Seth Godin is a genius.
His eyes see past the obvious. He understands how people think and what they are looking for. He can anticipate the changes that are ahead and develop more effective strategies. He knows how to make a difference. Godin is helping people everywhere rethink how they attract attention, especially in an age of abundance.
If you do not know who Seth Godin is, then go find out. His books should change your life.
Unfortunately I don’t think the church has read any of his books.
One of Godin’s favorite topics is the difference between interruption and permission marketing. In a generation that has spent its entire life being bombarded by interruption marketing, it is hard for us to imagine that there is an alternative. If you want to learn more, read a brief review of the topic by my friend Jeff here.
Interruption marketing involves making more noise than the competitor. The loudest person wins. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
It is telemarketing phone calls that interrupt dinner. It is the myriad billboards that litter the sides of the highway. It is the neon signs of Vegas. It is the man in Times Square selling fake Louis Vitton purses trying to grab your attention by declaring his special offer just for you. It is the infomercial that offers a discount if you call in the next 10 minutes.
The church loves to interrupt.
It is the sermon whose main point is to tell you how much God hates you. It is the preacher who declares our worthiness of hell repeatedly. It is the guilt that we place on others to prove that we are better than they are.
We can debate hell. We can debate the extent of God’s love. But you cannot debate the ineffectiveness of the church’s marketing.
Permission marketing is different. You gain the potential customer’s attentions not because you screamed louder, but because she actually wants to hear what you have to say. You gain permission when you build trust. You gain permission by being reliable and honest and forgiving. You gain permission through relationship.
If you still do not understand what I mean, then go to your local Apple store just after the new iPhone is released in the coming weeks. There will be a line days before you can actually buy it. A line that stretches well beyond the doors of the store. All waiting for the chance to spend $400.
Apple makes great products. They offer excellent customer service. People wait in line because Apple has our permission.
I can hear your objection. But church is not about gadgets and marketing. It is about Jesus.
We have a faith that is far more valuable than any product Apple could make. God made the world out of absolutely nothing. Then God became man so that he could die for us. He who made the entire universe killed by Roman soldiers. And his death is what gives us life.
Church should be about these mysteries. Forgiveness of sins. Freedom from guilt. Undeserved love from God. These are the products we offer.
If we share by first obtaining permission, then people will listen. If they see grace, love, peace, joy, and mercy in us, then they will let us tell them about Jesus. If they experience God’s love through us, then they will want to know more.
If we declare our convictions and how offended we get and how everyone who is not like us is going to hell, then all we are doing is making noise, and we deserved to be tuned out.
Imagine what could be if we build trust. If we stop yelling and started building relationships. If we get permission.
The iPhone is amazing, but a God who loves us despite us is incredible. This is a mystery worth waiting in line for.
Have you experienced a church that understands permission marketing? What is the craziest thing you stood in line for? Share your thoughts here.
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