Marketing success as a sign of God’s blessing in a free market culture.
By Joseph Ellis
There has been a pervasive myth in Protestantism that sprouted up in Europe shortly after denominationalism really started taking root, but has grown to full maturity in the United States in the last 50 years. It is the idea that numerical growth is proof of god’s blessing for being obedient to his ordinance. While there have been sprouts of this here and there throughout church history, the idea has become rampant in a culture that worships free markets and choice in church style.
While proponents of the myth will point to a few biblical instances where numerical growth seems to point to the handiwork of god, the overwhelming evidence suggests numbers are neither here nor there. In the old testament, the promise centers more around financial blessing and military dominance despite being vastly outnumbered by their enemy; and in the new testament the proof of doing things the “right way” was linked to persecution (something all persecuted people preach).
In reality, the only thing numbers prove, in our culture, is there is a market for what the church is providing, and it is being marketed well. There are too many big churches claiming to do things the “right way” in fundamentally different ways for it to prove anything about divine blessing (unless god blesses good marketing).
What should the yardstick of success be then? How about something by which almost every social convention can be measured? Is involvement making people more responsible, better family members, and kind neighbors? That seems like a good place to start.