This past Sunday while I was visiting a local Black megachurch as a member’s guest, I was enjoying myself and wondering why I had been entertaining such knee-jerk hostility against megachurches: maybe Dr. King had been wrong when he railed against church “jumboism” in The Strength to Love?
Then, in the middle of the pastor’s spirit-filled commentary, the giant video screens suddenly burst with color and thunderous attention-grabbing music, and the studied excitement of a voice-over announcer began to sell me concert tickets, books, CDs, gym memberships, and all manners of self-improvement aids. Rattled and disquieted, I sighed: maybe King had been on to something.
As part of their call, churches have been selling Christ since the days of the cross. Recognizing that marketing comes with the assignment, I am un-offended by church’s soft sell tactics (announcements, bulletins, etcetera.) that have been the church’s stock and trade since I was a boy. Church bills have to be paid and those bills do not come cheap, so what is wrong with using a little technology? Maybe because church should be the one place you are not bombarded with advertising.
What’s next, pastor endorsement deals? Choir robes from Coke? To me there is a calculated crassness in capitalizing on a captive audience at their most vulnerable and trusting moment by selling them aerobics classes via video in the sanctuary. But as I sat wincing during this season of Christ, others applauded and pulled out their checkbooks. Double-sigh.