In the seventh chapter, Gibbs and Bolger begin to explore the flip side of hospitality: serving the stranger. “Hospitality is manifested in emerging churches as members seek to serve those both inside and oustide thier communities in all spheres of life (p. 135).” In giving freely, emerging churches hope to offer an alternative to the modernistic consumer lifestyle of self-interested exchange. Many within these churches decry the marketing that has defined many of the modern churches. Gibbs and Bolger then cite Alvessdon and Willmott, “Marketing is not neutral; it fosters human desire as much as it satiates it (p. 137).”
“Consumer churches present a relationship with Jesus as the answer to widespread feelings of angst. Thus, Jesus is turned into a product that satisfies needs. The problem is that Jesus won’t satisfy individual needs, for the gospel is primarily about God’s agenda, not ours. For true satisfaction to take place, needs must be reformed and transformed to correspond to the gospel (p. 138.)” The authors then go on to suggest that once ‘marketing-Jesus’ doesn’t satisfy needs, people begin to believe even God cannot help.
Thus, the opposite of marketing and targeting is loving and serving. Instead of the old ‘bait & switch,’ the church is called to serve without any agenda other than following Christ and participating in God’s reign. Evangelism is love and the great news that we can particpate in God’s goodness. It is never salesmanship and marketing.
We need to embrace this vision. Sometimes our denomination on every level thinks that branding and marketing is the answer to our decades-long decline. If we just look fresh and inviting then people will flock to us. They think we just need to offer the right program and folks will have their needs met. I think we need to abandon these approaches and reimagine our life as followers of Jesus who freely love and share the news of God’s goodness. This is who we have to be.