It was T.D. Jakes who said the controversial statement, “I think that Jesus is the product.” When I first heard this, I was horribly offended. I said, “How DARE he reduce the Savior of the World to a mere marketable product?” But after receiving insight from God about “soul winning” the other day, I can now see that at least in SOME sense, Jakes made some sense.
I learned in middle school that in opening and operating a business, people are either offering a product or a service. College, for example, offers a service of educating people for the price of tuition. Starbucks, for example, sells a product – coffee – for cash. So if Jakes is right about his statement, then Christianity/ministry would be the service provided; and Jesus would be the “product” (for lack of a better term).
In marketing classes, I learned and remembered a thing or two. One thing I learned is about target audiences and advertisements. I learned that your ads and commercials must be tailor-made to appeal to your target audience. For example, if you are selling Gerber baby food, you are likely and mostly targeting caring mothers who have infants. And your commercials will be specifically made to appeal to these mothers. And you will have a marketing team that will spend much time and money making commercials that will grab the attention of and secure the business of these parents by strongly persuading them to buy Gerber food for their baby for as long as the baby will need it. And if you advertise just right, the mother will only buy Gerber food, and she will buy it not just for the baby she has now but for all babies she births in the future. Now that’s what you call “sealing the deal”.
So how can we relate that to Christianity? Well, just think of the churches you see that are publicized on radio and television. They are usually one of many church programs you see on the channel or station. And the pastor or one of his or her spokespersons will say and do specific things to appeal to you. They may say something to the effect of:
- “Not too many churches preach and teach the unadulterated word of God anymore. They compromise to fit in with the rest of the world. Give me that old time religion; it’s good enough for me….”
- “Too many churches are legalistic and judgmental. They give you a list of Do’s and Don’ts to put you in right standing with God. But here, we love and accept everybody – just like Jesus does. Everyone is welcome….”
- “Are you tired of church as usual? Well, this isn’t your grandma’s church! This is the church home of many of this city’s youth who are looking for a fresh perspective and relationship with Jesus. It’s time out for dry, dead services. There are no little u’s (you’s) and Big I’s here….”
And before and after they air their services, they will usually petition you to visit or join their church and/or to send financial donations.
Does that not sound JUST like marketing? You can tell that they each have a target audience in mind that they are petitioning. They are trying to appeal to a specific type of Christian or unbeliever by telling them what they want to hear so that they will come visit, join, and or financially support that church. You can probably guess from my abovementioned examples the type of people the three churches are appealing to. The first church is appealing to a stricter, older crowd. The second church MAY be appealing to backsliders or “lukewarm Saints”. The third church is likely appealing to a young, hip generation. Every church appeals to a target audience.
But when it comes to Christianity on a larger scale – and more specifically – soul winning, what are the best marketing strategies? Here is what I’ve learned about drawing in unbelievers to lead them to salvation. Here’s what I learned of what does and does not work in “Evangelism Marketing”.
1. You can’t present a product or service in only ONE package and then expect it to appeal to everyone or expect for everyone to respond favorably to it.
Jude 1:22-23 – And have mercy on (1) those who doubt; save (2) others by snatching them out of the fire; to (3) others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
From the looks of Jude 1:22-23, there appears to be different types of unbelievers or backsliders. One type are doubters. They just need assurance of the gospel’s validity, security of what Christians are saying, and strengthening of their faith. With these types, we shouldn’t bash them over their head with a bible. We shouldn’t utilize scare tactics to get them to get saved. We shouldn’t scream at them and call them damned heathens. They simply need a lot of questions answered. They have some questions that they need answered and settled. They might have just left another religion or a cult. They may really want to know why they should become Christians as opposed to Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims. So if you apply the wrong “treatment” to their condition, you can have lost them forever.
The second type needs to be snatched quickly off of the wrong path because they are on their way to eternal fire either certainly or soon. The third possible type needs to be showered with mercy, but fearful mercy. And with this type we shouldn’t be lackadaisical about their lost condition, but we are to ABHOR, HATE, DETEST that they have been contaminated by lustful, sinful flesh.
While the gospel should not be altered to cater to everyone’s fancy, wisdom knows that everybody doesn’t like – and therefore won’t always respond to – every presentation. Not everyone responds to hellfire and brimstone messages. Does that mean that preachers should never tell the truth about the harsh and horrorshow realities of hell? Absolutely not. But I do believe that brimstone sermons – at least when overdone – will cause churches and preachers to lose (sometimes permanently) the attention of SOME people.
Some people don’t respond to scare tactics. You have to KNOW your “consumers”. Study them. See what pushes their buttons so to speak. If you come at them in a way that they will respond to, then obviously they will respond. Don’t think for a minute that every unbeliever is an unbeliever because they have not encountered one of your particularly fiery and scary hellfire sermons. Many people who WILL be saved have heard plenty of those types of sermons week after week, year in and year out, and yet they have never responded because that ad did not appeal to them.
Some people are intellectuals. Appeal to their intellect. Explain to them how Jesus is obviously the only way to go. Some people are fearful. Appeal to their fear of death and their anxiety about being uncertain of where they will reside of eternity. Some people have been poor for a long time. Appeal to them by saying that God will provide for all of their needs in one way or another. Some people are lonely, let them know that Jesus will never leave nor forsake them. Some people like to be radical, appeal to their interest in being a “Jesus Freak”. Some people feel they have no purpose in life; appeal to their desire to have a God who gives them a purposeful future. It’s all the GOSPEL – which is another word for “the good news”. It’s all true. But use one aspect over another if that’s what it takes to draw them in.
2. At the risk of sounding facetious, you may have to leave some things in the fine print until later.
Matthew 4:19 – And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Let’s be real talk. Becoming a Christian has its costs. And many converts are just not willing to pay it all up front. For example, if you tell someone that before they get saved they must cut out every sin – even their favorites, they may not come any time soon, if at all. But if you tell them to come as they are, they will come as they are. And after they make the commitment, maybe then would be a better time to tell them that God doesn’t love the fact that they listen to violent rap music or the fact that the women dress with her cleavage overly on display. The bible does say to count the cost before you become a disciple of Christ, so they do need to know that it will be “expensive”. But you don’t have to give them a break down list of everything they must cut out within the next week in order to secure their salvation!
For some people, if you can get them to come down the altar as a public act of their surrender to God and their belief in Jesus as their Savior, that is the most important step. It’ll be easier to convince a Christian to surrender gambling to Christ than it would be to ask an unbeliever to quit gambling. As I was told, you have to CATCH the fish before you can skin it. If they can see the hook, line, and sinker all up front, they may never bite the bait! Jesus told the disciples that He would make them fisher of men. Some men catch fish with nets; others catch fish with bait and hook. You have to bait them in first. And once they bite the bait, you have the hook already in them. Then you skin them.
3. Know your target audience and minister accordingly.
It is quite difficult to sell a man something that he doesn’t feel/think/know he needs just like it’ll be impossible to convince me to take some medicine that I don’t think I need. It’ll be challenging to get someone to commit to a time-consuming, inconvenient, gruesome workout plan when they see no need for it. And so it will be near impossible to convince a man to receive salvation when he doesn’t feel that he is lost or damned.
Proverbs 11:30 – …he who winneth souls is wise.
The bible says that whoever wins souls is wise. This is so true! If you can win a soul to the Father, you are wise because it requires wisdom to know how to persuade someone to do something, to buy what you’re offering when it comes to salvation. First, you have to know that person fairly well or at least be able to discern things about that person. And then when they trust you, they’ll trust when you offer them something that you see that they need. If my doctor knows me and if I know my doctor’s history, I’ll trust when he says I need a certain medicine or procedure done. And so when it comes to ministry, you have to know who you’re after first of all. Study the audience. Discern their needs. Pray to God about what it is that is keeping them from believing and receiving the gospel message. Pray to God to tell you what that person needs to hear to draw them in. Pray for wisdom to win their soul. This might be controversial, but I’m going to list the name of some well-known ministers, who I believe their target audience is, and how they wisely present the gospel accordingly:
- Joel Osteen – Discouraged believers/unbelievers – Encouraging, motivational bible verses and stories/prosperity gospel
- Joyce Meyer – Defeated believers – Wisdom and personal testimonies of how God helped her to get the victory and related bible story examples
- Creflo Dollar – Financially struggling believers – Bible passages from the Old and New Testament about how God will financially bless His children/prosperity gospel
- Kenneth Copeland – Sick believers – Bible verses on healing/prosperity gospel
- Paul Washer – Lukewarm Christians/unbelievers – Passionate, hellfire sermons
- Charles Stanley – Conservative Christians – Fundamental, conservative, old school messages
- John MacArthur – Educated Christians – Hermeneutical, expository, exegetical, scholarly teaching
- TD Jakes – Discouraged, traditional churched believers – Charismatic churchy with a new twist/prosperity gospel
Now whether or not we agree with all that these ministers preach and teach, we can all agree that they have seen much “success” in the “ministry business”. They have wisely presented certain aspects of Christian living in a certain way to certain people. I’m sure they all haven’t voiced their ENTIRE opinion publicly. And depending on how much they disclose, it determines how far they can go and how many people they can reach.
For example, many people do not know of Paul Washer and John MacArthur because they are very opinionated and unwavering in their strict beliefs. But those preachers who are not as fundamental get bigger platforms. They will reach more people. Now we all may not agree with how they do what they do, but I see a purpose in it. I can see that the unbeliever, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist that Paul Washer will NEVER reach, has a chance of hearing Washer SOME DAY perhaps after that unbeliever stumbles across Joel Osteen while flipping through the channels. You may not like someone’s style or approach of getting the word out about God and Jesus, but at least He is being preached. And I do believe that some men can open the door/sow the seed, and then another man can seal the deal by drawing them in/reaping the soul. Maybe one man can pass out the “coupon”, but another man can sell the product.
Philippians 1:15-17 – Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Rejoice when Jesus is being preached and proclaimed and accepted as people’s Lord and Savior regardless of who closed the deal! That is one less soul that will spend an unspeakable, unbearable eternity in the lake of fire.
Many people have amazing inventions and services that many people would do well to patronize. BUT the problem is that they have the arduous task of convincing others to purchase their product or services. Our product/brand/service is THE BEST without a doubt. The hard part is PROMOTION. If everyone knew how great is our God, how sweet our Savior, how beautiful our afterlife, and how precious our faith, they’d all get saved. But they don’t know how great our product is. And they don’t know how badly they need it. Persuade them of their need. Glorify Jesus so that Christianity looks attractive. Pray for wisdom when evangelizing for souls. The product is so good, it can sell itself once they see what it can do for their life. So be the one who wisely introduces it to them! Seal the deal!