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The Epic Struggle

How do you sell a $20,000 watch?

You could hire a rap star to be your spokesman or ask a father to provide a legacy on the back cover of The Economist.

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

Ad Copy

I mean, c’mon. It’s a watch.

Patek Philippe is not attempting to sell the features of their expensive watch, but the benefits of leaving a legacy or looking relevant in a hip-hop culture.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

Harvard business professor

Marketing attempts to persuade people to consider possibilities. Whether a social media profile, a subject line in an email, or even an email to the church council, words can sway hearts rather than heads in making decisions.

In April Dunford’s new book, Obviously Awesome, she lays out a framework to map out features, benefits, and value to help organizations gain a voice in a noisy world.

Feature: Something your organization provides.
Benefit: What the features brings for people.
Value: How this feature maps to a goal the person is trying to achieve. 

Utilizing the well-known drill-bit metaphor:

“No one wants a hole. What people want is the shelf that will go on the wall once they drill the hole. Actually, what they want is how they’ll feel once they see how uncluttered everything is, when they put their stuff on the shelf that went on the wall, now that there’s a quarter-inch hole.”

Seth Godin

Is that all a person wants?  A bookshelf and a de-cluttered house?

“They also want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves. Or perhaps the increase in status they’ll get when their spouse admires the work. Or the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the bedroom isn’t a mess, and that it feels safe and clean.”

Seth Godin

If I had gobs of disposable income, could a company sell me a $20k watch based on its merits and features? Probably not. But if the company told me that I could have infinite and enduring love from my children while looking relevant or hip – that would gain my attention because of my sinful nature.

The new dynamic in evangelism is attempting to gain entry points to a growing, disinterested audience.

Institutions – including churches – are no longer a trusted source and deemed largely irrelevant.

The next generation is asking:

  • How can a church be relevant in my life?
  • How does faith in Christ benefit me?
  • Why should what the Bible says matter?

If these trends continue, a recent study published by Pew Research safely project that Christians in the U.S. will fall below 50% by the year 2070.

In my observations in helping churches gain an audience to proclaim to an audience – most of the responses are a polite indifference. It’s not that people are disinterested in God or their spiritual life, but it’s just not important to them.

They are lost sheep who don’t believe they are lost. They are opting towards a different view of religion that treats Christianity as another entrée on a giant religious smorgasbord that all leads to the same God.

Gaining entry points to deliver a gospel message in today’s culture could be like trying to sell a $20k watch.  Many will say, “Yeah, right!” because people do not appreciate its benefits, the value of what Christ has done, nor the consequences of their sins.

Of course, believers in Christ own something far greater value than a luxury watch – salvation in Christ alone. The gospel message remains the same. Only through the message can a person receive faith and life everlasting in heaven.

The epic struggle is figuring out how to transmit this value to a disbelieving public? How can a congregation position themselves to gain an audience to hear the message of the gospel?

Using Dunford’s framework to map out features, benefits, and value, perhaps we can apply this to help congregations spread the Word in their community.

Feature: Something your congregation provides.
Benefit: What these features bring for people.
Value: How these features map to a goal the person is trying to achieve that is usually determined by how they feel.

For example:

Feature: Education (K-8, preschool)
Benefit: Excellent care for a child’s mind, body, and soul.
Value: A peace of mind, trusted partnership for a child’s long-term well-being.

Feature: Truth
Benefit: Reliable peace in hearts and minds.
Value: Soothe their conscience. Trying to be somebody they are not – or never can be. Trusting in something outside of themselves to receive versus what they can attain.

Feature: Hope
Benefit: Overcome nagging hopelessness.
Value: A secure future no matter what happens. A new life on earth. A higher purpose.

Feature: Love
Benefit: Sense of community. Overcome loneliness.
Value: A place to belong. A functional family that accepts unconditionally. Not being judged. 

Article based on thoughts on a blog post from Rad Reads by Khe Hy.

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