Every year billions of dollars are spent on commercials, advertisements, promotion materials and marketing all together. The concept of marketing is for companies to spend their money to get their product (or name/brand) into the mass public so people will recognize the name when the public is in need/want of a specific item. In this year’s Super Bowl advertisers spent $3 million to have ONE commercial air for 30 seconds. I am not sure of the exact amount spent collectively by all the businesses and companies, we can safely assume a lot of money was spent. I couldn’t find any numbers in regards to how much was spent but I imagine Dorito’s spends boatloads of money to get viewers to choose their brand of snack food for your household. Budweiser has spent billions (past and present) to convince you to drink their beer. Let’s face it, we live in a day and age where companies and individuals place a high value on marketing and promoting a product.
This marketing strategy has trickled down into the western church as well. Churches in America spend multiple thousands (if not millions in some cases) of dollars on branding (church logo, web site, etc.), advertising (internet, television, radio and paper) and promotion (mailings, door hangars, posters etc.). It is no secret church attendance in the US is on the decline. As the financial crunch has impacted our economy in many ways, it has also seriously affected our churches today. Many churches knee jerk reaction to the drop in attendance is to pour more money into promotion and advertising in the hopes to attract more people to their particular church.
In the past I have seen mailers from churches who spend thousands of dollars in printing, mailing and advertising who claim they are different from other churches because they won’t make you dress a certain way, or they will preach a message that is “relevant for today”, has modern worship music and relaxed atmosphere. So many churches believe if they wisely spend their money marketing themselves to the masses then the payoff will come by bodies in seats or pews
Now I know I may come across as sounding very critical of some churches and church marketing in the west. I guess it’s hard not to sound bitter or enraged but in reality I also see the value of marketing a church. The problem is so many are putting the emPHAsis in the wrong area. We need to get the word out about ministries God is actively involved, we need to invite unbelieving individuals to church or a small group to hear the Gospel, and we need people in pews for fellowship and encouraging one another. So I do value church marketing to an extent. It does however need to be reformed or revised because it really is not about us, it is about Jesus.
In today’s passage we can learn a lesson or two about church marketing and promotion. I don’t want you to think this is Church Marketing 1010 because in so many ways everything I point out goes against almost every “rule” in the church marketing rule book because it takes the focus off of human accomplishment and point’s people to a greater cause.
Read John 3:22 - 36
Verse 22 - 24: Jesus and his disciples went to the countryside in Judea and were baptizing people. We see that it wasn’t Jesus but his disciples who were actually doing the baptizing (John 4:2) and this caused a concern among the disciples of John the Baptist (vs. 26).
Verse 25, 26: There was some discussion going on between John the Baptist’s disciples and some Jews over the rite of purification. We are not told precisely the details of this discussion but I am sure it was over the significance of it and possibly how it was administered. Certainly there was talk about the distinction between John’s baptism and the ceremonial cleansing. The essential factor in John’s baptism was the prior requirement of repentance. We are also not told what the motivation of the Jews was in talking to John’s disciples. It could have easily been to stir up jealousy between John’s disciples concerning Jesus’ baptizing ministry. The Jews could have been saying to John the Baptists disciples, “What are you guys going to do about this Jesus guy and his disciples infringing on your ministry? Isn’t baptizing your business? Isn’t this what John and his followers are called to do? They have no right baptizing people. There isn’t enough business for the two of you in this area.” This certainly concerned John’s disciples because they went to their teacher and voiced their concern. They said, “Teacher, everyone is going to Jesus to be baptized and fewer are coming to us! They were concerned because they thought they were supposed to be the authoritarians of baptism and here comes this other band of disciples doing our job.”
Verse 27, 28: I am sure John’s response was not what his disciples were expecting. He essentially said, “You guys know I am not the Messiah. You have heard me say my job is to prepare the way for the Messiah and that is what I have done.” He was not upset in the least because he knew his place in this part of history. John’s role in the Gospel account was a small but VERY significant role. His job was to be a promoter of Jesus (The voice crying out in the Wilderness) and not himself and his ministry. It wasn’t up to him to convince people to get his baptism; he was on the scene to point people to the Messiah. This would not be very good marketing strategies by today’s standards. Here’s John’s church growth marketing play: “Don’t come to me because I am just a voice crying out in the wilderness. Go to Jesus, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He wasn’t all about “LOOK AT ME!” John was all about “DON’T look at me, look to Jesus!”
Verses 29, 30: Here John not only shows that he is NOT upset or threatened he in fact is ecstatic about what is going on. He compares himself to the best man in a wedding. I am not sure how many of you have ever had the privilege of being a best man but if you have then you know exactly what John the Baptist is talking about. As a best man you know that the wedding we are in has absolutely NOTHING to do with you. You are there to assist, to rejoice and to celebrate with the groom and his upcoming marriage. Now I am sure there are many men who may have been the best man from hell where they tried to make it about them but this is not the case with John.
In this verse Jesus is the bridegroom and the bride (in the O.T. was Israel) is the Church. The “friend of the bridegroom” is John the Baptist. His job is to stand with Jesus and rejoice with him because the time had come for the marriage ceremony. So John not only says he is joyful but that his joy is COMPLETE (A.K.A. he can die a happy man).
These are words we should all heed to and live according… “He must increase and I must decrease.” John was not merely making a statement he was stating what MUST take place. According to R.C. Sproul, “He (John) was called to go before Christ, and once he had announced Christ, then John was to go into the background that Christ might emerge in the fullness of His leadership as the appointed Messiah. ‘It is necessary,’ John said. ‘It’s not optional. This has to happen. It has to take place. I have to decrease. He must increase.’”  The Church at large would be better served if it heeded to these words of John.
If we (the Church) make it a point to promote Jesus and not us (our building, music, pastor, friendliness, acceptance, comfort level etc.) then we would see increase. Our job in this world is Jesus promotion and not self/church promotion.
Verse 31-32: Now these verses appear to be the reflective words of John “the Evangelist” and appear to be an explanation as to why Jesus must increase (since he is from above) and ultimately above all. John the Baptist speaks of the earthly things thus does not have the same authority as Jesus so it is imperative that Jesus increase and John decrease. When Jesus speaks about the things of heaven he speaks with authority and yet humanity (in general) has not accepted his message.
Verse 33 - 36: Those who do receive Jesus’ testimony do so by accepting that his Word is indeed the Word of God and that God is true. He has given us unlimited amounts of the Spirit. He re-iterates the theme of this chapter… Jesus is the Son of God; all things are given to Him by the Father. Anyone who believes (Commits unto, trusts, place confidence in, have saving faith) in Jesus has eternal life. Whoever does not believe or obey will not have eternal life and will face the wrath of God.
This is my prayer… "Jesus must increase in my life, ministry, family, relationships, work, recreation etc. and I must decrease because all I do I want to do for Him." Would you join me in praying for Jesus promotion and not self promotion? Let us pray for Jesus to shine and his salvation to come to the unbelievers in this world. Let us never shy away from pointing people to Jesus because all put their absolute trust and faith in Him will have everlasting life.
Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Jn 3:22). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Sproul, R.C. (2009). St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: John p. 52 Lake Mary, FL., USA: Reformation Trust Publishing.
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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