Marketing is king in America. There is no question about it. Everything from politics to religion is powerfully marketed and almost everyone who promotes anything understands this reality. I am not an exception to this reality I assure you. I think it is important to recognize that marketing is not inherently evil. But it is always a tricky component in promoting any person or event and it does impact and corrupt virtue in certain cases.

I saw evidence of the power of marketing in the sports page of today’s Chicago Tribune (July 20). When it comes to endorsement powering today’s marketplace the Tribune reported that race car drive Danica Patrick is at the top right now. The Davie-Brown Index (DBI) determines celebrity influence on consumer buying behavior in the U.S. The DBI uses an interesting six-point scale to evaluate seven key attributes: appeal, notice, trendsetter, influence, trust, endorsement and aspiration. Danica rates higher than all other NASCAR drivers on the DBI Index. She even tops Michael Jordan’s numbers. Her ratings also exceed those of other star female athletes at the present time. Her highest marks were in the areas of “aspiration,” “trust,” and “influence.” I do wonder how consumers “trust” a race car driver they hardly know. One thing is for sure, this all translates into big bucks for Danica.

In the Christian world the same is true. Publishers and producers of assorted produces all know that Christian marketing works on these same basic principles. It is not wrong to recognize this simple fact. I do wonder, however, what Christ must think about “star power” and if this matters to him at all? One thing is clear. His evaluation of who and what is truly important is surely different from ours.

I discovered some years ago that the crowds at events that I hosted would vary wildly based upon whether we had “star power” or not. I decided, after several such big events, to forget about the size of the crowd and the money that we received as a result. I told our leadership team that we should major on other more important values; e.g., the subject matter itself and who could best speak to it, whether the speaker had genuine love for people thus there was an accessibility to those who were present at the event, openness and warmth toward the other speakers and leaders present, and a proven track record of evident personal humility. These values changed our whole approach. Star power does have a real life impact upon us all, even Christian life in modern America, but I find it less and less important to the advance of the kingdom as time goes on. This doesn’t mean that I am better than anyone else because I have taken these kinds of steps but it is something that I had to learn the hard way. I do know this much—I am a lot happier following this course of action. I think, though I could well be wrong, that the kingdom is better advanced by this approach. But, to see my agenda and the kingdom as one and the same is always a real danger no matter how you deal with these things.