How should we market Christianity?

According to an apocryphal legend, Sir Ernest Shackleton placed the following ad to recruit adventurers for his journey to Antartica:

“Men wanted for Hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Can you feel the allure? It will be incredibly difficult, it might not succeed, but imagine the camaraderie, the challenge, and if we make it - oh, the unparalleled honor!

But though Shakleton never wrote this ad, it still stirs our hearts.


Perhaps because it is an echo of Mark 8:34-38:

Calling the crowd along with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? What can anyone give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Is this different from the marketing you see for Christianity? ‘If you become a Christian and join our church, you’ll be part of a loving community, middle class and upwardly mobile, happily married with 2.5 kids, and going to heaven when you die.’

I wonder, how do you think we should communicate what it means to be a Christian?


I find this question quite provocative, particularly because you used the word ‘market’. That word tends to grate on me because I have an aversion to ‘sales’ and are skeptical of those who are selling/ peddling things!

Having sat though a number of youth and university outreach evenings, I’ve often wondered about how we sell the Christian life…how we desire to persuade others that it’s life-changing and life-giving, etc. I once had a very astute skeptic ask me, ‘So, does every Christian conversion story have to begin with some crisis?’ I can’t remember what I answered exactly, but I think it was something along the lines of ‘Not always’, but it made me realize just how much we love some drama! But I notice that sometimes that tempts us lay the ‘bad news’ on thick…almost inauthentically…in order to facilitate interaction with the ‘good news’.

And I had to giggle at your summation of the message of certain elements of American Christianity:

I can tell you that I definitely – both consciously and unconsciously – believed this for a while!

But, as for the question, What ought we to be communicating about what it means to be a Christian… I think, simply put, it is to be in relationship with the Life-Giver. To be a follower of Christ is to learn the Way of Christ in each of our unique circumstances and to know Life’s perpetual, creative presence.

I don’t wish to sound too ethereal, but it’s meant to be a broad message…an invitation to know true life in every circumstance…‘good’ or ‘bad’…mundane or extraordinary.


I had 2 really good conversations today that I think bring some answer to this. My first conversation was with someone who currently holds to New Age beliefs. Without having time to share the heart of the Gospel, I suggested that we all - whatever belief system - desire to know Goodness and find Eternity. This concept was agreeable to her, and resonated with what she’s searching for. This was within the context of the Christian education that we’re running, and my reference was that in Christ, we find the answers to both these desires. As with Ecclesiastes 3:11,

He has made everything beautiful in its time.He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

For this brief conversation, I think that ‘marketing’ Christianity (@kathleen, you’re right, not a nice term :slightly_smiling_face:) was about showing someone that Jesus meets our deepest desires. I look forward to developing this conversation with this person, because I think that finding common ground is a really positive way to build a platform for sharing the true Gospel.

My second conversation was actually a comparison between Buddhism and Christianity. Where Buddhism teaches that all life is suffering so we should eliminate desire to eliminate suffering, I contrasted with the words of Jesus in John 16:33:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

This is not an easy ‘sell’ for many people, because let’s face it, no one wants to suffer. However, it is a fact of life; and like Shackleton’s advert, brings a raw honesty about the journey ahead. However, there is also a firm hope. Jesus has overcome! He has conquered, and has the victory. Whilst this doesn’t always change our immediate circumstances, the hope is a promise for eternity. Like my conversation with the New Age lady, we need an eternal hope.

I think that we need to be really honest about human needs and the reality of pain in this world, but that with the pain is a resolution, a final solution already paid for. The hope is beyond imagination, and is a certainty.