Marketing is a very exact science, especially in today's marketplace. A product is continually assessed, upgraded and modernized in order to appeal to the customer. After all, there are a million other items out there to capture the potential buyer's interest. After a market research analysis, vendors know exactly how to successfully target their products to Mr. and Mrs. Public. And never forget, everything is marketable, whether its vehicles, laundry powder, rock stars or religion.
The "floating voter" has a supermarket of offers to tempt him or her. The "possible pew occupier" has a smorgasbord of religious delights to choose from. Apart from the mainstream churches, groups of all possible persuasions jostle for attention, offering a wide range of alternative worship styles. Some use tongues, some offer spectacular healing, some worship prostrate while still others worship through dance. There is something to suit everyone.
When I was eight-years-old, remember asking my mother why such "old" language was used in church. She answered, "I don't know, child. Ask your father." When I asked my dad, he simply said he didn't know, that was just the way things were. I found it to be a very unsatisfactory answer then and I still do today. Is such quaint language used in church because it is holy? Does it have special significance? Does it matter that I can't understand it?
A young girl recently modernized the Lord's Prayer so it could be better understood by her peers. Some found fault with that. A Dutch friend of mine shared with me the fact that though she could remember the Catholic services of her childhood, she didn't know what was being said since everything was said in Latin. I have to wonder why there is such a reluctance to update our church services, Doesn't this blind adherence to the past tend to push people out?
Many people feel secure retaining a touch of tradition and most groups offer this. However, clinging too strongly to obviously out-of-date vestiges of "how it used to be" simply because "we've always done it" is surely counter-productive to growth. Each time a hymn of at least centurion age is announced, I wonder just how much meaning the words have in today's world.
Each week, I listen to a radio talk-back show hosted by a language professor. It has been very enlightening. Discovering the origins and meanings of words has been fascinating. Learning about word development has made me yearn to learn how best to use words.
Some words are left behind forever, victims of a changing world. Meanings alter too. So just how significant are lines such as ". . to Jesus I repair" (one tends to think of car repairs) and ". . . in this my concord find" (immediately airplanes come to mind). And how about archaic terms such as naught, art, hast, doth and canst? These are dated and belong in the past. Wasn't the Gospel originally spread in the common everyday language of the ordinary people? Shouldn't the message be clearly understood by everyone, from the most learned to the most humble?
Of course, outdated terms are not used only in church settings. The law profession needs to simplify many of its terms so the ordinary John and Jane Citizen can understand the terms used. And what about our National Anthem? I wonder how afters people sing "girt by the sea"? I often wish someone would update the song. Old language should be used when reenacting historic events but it has no place in the modern world. Plain, modern English is essential for instant understanding; therefore, it should be used in our everyday world.
Most hymns can be updated with little difficulty. Though some hymns are magnificent and invoke a feeling of awe, most would be improved by modernizing the language. So many ancient words are meaningless today. Many people who visit our churches hear these hymns and perceive that the Church has not moved with the times.
Of course, this is a very subjective topic. Most people have a preference for certain worship styles and particular types of music. Though I feel like I'm being transported backwards 100 years when I sing some of the old hymns, I realize some people get blessings from such songs. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.
The multiplicity of people within a system gives life and color. Trying to make them all fit into the same mold is like attempting to make all flowers alike. It can't be done. Many types of music and worship styles are necessary to accommodate various cultures and personalities. People should feel free to express their opinions without the threat of others getting mad. What is important is the belief in Jesus Christ.
When a visitor enters the church, is he welcomed at the door? Or does she enter a place where pea iple are chatting in their own little groups, oblivious to fact that a visitor has arrived? An impression is made at once and many times that first impression colors every other experience the visitor has in the church.
Religion, like everything else, is marketing, whether you realize it or not. People who don't feel welcome in a church will not return. A successful church is like a good marriage. You have to work at it. As church members we need to pay attention to "marketing" our church. Whether it be modernizing the language, accepting others with opposing views or making an effort to warmly welcome visitors, we need to actively participate in making our church a welcome haven for others. Only then will we grow.
Marketing, perhaps we need to look at the successful methods the world uses. Certainly, Elvis's manager knew how to sell his product, didn't he?