“If You Like It, Put A Verse On It” OR Marketing to Christians [guest]

This week’s guest contributor is Vanessa Fischer. She just as easily succumbs to marketing schemes and peer pressure as the next person and recently gave in to temptation and joined eHarmony, realizing now that there are cheaper ways to prove your friends wrong.

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On a recent trip to St. Louis, I found myself sitting around with my parents on a Sunday evening watching the History Channel series, The Bible. I had been hearing about this series from a surprisingly diverse range of friends so I figured I might as well catch an episode. I admit, I use the word “watch” loosely. It was more like I spent an hour checking facebook, catching up on some emails and planning my schedule for the upcoming week while the show played in the background. Don’t be mistaken, I find the story of the Bible to be engaging, I just wasn’t particularly turned on by this retelling of it.

However, the commercial breaks were well worth the episode segments in between. It was obvious that the History Channel was acutely aware of its audience – Christians – and capitalized on these three minute slots to pack in every appropriately themed ad or otherwise “family friendly” commercial they could toss in the mix. There were definitely no Don Draper ads in this line-up. Intrigued by the situation I found myself in, I did what all good learners do – I Google searched “marketing to Christians” to see just how advantageous these efforts are. As it turns out, us Christians are a pretty worthwhile market to target. Check out this presentation or this article if you want to learn about more about the prosperity that can be found in marketing to the Christian consumer.

For all of us who get warm, fuzzy feelings inside when we see anything remotely “Christian” in the  “secular” world, we should think twice next time. Sure, it might be a legit avenue for the Kingdom to come on this earth. Or, it might just be that the right ad guy was hired who has a knack for figuring out what Christians like and has spent too much time reading Jon Acuff’s blog.

One campaign that particularly caught my attention was for Christian Mingle. Perhaps it stood out to me because I happen to be both single and a Christian or perhaps it was because there was a CM commercial during every. single. break. Aside from the obvious Christian fish that is part of their logo, those folks over at Christian Mingle really know how to appeal to vulnerable, single Christians looking for “God’s match” for their lives. Of course they follow the “sexless” appeal approach – beautiful, modestly dressed men and women powerfully paired with an appropriate musical score. A song that once served as a worship ballad, now croons magical wishes of marital bliss. In case you haven’t seen the commercial, you can watch it here.

Someday he’ll call her and she will come running and fall in his arms and the tears will fall down and she’ll pray, “I want to fall in love with You” Isn’t this exactly what every Christian man and woman should want? Insert any snarky comment of your choosing here. It might be good to note that Christian Mingle is owned by Spark Networks, whose mission is “to create iconic, niche-focused brands that build and strengthen the communities they serve. We are a leading provider of community-focused services, including online personals communities for single adults that offer convenient and safe places to meet and, as a result, a unique opportunity to make special connections they may not have otherwise made. Many of these connections lead to long term relationships and—quite often—marriage.” In case you are reading this and you are not a Christian, they also have sites geared towards those folks who are black, jewish, adventist, catholic, deaf, old, mormon…you get the idea. it just so happens that Christian Mingle is their largest account. They are in the business of marriage and they know exactly how to attract the audiences they want.

I applaud marketing agencies like Spark Network for doing what they do so well. In fact, there is a part of me that secretly wishes I could have come up with one of these ideas (who knew singing vegetables could rack up tens of millions of dollars in revenue) so that I could be benefiting financially from all of you right now, too. Not really.

As Christians, we have got to quit selling our souls to the marketing geniuses who are making some serious bank off of us and start living as the wise, discerning, creative people God intends us for us to become. Buying mints with Bible verses and putting them out when our “unsaved friends” come over will not save anyone any more than putting a fish on our car makes us a Christian. By the way I drive, it is probably better that I don’t. It would only hinder the Gospel. If I were to believe that I could become a cow simply by eating a hamburger you would think I was ridiculous. Yet, we do this all the time. We buy a cross, we tattoo a verse on our Body, we join Christian Mingle, we read Christian fiction (AKA female porn…another conversation for another day), we go to the singles group at the Mega church down the road or we buy Christianized t-shirts.

These folks in advertising know what they are doing. They appeal to the shame and legalism in our lives that tell us that we aren’t measuring up and give us a definition of what it means to be a Christian and we buy into it. They tell us that we are in a state of deficiency, that there are places of poverty and lack in our lives. Bit by bit, the fullness of God’s desires for us our pilfered away and we sell our hearts incrementally in a vain attempt to feel better about ourselves without realizing that our consumerism is only moving us further away from what we actually want – intimacy with Jesus.

As I reflect on the resurrection of Christ (which many of us celebrated in our churches this past week), I believe he died, rose again and lives to be more than a brand. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Marriage is not a commodity to be marketed. The Church isn’t a business; it’s a people. The Church isn’t a whore to be bought (though strangely enough Christ’s blood did purchase us even though we were already His to begin with); it’s the Bride. We are His people. We are His Bride. Let me repeat myself, We are Christ’s beloved Bride whom He has chosen for Himself. This is really not a place to end, but rather a place to begin. However, I have reached my word limit so I encourage you to download this album (it’s free) and allow these words to take root in your heart and mind.

“…never ever let anyone create a need for you or try to tell you that there’s anything that you need in order to achieve a deeper level of spirituality in order to get God’s blessings or in order to receive rewards in heaven. Never let anyone try to tell you that you need anything that they can offer you; anything that you don’t already possess in Christ. Jesus is all that there is. It’s really important that you know that.” -Derek Webb

You were made to be the glorious, shining Bride of Christ. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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