By definition, gimmicks are meant to deceive, misrepresent, or trick. Certainly churches subscribing to the idea of using gimmicks would never dream of intentionally misleading people. Another definition of gimmick is:
A gimmick is a special feature for the sake of having a special feature.
Well, we use marketing not for the sake of having a cool marketing piece, drawing acclaim or winning awards. We use marketing to point people to Jesus.
So, when does a marketing campaign cross the line and become a gimmick? Hmmm. I don't know. It's unclear, because I think the intentions are still the same...ultimately to point people to Jesus.
- Is raffling off a car a gimmick? What are the intentions: Does that open a door previously closed?
- Is an iPod giveaway a gimmick? What are the intentions: to take a shortcut to outreach, or to point people to Christ?
- Are lights, hazers, gigantic screens, and worship leaders with tattoos all gimmicks? What are the intentions: to look cool on the big screen, or to have the demographic identify?
- Is a series of billboards with the web address mylamesexlife.com with accompanying website a gimmick? What are the intentions: to draw national attention, or to reach people locally with issues they deal with everyday?
As my friend Marcia once said, "Isn't it supposed to be Jesus + nothing?" I can't get that out of my head. How far am I willing to go in order to create buzz about my church? Am I willing to give stuff away in order to get people to listen? I remember serving a homeless dude breakfast in Jackson Square in New Orleans in order to get permission to tell him about Jesus. Is that the same thing? I don't know.
So, I've gotten nowhere on this question, "Are gimmicks bad, or are they good Jesus buzz?" I think it's the intent - are we trying to represent something that doesn't line up with the gospel (trust Jesus and all of your wildest dreams will come true)? Are we trying to dress up and make Jesus more appealing? Or, are God's name and renown the desires of our heart? What are your thoughts?