Seth Godin always makes me think. His observations about marketing (translation: getting your message to people who don’t have it yet) spark interesting thought tangents about the church and its mission.
In a recent post titled Dumbing Down Godin challenged the user-friendly approach to churches and other organizations. You know, the idea that in order to attract people, you have to reduce everything to its most basic, to the lowest common denominator. Bottom-shelf access is the highest value.
We’ve often done that by refusing to deal with doctrine (“it’s too confusing”) or talk about the demands of discipleship (“faith guarantees smooth sailing through life”) or soft-pedaling the gospel (“just agree to these facts about Jesus…that’s really all there is to it.”) or marketing church membership privileges like a time share (“you get this and this and this and this…”).
Now listen to Godin: “You’re under pressure to do that with your restaurant and your spiritual advice and your stump speech and your non-profit speech and your non-profit pitch. There are gatekeepers pushing you to dumb it down for the average. The thing is, when you dumb stuff down, you know what you get? Dumb customers. And (I’m generalizing here) dumb customers don’t spend as much, don’t talk as much, don’t blog as much, don’t vote as much and don’t evangelize as much. In other words, they’re the worst ones to end up with.”
Bottom line: if we’re not careful, we can damage our ultimate mission. We will not make world-impacting, Jesus-treasuring disciples by always dealing with the simple stuff, always thinking for people, always making it easy, always focusing on privileges instead of responsibilities.
Many people in our generation want the Christian faith straight up, with no hedging. They embrace the radical adventure of following Jesus and His revolutionary movement. They respond to mystery and wonder of the inexplicable-like the gospel of grace. They want to belong to something that matters and that even costs.
So, we can do doctrine without apology, present a full-proof gospel, invite Christians to take up a cross and deny themselves, live with dangerous faith and make church membership as meaningful as the New Testament describes. The way of Jesus will not advance by dumbing down, but by presenting it with integrity and backbone.