Why advertise?" was one question my advertising company kept at the forefront. The answer was simple: results. Now, ten years later, after leaving the world of advertising, as I prepare my sermons, I notice similarities between sermon preparation and marketing campaigns.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not advocating that we sell the gospel in a three-ring circus. However, we must endeavor to keep the message fresh and practical for our congregations.
Al Reis, in Sales and Marketing,1 suggests that the most successful product launches and sales of 1995 [and since] have had four common ingredients. I have added a fifth from my own experience.
1. Relate to what's already in the consumer's mind.
Are you in touch with your people's felt needs? One of today's legendary marketers, Jerry Delia Femina, wrote: "Too many companies operate in a vacuum and produce ads that only they care about. Successful ads speak to the buyer in an original and distinctive way . . . new, exciting, fun, unique."2 As a preacher, you must ask yourselves, "Do my sermons follow my favorite subjects?" or "Am I in touch with the needs of my people so much that I preach to those needs?"
2. The visual is as important as the verbal.
How do you look when you preach? Beyond gestures, facial expressions, and body language, how does your stage/ platform appear? Clean up the papers, hymn books, and audio cables. Dress it up with a simple flower arrangement to soften the peripheral look. Perhaps your entire church interior needs the spiritual investment of a face lift. Add what will compliment, remove what distracts. Christ took the people to the natural beauty of the country, away from the hustle, whenever He could.
3. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
In less than three seconds a viewer decides to watch or flip from a program or commercial. Our people may give us the grace of about fifteen seconds. With this amount of time you must pull them into the message and answer their in quiry, "Why should I listen to this person?" Don't waste the opening moments with a forgotten announcement, casual comments, or flip commentary. Get right to the Word.
4. Launch a new category, not a new brand.
Some seem to think we should change our theology in order to make it more appealing to the world. No, not for a minute. What we must do, how ever, is become more resourceful in the way it is presented.
5. While staying focused on the major point, keep the momentum.
Next time you are watching a home video, pull out your stopwatch. You will notice that there is a major change of setting, action, or dramatic climax every 12 minutes or less. If we translate the 90 minutes of a movie down to 30 minutes of a sermon, then you should reach a peak in your delivery about every four to five minutes. Hit a new point, dramatic illustration, change of voice tone something should happen.
Advertising the gospel, the Cross, is more important than any worldly media campaign. For the glory of Jesus, we are seeking results for the kingdom. Don't be afraid to use these marketing techniques. Far from trivializing our message, these techniques can help us better proclaim the message of the Cross every time we preach it.
1 Al Reis, "No Dogs Here," Sales and Marketing Management (Bill Communications, Dec. 1995), 24.
2 In Andy Cohen, "At the Top of the Game," Sales and Marketing Management (Bill Communications, Jan. 1996), 32.