The Early Church’s Strategic Messaging Problem

The early Christian church had a problem with its strategic message. Greeks and Romans had gods for everything. There were god’s for the home and the field, gods for business and trade, gods for travel, gods for athletics, gods for professions and associations, gods for soldiers and sailors and gods for the city and the empire. People looked to each of these gods for similar results: success, prosperity, fertility, health, victory and protection from harm. That’s what religion was all about. Supplicate the gods and they will bless you. Or at least don’t piss them off, so that they won’t squash you like a bug.

But here comes Christianity with its crucified divine-man hero and its imprisoned apostles and its suffering church. My god, what kind of religion is that? That’s what religion is supposed to protect you from. Why would I possibly want to have anything to do with that nonsense?

Even if the story were true, that would be more of a reason to fear than to hope. Everyone knows that the gods get even! What is that you say? There’s only one all-powerful god and someone killed his son? Run for the hills!

As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians, the message of a crucified and risen savior was foolishness in the Greco-Roman world. If the early church had consulted marketing experts, the professionals surely would have told them that the church had a huge marketing problem.

I wonder if our preaching and living today resembles that of the New Testament church and its successors, or if we have simply rolled up all the Greco-Roman gods into one and slapped the name “Jesus” on him. Jesus, the impassible giver of blessings has much more marketing potential than a bloody corpse hanging on a piece of wood.

One thought on “The Early Church’s Strategic Messaging Problem”

  1. Walking with the world has never been what great Christians, revered by the Christian Church, do.
    The Christian walk is with God not the world.
    Athanasius’ Orations against the Arians was not a popular stance to hold in the great Roman Empire.
    Enoch was not a popular guy.
    Peter, Paul, Stephan and others were not embraced by the popular vote.
    They were martyred for the positions they held.

    Your question, are “we have simply rolled up all the Greco-Roman gods”?
    Pretty much. That is the “in thing to do”.
    The Early Churches messages to the “embrace and tolerant Roman Empire” was not popuar then and the message is not popular now.

    The church will have to decide what walk they will walk.
    To walk with God means a person is in agreement with God and headed in the same direction as God. That walk is not driven by popular vote.

    Hebrews 11:5
    It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.

    Pleasing God? Now that would be a real change of pace for the church to have a goal to please God before all and any others even if popular vote disagrees!


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