In his book Marketing the Church, George Barna the go-to-guy for statistics about the state of Christianity in America, writes “The parable of the sown seeds (Matthew 13) portrays marketing the faith as a process in which there are hot prospects and not-so-hot prospects and shows how we should gear our efforts toward greatest productivity" (p.31). He suggests this is the essence of ‘target marketing’ despite the obvious fact the seed goes out all not a marketing focus group. The sower in the parable indiscriminately sows the seed.
“Marketing cannot occur without clear and meaningful communication...Companies that have not developed means of conveying their message with clarity are rarely successful. Jesus was a communications specialist. He communicated His message in diverse ways, and with results, that would be a credit to modern advertising and marketing agencies” (p.32).
How many marketing specialist do you know that put out commercial designed to hide what they are selling? How many ad campaigns do companies design for the purpose of turning more people away then it attracts? Imagine a car commercial that kept people from seeing the usefulness or benefits of the car--otherwise they might buy the car.
Jesus was emphatically not a marketing specialist. Yes, he could talk directly to Niccodemus and the women at the well and expose their great need of the gospel. But when it came to the public crowds, Jesus does the exact opposite.
Jesus’ public ministry calls people to repent--it hits the reality of sin--often not very attractive to the sinner, just ask the Pharisees. Jesus’ whole ministry is designed to show us that only God gives us the ability to turn to God.
“Companies that have not developed means of conveying their message with clarity are rarely successful.” Jesus actually uses parables to keep the message from being clear to all but a few.
Matthew 13:10-13 ESV: Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Mark 4:10-12 ESV: And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”