If I didn't go into ministry, I could see myself in marketing. The website "entrepreneur.com" defines marketing as "a form of communication between you and your customers with the goal of selling a product or service to them. Communicating the value of your product or service is a key aspect of marketing." When I worked at Menards, I went through a training to help me make sales. My boss knew I went to Bible College, so he used a sales tactic on me to help me understand at a personal level. My department was standing in front of our selection of water heaters, and my boss was pretending to be a customer and picked me to be the salesman. I walked him through our selection and their features, but I had missed something and my boss wanted to make sure we understood one vial tactic: relationships. In front of our whole department, my boss asked me about my education and what I wanted to do with my life. I told everyone there that I went to Bible College and that I studied Preaching and Church Leadership, so I wanted to go into ministry. Without a single course on homiletics (preaching), my boss showed me that he knew how to reach people. My boss and I then had a conversation together in front of our whole department and here's the gist of what we talked about:
Boss: So you want to work in a church and tell people about Jesus?
Me: Yes sir.
Boss: How do you do that? Do you walk people through the several features of your church, or do you establish a relationship with them?
Me: We establish a relationship with people and relate with them on a more personal level.
Boss: So what we're doing here and what you eventually want to do aren't all that different. People have needs and we're providing a product or service that fits what they're looking for.
My boss then began to tell us how it's important to establish some sort of relationship with our customers; not a deep "I love you" relationship but an "I care about your needs and want to help" kind. My first mistake in selling a water heater to my boss was that I walked him through the features and didn't even ask him what he needed. I should have asked how many he had in his family, what his budget was, if he wanted an investment or a quick fix, and other questions that would help me understand him so I could help him pick the best water heater.
By the definition, discipleship and marketing are the same. As disciples, we are to communicate the importance of what Christ has done for us and communicate it well. People have a God-sized need and they don't even know it--they know they have a need, but they don't know about our product and that's where we come in.
Christians have survived and thrived since Jesus defeated death, so there's nothing wrong with our product. The question now is simple: "where are the customers?" If we have the best product out there, then where are all the people? The people are outside our walls waiting to be told about the God that can fill the God-sized hole in them.
My wife and I have quite the Disney movie collection, and since she's a Preschool Director/Teacher, I want to leave you with a quote that sums up what we've been talking about: "I want to be where the people are..." If you know Disney, then you know that was "The Little Mermaid" and you probably sang that phrase and if you did, I want to thank you. This song comes when the main character, Ariel, sings about wanting to go from being a mermaid to being a human. Where are the people? The people are outside our walls and waiting for us to communicate our product to them. The church survived and thrived because the disciples went where the people were and told them the good news of Jesus. If all we do is wait for the people to come to us, then we're going to be waiting for a while. The success of God's people in reaching this world is found in our ability to meet people where they are, not sit around and wait for them to find us.