Jesus is not a Brand … warns Tyler Wigg-Stevenson on the cover of January’s addition of Christianity Today. Well … He’s right. Jesus isn’t a Brand. But why does Tyler seem so pessimistic about using brands and marketing strategies for the sake of the gospel?
I thought about writing an in depth critique of the logic of his article in Christianity today, but I decided I didn’t really have the time to invest in something quite so detailed. Besides, others are already doing that. Although if I were put in a room with Stevenson, I’m almost sure that much of the difference between the way I think and the way he thinks about marketing would turn out to be semantic.
However, concisely put, I think Stevenson has done a poor job setting up the discussion in his article. His rhetoric will no doubt be appealing to many since we recognize that Jesus is not a brand, not just another consumer option, not just some product, etc. But all my friends who are using their branding and marketing gifts for the sake of the gospel understand this. None of them have reduced Jesus down to a brand, nor are the intended audiences of such branding necessarily having some sinful self-reliance reinforced as a result.
I think Stevenson is, for the most part, clotheslining scarecrows (read: attacking a staw man). His logic doesn’t hold up, and his statements are a bit extreme—especially his comment about how approaching Jesus through marketing that taps into felt needs is blasphemy.
… people who respond to church marketing approach Jesus as another consumer option. This is first and foremost a problem because it is blasphemy:
His criticisms and warnings are misguided, I think, and hinge on several assumptions that he never explicitly mentions. I might revisit my claims later with detailed analysis of his article, but right now I don’t have time, so just look for others to critique him and listen to the podcasts I mention below. Ultimately, I fear the spirit of his article could cause Christians to be less aggressive in engaging the cultural median of branding for the sake of the gospel.
• For an alternative and less pessimistic take on branding and the gospel, listen to the recent podcast I did with Aaron Skinner, the founder and president of Kairos Creative. The podcast is only 1 of 7 short excerpts from U R B A N G L O R Y that will be posted over the next two weeks to provide an alternative perspective to Stevenson’s extreme comments in Christianity Today. •
Jesus is Not A Brand : Jesus is Not A Brand : Jesus is Not A Brand : Jesus is Not A Brand : Jesus is Not A Brand : Jesus is Not A Brand
I found out one of my friends, Kevin Hendricks, occasionally contributes to the well known website Church Marketing Sucks. I found the following comment of his in a thread.
… I think bad marketing does those things. Wigg-Stevenson assumes that all marketing fosters consumerism and leads to the negatives he lists. I agree that those things are all negatives, but I don’t agree that marketing automatically leads you there.
Those are definitely pitfalls of marketing and things we need to be on guard against, but I don’t think they occur simply because we do marketing. If that were the case, Wigg-Stevenson would be guilty of them as well (his book is marketed, the magazine in which his article appears is marketed, etc.)