Jesus clearly intended for His followers to broadcast the news of salvation in His name to the ends of the earth. And they, empowered with the Holy Spirit, did just that. How effective was His plan? Well, we call it “the Great Commission” and “Great” really doesn’t do it justice. It is without a doubt the most effective marketing effort ever initiated. In essentially one generation, Jesus’ associates would follow His plan into virtually every nation on earth. Against overwhelming odds and in desperately hostile environments they charged, growing stronger with every new market they accessed.
The introduction of the Gospel into the Roman culture would play a leading role in the demise of the morally bankrupt society the Roman Empire had become, and with its arrival a new world order would emerge. Within three generations Christianity would become the leading influencer in every sector of society globally. And even today it is still the most recognized brand in the world, and the cross the most recognized icon in all of history. There are more franchises (local congregations) in more local communities, and more ethically diverse environments than any other entity in all of history. The Bible is the best selling book of all time and has been since it was first introduced into the mainstream marketplace. Can you imagine that kind of mega-dominance; the number one best selling book every year for over 500 years? Sounds like God knows how to market!
The story of Jesus is unquestionably the most dominate force in marketing for the last two thousand years, and all this during times of tremendous change. This kind of marketing effectiveness is mind-boggling and would be the envy of marketing professionals through the ages. Professional strategists would have predicted its demise long ago, and it has not succeeded without opposition. It has been attacked by politics through ideologies that demanded it surrender its place of public policy and leadership. Economics realities have threatened its financing, social upheaval and cultural trends have suggested its message is obsolete and irrelevant, and educational systems have questioned its accuracy and legitimacy. But it still remains undeterred in its purpose and progress as well as effectiveness. How’s that for staying power and market share?
Ministry Is Marketing…
Now we do have a trade secret for all this marketing success, it is the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that His followers would have to have help to fulfill His purpose on earth, so he sent them to Jerusalem to be endued with power from on high. That power and direction is the secret of the success of the church throughout the ages. The power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit is our silent partner in every outreach endeavor. His working in advance to prepare the market before we arrive is the greatest advantage the church can have. He creates the demand for the product even before the product is introduced.
This can be witnessed in the story of Cornelius, the Italian centurion in Cearesa, found in Acts chapter 10. In the story it is abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit had prepared the way and even orchestrated the initial encounter for Peter to preach the Gospel to Cornelius. Cornelius, moved by the Holy Spirit through a vision complete with Angelic instructions (God’s multi-media), had invited his family and friends that he knew would be open to this opportunity to come and hear the presentation. As a result, all present came to Christ authenticated by the fact that the Holy Spirit was given to them in the same way He had been given to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost.
It was a divinely initiated sales meeting of tremendous importance in that it introduced Christianity to a completely new and previously untapped market. Cornelius was a gentile, and to this point Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism, and therefore available exclusively to Jews. And among Jews there was really no desire nor inclination that the gentiles could be included in the plan of redemption without converting first to the Jewish faith. But God made an executive decision to introduce change into the growth process of the new movement and free it from the limitations of religious bondage of Judaism. He did this by including the gentiles in the program by grace, without demanding that they convert to Judaism and to keeping the Law of Moses. It was an acceleration point in God’s strategy to reach the world (market redemption) and one that would increase the potential of growth in Christianity in a virtually unlimited way. Today it would have been considered a “Viral” moment, a “tipping point”!
What can we learn from this story and the steps God used to increase the potential for the growth of Christianity in an unbelievable way?
- We must be Spiritually led. Trends, stats, and public opinion are important, but not as important as God’s leadership. In this story we see that one of the great secrets to the marketing success of Christianity is that its strategy is developed, and managed by God Himself. While man must execute it through obedience, man certainly did not plan it. Had it been attempted by man without the endorsement of God, it would have been rejected as a result of the religious barriers that existed between Jews and gentiles. But when God clearly put it together and orchestrated it, none could argue with its validity. This teaches us an important secret in Kingdom marketing success. Stay with the plan that God has endorsed and embrace the changes that God initiates. Go with what God is doing. When you need God’s wisdom, and you will, ask. James 1: 5.
- God seized a “now” opportunity. It had risk, but huge potential. The Roman world was one perfectly suited for the Gospel to spread exponentially. “Pax Romana”, Roman Peace, produced a civilization suitable for great diversity of spiritual beliefs, broad and diverse cultural exposure and relatively easy travel. In other words, it was an excellent time to sow the Gospel all over the World through the vehicle of Roman culture. But the time was now. Two hundred years before, the communication portal was there (Greek Language) but the roads were not. In a few more years the security of travel would not be. The time was now! But to seize the moment, God had to break Christianity out of its Jewish box. This required the greatest change in church history. There is a Now time for every venture.
- Be strategic and deliberate when you introduce change. Critical change is necessary if we are to remain relevant in cultures, particularly ones in transition. God Himself was the one to initiate change in this story, in spite of the resistance of the Jews. And it did create a crisis in the movement. Crisis always exists on the curve of change. But it was introduced at a time and in a way that was carefully planned by God. He carefully chose the people, the time and the location for this major shift to begin. He never introduces changes for change sake, or because He is bored. If you look at history, it seems to me that God initiates change as a way of staying relevant to the culture He is trying to reach. In an evolving society the Church must adapt to remain effective. We must not compromise the truth, but we must constantly examine and adjust the way we share it, how we contextualize its realities, and the methods we employ to deliver it to those who need it so desperately.
A great man of God once told me, “Phil, if you will do His (God’s) will, He will do your work.” Good advise. If we want to reach our greatest levels of effectiveness in the Kingdom, we must be totally surrendered to His will. Being Spiritually led is not natural for us. But we must. And when we hear from God, we must trust that His timing is the best possible timing. And His changes are always to lift our limitations and free us to really soar toward success!