Market Tested Christianity

This is from a sermon I preached last September on Mark 4:21-25 – the Parable of the Sower:

Someone (I believe John Macarthur) once said that if the parable of the soils were retold today by contemporary sowerevangelical church growth consultants, it would go like this: There are four sowers and one seed.

The first sower devotes himself to the hard path. He studies the soil, goes back to his lab, takes the seed and genetically alters it so that it might germinate in hard ground.

The second sower dedicates his efforts to the rocky soil. He studies the soil, goes back to his lab, genetically alters the seed to germinate in rocky soil.

The third sower does the same for the weedy soil.

And the fourth for the moist soft fruitful soil.

The point: If you shape a message about Jesus that appeals to and fits the likes, dislikes, opinions and beliefs of non-Christians you’ll be a successful evangelist. Evangelism, according to this way of thinking, is market testing/research, followed by product development, with the aim of reducing consumer resistance.

I like this kind of evangelism for two reasons:

1. It puts me in control. People aren’t listening? I just find a different approach. It’s about me working the problem. The problem isn’t that people are by nature unresponsive, dead in sin, it’s that people are uncomfortable with some parts of Jesus’ message. I am too. So the trick is to pitch a message skipping over the difficult bits in order to get people to make an initial buy. They’ll see the uncomfortable stuff eventually but by then they’ll be too invested to care.

2. It’s not divisive. If I market shape the gospel, there will be no cause for people not to like Jesus or me.

The only problem is that the above version is not Jesus’ parable. In Jesus’ parable there’s one sower. And one unalterable seed – the Word. The word is sufficient. The word does not come back empty…read more

For the last year and a half we’ve been working our way through the Gospel of Mark. You can find all these sermons (at least on audio) here.

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