Over the past several months I think we’ve seen an example of how—dare I say it?—marketing principles affect ministry. Over the years I have vacillated between embracing such principles and recoiling from them. I went through a period in the mid-1980s during which I was infatuated with the Church Growth Movement. I still have a rather extensive collection of books on that topic, although I will probably eventually get rid of them. If there was ever a time when “the magic of the marketplace” (as Ronald Reagan called it) had cast its spell over a large segment of the evangelical church, it was when C. Peter Wagner‘s books were selling well. I think many of us shook ourselves out of it when we noticed that Scripture was not only taking a back seat to Madison Avenue, but it was often being tossed out of the car altogether.
I was still fairly new to evangelicalism in 1980 when Ronald Reagan first ran for President. I had been a believer for a little more than four years, and up until that year I had not noticed any overall political bias toward either the Democratic or Republican parties among my fellow believers.
But in my local church, a conservative Open Plymouth Brethren assembly, the campaigns of 1980 seemed to create a new a political rift between those who preferred Jimmy Carter because he was a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher, and those who were fed up with the state of the economy and the low level of national morale and wanted him out. The latter group seemed vaguely aware that Reagan also professed some form of Christian belief, but for the most part did not think that either man’s profession of faith should be a determining factor in whether he was elected.