal invitations.


  • Jeff Goins
    January 26, 2010

    Thanks, Andy. I agree. This is a short post and interview, but there were so many good tidbits to let sink in and saturate. I never thought of proselytizing as spam, but Godin really nails it on the head, I think. It’s not that we shouldn’t share our faith, but rather we need to do so in a way that doesn’t cost the integrity of what we believe.


  • Kevin Shorter
    January 26, 2010

    I agree and disagree with proselytizing being spam. Sure leaving a track as your tip at a restaurant is spam, but talking to a stranger about Christ does not have to be. Spam is where you care more about getting your message out than you do the person receiving it. Sharing our faith can and should be done in the context of caring for the other person.
    I like Seth Godin’s ideas very much on so many things and I know this post was a subset of the larger conversation he had, but I would not discount large organizations. The body of Christ is a large organization with Jesus as the head. He has called certain people to be the head of different parts of this organization, whether the rulers of the land, pastors, or parents. It is the way He set things up. Yes, we are each accountable to Jesus individually, but we are also a part of this large bureaucracy called the body of Christ.


    • ryan koral
      April 11, 2011

      TOTALLY agree – if there’s no genuine care for the person – you really shouldn’t be sharing your message. before God gives us a heart to share His message, I think he gives us a heart for people… seems like that’s where we should start. glad i stumbled on this site – good conversation.


  • chilly
    January 26, 2010

    I’ve liked Seth for a long time… his books & blogs have been very helpful as an additive to the things God was leading us to do.
    But, these comments seem to be a bit naive. Seth addressing the topic of faith vs. religion is, obviously, out of his area of expertise.
    It’s not his fault – ‘we’ are asking him… maybe that’s the problem.


  • bondChristian
    January 26, 2010

    Kevin, I think Seth is addressing “faith” and “religion” in a specialized way, a way he’s defined them. In that way, I appreciate what he says here.
    Still, we have to be careful with our terms here. The way I define faith and religion is different. On those issues, Seth is unqualified. For what he’s talking about, though, he’s made some good points.
    -Marshall Jones Jr.


  • Jeff Goins
    January 26, 2010

    @Kevin – While I can’t speak for Seth, I can speak for my first impressions of Linchpin (which in many ways mirrors topics already addressed in Purple Cow and Tribes). The “bigness” that Seth is criticizing is more the factory mentality than the actual size of an organization or company (church, even). His point in this book (which I agree with) is this: are you constituents merely cogs in a machine that help it move forward in dominating the world, or are they valued individuals? I would argue that this is nowhere more important than in churches.


  • jackie
    January 27, 2010

    i really like the last sentence- but i wonder, don’t we as a church sometimes have to share our message with people who don’t want to hear it?


    • Kars
      January 24, 2011

      Hey jackie, I think that when you advertise with certain media you will reach a wide range of people. Not everyone who gets to see your message will be interested. This way you reach ‘everyone’, but only those who are interested will be taking time to get what you are saying. You cannot push those who don’t want to. If you do, that would be like spam-mail or those annoying pop-up ads! No one likes those. If they don’t want to listen, trust God to take care of them. That’s just my humble opinion.


  • Andy Wittwer
    January 27, 2010

    I think sharing Christ with a stranger is silly. If we frame faith as a relationship, then we’re introducing ourselves by introducing someone else. Even if you actually had Jesus standing there with you, just to walk up to a random person and start telling them about your companion … I guess I can’t speak for others, but if you did that to me, not only are you a nut, but so is your friend. How about making a billboard for your friend? Or an informational brochure? Ridiculous. You introduce your friends only to other friends.
    Regarding delivering a hard-to-hear message – that’s a right you earn as a friend. Would you tell a stranger to stop smoking? No, but a friend might just need someone who truly cares about them to step up, call them out, and help them through.
    That said, I’m not sure I can jump on the train of “many religions, one faith.” People have faith in lots of different things, and while I’m no one to tell another their faith is “wrong,” Scripture pretty clearly states that Faith in Christ is the only way.


  • Jeff Collier
    February 2, 2010

    Seth makes people feel better about their failure. His quote “I think there are lots of religions, but at their core, there’s pretty much one faith.” is stupid. If Seth Godin is a Christian his statements of belief are vague in the interview and don’t express a belief in Jesus.
    We as Christians need to expect full devotion. Not half hearted responses from intelligent people like Seth.
    Seth can suck it if he thinks there is only one religion. Christianity is not the same as Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism. We are not a works based religion/faith.
    And to consider all religions as one is to be out of touch with the spirituality of America.


  • Greg Phipps
    February 3, 2010

    I would like to apologize to Seth for every ignorant, passionate yet good people with great intentions in here who are obviously a Christian. I am an Executive Pastor in a major ministry and cringe at thinking I may be associated with some of the other Christian folks in here. For 1? How hypocritical for us to criticize Seth yet utilize his genius in marketing. I refuse to go through every comment in here and copy and paste and begin a comment war like i am on a youtube page.
    What I will do is thank Seth and CMS for helping as Christians and Churches realize how stupid and ineffective what we do to get the Word out we are. Just look at every Christian Tshirt… you will get my point (iTune IN for itunes? Meant To Die for Mt. Dew?) seriously?
    There was NO ONE as relevant as Christ. As churches, we have been tuned out and tagged as stupid. If we are not careful churches will be filled with Spiritual InBreeding, Filling our pews with our own families and never reaching into the communities for souls. Jesus walked among the community… or as church would say “sinners”. He Loved people… I am pretty sure He wouldnt tell Seth to Suck It Jeff.
    So… before any other loud mouthed Christian wants to verbally vomit and before I fill this little comment with my own opinion… Hey Seth… Thank you. I hear you… We as the “people” of God… we need to represent him and ourselves better.
    Thanks CMS. Your web address alone is what drew my attention because it told the truth… HELP US.


  • Greg Phipps
    February 3, 2010

    I would like to apologize to Seth for every ignorant, passionate yet good people with great intentions in here who are obviously a Christian. I am an Executive Pastor in a major ministry and cringe at thinking I may be associated with some of the other Christian folks in here. For 1? How hypocritical for us to criticize Seth yet utilize his genius in marketing. I refuse to go through every comment in here and copy and paste and begin a comment war like i am on a youtube page.
    What I will do is thank Seth and CMS for helping as Christians and Churches realize how stupid and ineffective what we do to get the Word out we are. Just look at every Christian Tshirt… you will get my point (iTune IN for itunes? Meant To Die for Mt. Dew?) seriously?
    There was NO ONE as relevant as Christ. As churches, we have been tuned out and tagged as stupid. If we are not careful churches will be filled with Spiritual InBreeding, Filling our pews with our own families and never reaching into the communities for souls. Jesus walked among the community… or as church would say “sinners”. He Loved people… I am pretty sure He wouldnt tell Seth to Suck It Jeff.
    So… before any other loud mouthed Christian wants to verbally vomit and before I fill this little comment with my own opinion… Hey Seth… Thank you. I hear you… We as the “people” of God… we need to represent him and ourselves better.
    Thanks CMS. Your web address alone is what drew my attention because it told the truth… HELP US.


  • Jeff Goins
    September 2, 2010

    Great comment, Gregg. Didn’t realize that the comments continued. Hadn’t checked this in awhile. Good dialogue, people.


  • Andy King
    June 7, 2011

    ” I think there are lots of religions, but at their core, there’s pretty much one faith. How can one possibly tell someone that they have the wrong faith?”

    If he is saying what I think he is saying then there is a problem

    “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14


  • Vince
    September 26, 2011

    I watched several videos of Seth, then read a few pages from a book or two at the bookstore. I love marketing and wanted to see other viewpoints on the subject. I gave in and bought “Lynchpin”. What a complete was of money. I couldn’t even finish it. I lost that much respect for the man. He cites Marx and Engels in his book on marketing. The way I think every reasonable human sees Marx and Angles as the two most opposing powers to marketing and it’s parent capitalism. The founders of communism could have little to bear on the heart of marketing. When a marketer sights those two as evidence of their views, they lose my respect! Communism destroys. Marketing… good marketing that is, builds! When I wrote Seth concerning this, he’s answer was, “Thank goodness I didn’t mention the Bible!” Actual Seth, the Bible is the best selling book of all time! Maybe that is where you should start? To top it off, I found many of his important assumptions in the book are flawed as well. The factory is not dead. It’s just not in America anymore. “Lychpins” have not done away with the factory. I could make a list, but save your money.


  • David Wells
    January 20, 2012

    “I don’t think there are particular ‘faiths.’ I think there are lots of religions, but at their core, there’s pretty much one faith. How can one possibly tell someone that they have the wrong faith?” (Seth Godin, January 26, 2010)

    Yet one more reason why Christians should NOT be seeking spiritual guidance from non-Christian sources. Seth Godin’s worldly counsel can only serve to lead a follower of Christ Jesus astray.


  • Becky Blanton
    May 22, 2012

    I know Seth. He supported and helped me in my bid to win a contest to attend TED (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/01/traffic-magnets.html). He’s an amazing man with an incredible world view. But that’s the kicker. Seth’s view on permission marketing is “of the world,” while God’s message of salvation is of God’s world. As Christians we are “in the world, but not of it.” We should be following God and His commandments, not seeking the approval or methods of man. Although those can be useful, the bottom line is, do you really want to avoid talking to people about where they’ll spend eternity? If you truly believe people will burn in an eternal hell if they don’t accept Christ, are you willing to let them go to their fate because you fear offending them? You don’t know their heart. God may have prepared them just so your word would bring them to Him. You just don’t know.

    Would you ask an unconscious man trapped in a burning car if you had his permission to rescue him? I guess you could say we’re being presumptuous to assume he wants to be rescued. He may not want to be. People in this world are unconscious. Satan has them blinded, preoccupied and hostile. That’s how he operates. If we trust God, trust He has prepared the harvest (The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few) for us, then we know who to approach and how and when.

    God told us that His word does not come back void. While man can throw a brochure or email in the trash, God’s word is alive and powerful and acts upon all those who hear it. We may not see results from sharing our faith (which God commanded us to do), but that doesn’t mean we haven’t sown a seed. If you remember your New Testament, you’ll recall that part of why Jesus was hated was because His message was not an opt-in persuasion. The Disciples were heavily prosecuted and killed for spreading the message. Why do we think we’re supposed to conform to the world and do things differently than those who followed Jesus himself!!

    God is not selling something. He’s giving away eternal life! It’s a FREE offer, something Seth makes regularly and often to people who didn’t ask to hear it. Read your Bible. Remember the parable of the King’s dinner? Matthew 22:1-14. The King (God) sent his servants out into the town to find and invite EVERYONE to his feast after those he invited originally turned him down.

    If we are seeking man’s approval rather than God’s, who are we following? I’m reminded of a friend who said, “I don’t see how you keep going,” and I hesitated, didn’t share my faith with her. Two months later she committed suicide. I know now that she had heard the message from others, but my talking to her might have shed just the light she needed. How do I know God hadn’t prepared her heart for that moment with me and I blew it for fear of being rejected or offending her? I don’t. I know that it haunts me to this day.

    Seth has some amazing things to say, but Seth is NOT God. Read the Bible for wisdom and insight. God and the Holy Spirit work in men’s hearts the way Madison Avenue does not. I like Seth, but he’s not saving souls. The Holy Spirit, Christ and God are. I’ll lean to them for understanding.



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