This is the cry in the minds of many Christians today. Many of us live for testimonies, many live for prosperity as part of the many reasons we have decided to follow Christ. We have fallen for the marketing stratagems introduced by the different Churches we have today. Marketing schemes and ploys, we have said without equivocation, because many of our Churches are organizations marketed to us as a form of a product, each advertising their forte with the purpose of attracting vulnerable customers.
Our problem today in the Church is not that we do not believe in Christ or what God represents. We believe in the fundamentals of biblical doctrines, we also do believe in not forsaking the gathering of the brothers and sisters, which is the Church system. We have come to that understanding that Christ remains the only way to the Father as spelt out in the Book. The problem we have today is a complete confusion in the reasons why we go to Church because we have been overwhelmed with why we have to attend or be part of a particular Church setting.
This is why the marketers, the branding moguls have come in with one of two messages coupled with high tech adverts in order to win the minds of the poor who want to be rich; the man or woman who is need of a spouse; the demoniac who has been told that there is someone evil chasing after them and they want help; the couple who have been married for many years without children and surely they are desperate to have children; the businessman who wants a giant leap in their business because they desire to remain relevant in the business sector; the politician who wants to become president tomorrow, to mention a few.
One vital truth about the marketers and their advertising agencies projecting these organizations that some refer to as church (yes, they claim to be church), is that they have taken advantage of the powerful infrastructure of the media to get into the minds of their customers (“church members”). The kind of impression they make in the mind of these customers is so deep-rooted that the customers end up feeling guilty if they have not attended that church for solving their problems. Sometimes the more they see the advert; the more they dream about these said organizations, the greater the desire to go there and be part of the setup.
Advertising/Publicizing/Promotion/Marketing/PR are all the terms used. They are terms used in business as a form of marketing communication to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience to take or continue to take some action. The action in this case is the building of mega churches through an increase in the number of vulnerable customers who come to us because we have advertised our organizations as such.
For the advertising expert, one of the characteristics they MUST possess is the ability to talk persuasively. They must be eloquent, winning close to about ninety-five percent of the minds that hear them, with an award winning music playing in the background. Winning in the sense that their customers will have an unrealistic hope of what the product can do. For example, the advert of OMO detergent did not make us understand that you had to apply a lot of pressure while washing, to get your clothes clean. What is projected is a detergent that when applied, automatically removes the dirt and stains. Thus, our confidence in the detergent was based on what we were told in the advert. You would have bought the detergent and on application you met with an uphill task. The irony of it all was that the advertising expert did his/her job very well.
Today, in the Church, we have used these tricks of advertising to gather the members giving them a false confidence as to what we can offer. We have good music, the professional singers and all the works. We have turned our sacred worship centers into theaters and entertainment halls so that anyone who sees all these shining event centers would be given an idea of the Grammy award celebrations and much more. The confidence we have transferred into our customers is far from that which comes as a result of what was promised in the Word of God.
We make sure there is plenty of music, state of the art equipment’s, coupled with the best guitarist, pianist and singers. The idea is that you would enjoy every bit of the program that your customers would come asking for more. We speak very minimally of the Word of God or rather we make it like a motivational speech and the speaker who is very eloquent and intelligent looks for endorsement from a particular translation that fits his motivational talk even though if you look through the other translations, they don’t seem to have the same meaning this speaker is trying to project.
Part of the advert presented is that most of our Pastors do not project the theological part of their lives any more but they identify with the present day “Life Coach” because they have to sound relational and not doctrinal. Nobody should express certainty but stay in the realm of uncertainty because some of their valued customers (the ones that spend/donate big) want it that way (they are already used to the product). Being certain means loosing many of the customers that they have acquired over the years. It will only be wise if they kept their customers than lose them to other organizations.
It’s a shame that the Church has found itself in this ship sailing to no destination. We think we have our confidence in God not knowing that we are far from that trust expected from us. We have trusted in the product rather than the God we are meant to trust in. Paul warned that our trust should never be founded upon the wisdom of men which comes to naught but that we should trust in the wisdom of God, separate from the wisdom of the world connected to the Devil.
The story of the ten lepers readily comes to mind as we continue in this discourse. They had no names but were described as lepers of which, according to the law, they were not allowed into the synagogue even the city. The Law required that they stay at the entrance of a city. They couldn’t come back into the city unless they were certified clean by the priest. They could not have any associations with their immediate families, friends or loved ones, meaning that they were ten because they all will meet in a certain place: which was where they belonged. Any attempt to get back into the city without them being cleansed was deemed as breaking the Law, which attracted a penalty.
Jesus was going to Jerusalem and he had to go through Samaria and Galilee. He entered into a village and was met at the entrance of the village by these ten lepers. Obviously, they had heard about Him, judging from the way they screamed and lifted up their desperate voices in pity and said “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”. They couldn’t have coined those words if they hadn’t heard about him (they knew his reputation). They mentioned the word, Master apart from Jesus. The word “master” is epistates in the Hebrew language, it indicates or gives a sense of an appointee-over and a commander. It also means someone who is in honor with notable power and authority. They knew he had power over their diseases.
Jesus said to them to go and show themselves to the priest (Lev 13,14). He knew what the Law had stipulated that only the priest could confirm and validate that they were healed and also to find out if they were able to get back into the village to continue their normal life. As they left to go to the priest, the Book says that they were completely cleansed and made whole. They were all healed, not just one or two of them. They were all made whole. That was what they had asked for (what they wanted him for) and they got it. So, they could now continue to go about their normal day-to-day routine.
One of the healed lepers turned back in praise to Jesus because he saw more than getting healed. He wanted more and therefore he had to go back to thank Jesus. He had been in the presence of God and wanted more than physical healing. He wanted a relationship with the divine healer, worshipping and adoring him. He was not content with the physical; he knew there was more. He went back to Christ, worshipped and thanked Him wanting a relationship with Him. Where were the other nine who were cleansed? Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed”? “Where are the other nine”? “Only a stranger came back to thank God”.
This is the picture of today’s church; one out of ten will always seek for a relationship with their God, while nine out of ten will just use God to get what they want from Him. Heal me, but I do not want a relationship with you was the loud voice spoken in their minds, tight lipped. Luke 17: 11 – 19.