About Paul and Market Research

In worship this morning Dan Schwerin used a
scripture reference that struck me as very appropriate to my earlier post about
the use of market research in religious communities.

In the post before this I mentioned a critique I’ve heard about using marketplace research to identify audience concerns in the religious community. The concern I hear is that marketplace dynamics cannot be transferred into the quality of religious communities, nor can they adequately describe the practice of religious faith and belief. Marketplace language and practices aren’t compatible with faith language and excellence in theology, some say.

I take the concern seriously. It’s about, in part, whether we speak the truth, challenge people to grow in faith, and to live in accountability to their vows of baptism to be faithful disciples. This is fundamental.

However, I am confounded by how we identify concerns and how we create ministries that serve real needs if we don’t ask the people with whom we hope to work what they are concerned about.

I shared one learning from our research in the previous post. Here’s the second. Communication is not about us, it’s about the audience. This translates into a hard reality. Audiences today are so bombarded with information that irrelevant messages–those that don’t address their interests and don’t find them in the context of their lives–simply don’t get through the clutter. These messages get tuned out.

If those who want to communicate determine what they want to say and send the message without considering what the audience is concerned about and where the message will best be presented in a favorable environment, it doesn’t break through the clutter.

One of the most effective communicators of the faith to uninformed and hostile audiences was the Apostle Paul. To read his thoughts on how he entered into the culture for the purpose of communicating, read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Then, let me know what you think.

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