Every once in a while I come across an idea that forces me to reevaluate how I understand the Church, such was the case with Stanley Hauerwas’s description of church marketing as heresy.
How does Christianity recapture the truthfulness of the Gospel against church growth which is a perfect exemplificiation of capitalist marketing techniques within democratic polities to sell Jesus, which of course is false! We need to come out and start calling Willow Creek heresy
His argument is that the central doctrines and practices of Christianity are being overshadowed by the church’s concern with attendance. The result of this is an increased ambiguity with what it means for the Church to practice being Christian. Certainly the watered down ’self-help’ theology of many of the mega churches (and the wanna-be mega churches) is a tangible example of the negative effects of focusing on church growth - whereby the church is reduced to representing itself so as to be attractive to people that don’t want to be there.
A more theologically appropriate attitude is for the Church to understand itself as witness. Witness to the new way of living as a result of, and response to, the death and resurrection of Christ. Living as a people who understand their need for forgiveness, and the freedom that comes in forgiving others. The practice of witness may not be as useful to those who are church window shopping, but it is vital to a church that must set itself apart as an alternative to the self-centered, individualistic, violent norm of society.
The quote comes from the question and answer section of a lecture given at Calvin College.
An archived recording is available. (the quote is found in the last 5 minutes of the lecture)