Selling Jesus

I ran across a rather helpful website which outlined “marketing theory.” According to this site, the four most basic rules of Marketing are:

1. Get your customer’s attention
2. Motivate them to buy
3. Get them to actually buy
4. Get them to buy again and again

Marketing strategy breaks people up into strata (demographics) and organizes its campaign around the 20-30% of people who will influence the rest of a demographic. It is an inexact and arduous science, constantly reevaluating and reformulating new approaches to reach a target audience. And Jesus sucks at it.

Sure, he passed rule number 1 with flying colors: Get your customer’s attention. He drew large crowds and astounded them with his teaching. He healed all those who were sick among them. He preached that the “Kingdom of Heaven was at hand” – that God would soon restore His people Israel.

But 2? Motivate them to buy? As soon as he has their attention, he calls them children of their father – the Devil. He tells strange stories about God’s people being like thieves, like corn, like virgins. He insults the powerful among them and confuses the rest.

And those that were actually motivated by all of this he sends away. When it comes time for people to actually “buy” what Jesus is teaching – he sends them away sad. Jesus fails rule number 3 – he can’t close the deal.

And rule number 4 is almost insulting. Those few followers of Jesus, who follow him right up to the cross and, bleary-eyed and blubbering, witness his resurrection; these are tortured, ostracized, beaten and killed by Romans (who’d beat you as soon as look at you anyways) and by Jews (for whom the message of Jesus was all about).

On a simple pass/fail assessment of the most basic rules of Marketing 101, Jesus scores 25% and fails.

Why then didn’t he fail? Why is it that the earliest Jesus movement drew thousands of people into repentance and life “in Christ?” Why is it that the church still exists today, preaching the exact same message of Jesus – the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?

Maybe this message Jesus was teaching (selling, if you like) was more powerful than even the most basic rules of Marketing. Maybe this message was so mind-bending, so counter-intuitive, so truly humanizing as to make zealots conform, murderers submit, and Caesars convert.

Are you trying to “market” your belief in Jesus Christ? Are you expressing your beliefs through cleverly placed bumper-stickers, jewelry, trite answers to difficult problems?

Are you tired of churches advertising their beliefs to you? Are you tired of the billboards, the radio spots, and the mailers to “current resident?”

Listen to this simple message of Jesus – God has come to your aid. God has come to your rescue. Put down the ad-campaign.

Pick up the gardening tools.


Joshua Sholander is a twenty-something Worship Pastor at a church in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. He loves most things theological and all things narrative. He finds it incredibly encouraging that the people of God are finally begging to put flesh and blood on the person of Jesus and the historical situations of the Bible. Check him out at

This article was printing in the March/April issue of Rethink Monthly magazine (issue #6).


1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Lead Story

One response to “Selling Jesus

  1. Pingback: You Never Sausage Links! (3.21.09) « The Cruciform Life Blog

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