Product or Packaging? Product and Packaging!

A friend recently wrote an article applying these two marketing approaches to religion. He observed that while many people are lured by packaging more than product, the bottom line for people dedicated to God's will is always the product. Is this product spiritual? Is this a quality product? Is this of God? Is this product gospel?

Since people are lured by packaging, we must also pay attention to the package in which we wrap the gospel. The best product in shoddy, shabby wrappings will sit on the store shelf unexamined. We cannot afford inattention to the packaging, however repulsive that may seem. Our title is not an "either/or," it is a "both/and."

Consider four packages in which the gospel is wrapped.

1. The church. While you and I know the church is people, we cannot overlook the externals. The church is seen not only in its image in the community, in the lives of its members, in its activities of caring and sharing, but also in its facilities. A reputation for benevolence, caring, and sharing cannot draw visitors to a facility that is shabby or dingy. The church that is perceived as active, vibrant, and growing provides an attractive package that draws people.

2. Our worship assemblies. People do visit us--and the number one time of visiting us is in our assemblies. Are we upbeat, happy, and enthusiastic? Does the song leader act like we have something to sing about? Is there enthusiasm and movement and genuine joy in the opportunity to worship? Are we appropriately focused on the God who loves us, cares for us, and gave his Son for us. Especially in the matter of the "assembly package," a couple of rotten apples spoil the barrel. The distraction of one or two unfocused youth (or adults) leaves a negative impression for visitors. In addition, the participative nature of our assemblies can be used effectively. Celebrative gratitude is a delightful package.

3. Our fellowship. What do people see concerning how we share life? Do we care for one another? What about our visiting, our time in one another's homes, the way we care for and provide for one another? Others observe from a distance and know, even when we think no one is looking. Does the church share a genuine fellowship that draws from the periphery and includes every member, or is the fellowship selective with just my crowd?

4. Our individual lives. It is impossible to say too much about the importance of the example of individual Christians. The morals that guide our lives, the dynamics of our families, the integrity of our Christian living is in view. A committed Christian provides another attractive package.

Two conclusions seem obvious.

First, let us never compromise the gospel product! Even when Paul preached on Mars Hill with multiplied secular quotes, he preached gospel. Second, let us never hesitate to put the unchanging Word of God in packaging the lost people in our world will "pick up" for closer examination. Communicating the gospel to non-Christian cultures demands different "connecting points" than preaching the gospel in Christian cultures. Cross- cultural communication is no easy task, and opinions about the best methods will vary, but any church sincerely desiring to reach the lost must understand the challenge--on the mission field abroad, and on the mission field next door. Taking the gospel to our secular world more and more demands cross-cultural communication. Such demands both product and packaging. The proof may be in the product, but the appeal is in the packaging. Both/and!

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