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.