Stumbled across a brilliant blog posting Ads vs Reality , someone who has taken the marketing photos of various fast food products and put them alongside the real thing as it appears at their local outlet. Very funny, and very telling.
The trouble is that with 99.9% of products, if you describe them truthfully then nobody will want to buy them. Marketing, as Douglas Coupland memorably described it, is the art of feeding people **** in such a way that they don't realise it's not real food. That's the trouble with marketing - if the truth on its own is good enough, you don't need marketing anyway, and if the truth isn't good enough, then it's morally wrong to use marketing because it's lying by another name. I guess the marketers would say that what they are doing is about presentation, rather than truth, but sometimes it's hard to tell them apart.
And it's hard to resist musing on 'church marketing'. Informing people of where we are, what we do, what the gospel can do for them is one thing, but there's nothing worse than being oversold a product. This has been the problem for some Alpha course participants - church hasn't then matched up to the reality of a people filled with the Holy Spirit, folk being healed, lives radically changed etc. Unfortunately we've become very used to talking about the reality of the Kingdom of God as Jesus describes it, whilst living with a watered down version of it in the hope that a) revival will come, and then the talk will match the reality b) If a doesn't happen, then at least there'll be heaven.
And because we know there's a gap between what we say and what we experience, there's a search for a magic formula: a way of being church, a particular gift of the Spirit, a brand new Bible insight, liturgical purity, great music, a zippy Mission Statement etc. which will catapult us across the gap. In this we are just copying our culture - the gap between the life we want and the life we live is enormous, so we quest for transforming experiences in more and more exotic ways in order to bridge it. But the problem is not that we are missing some key external ingredient to our lives, it is that we are missing a key internal ingredient, it is a spiritual problem.
This post has already gone a long way away from where it started, so the train of thought is pulling into the station and I'd better get on with what I was supposed to be doing.....