Marketing, the Resurrection & Everything I Know About Selling to the Human Soul

Aaron Orendorff
Aaron Orendorff

In a 2008 interview, Tim Keller was asked, “You reject marketing apologetics like, ‘Christianity is better than the alternatives, so choose Christianity.’ Why?”

His response …

Marketing is about felt needs. You find the need and then you say Christianity will meet that need.

“You have to adapt to people’s questions. And if people are asking a question, you want to show how Jesus is the answer.

“But at a certain point, you have to go past their question to the other things that Christianity says. Otherwise, you’re just scratching where they itch.

“So, marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth.”

In other words, you can’t argue someone into “believing” (i.e., converting in both the religious and marketing sense) until you make them want to believe.

People have to see — viscerally and emotionally — how believing will meet their needs prior to making the leap.


Because, their needs — people’s problems, pains, wants, desperations, frustrations, anxieties, fears, and desires — are the only things real to them.

Until you address those needs, the reality is … they simply won’t budge. But need isn’t enough.

To cross the chasm that separates craving and commitment — sensing and salvation — it takes truth.

People buy with their hearts. They justify with their heads.

So, what does this have to do with the resurrection?

Again, here’s Keller, from The Reason for God

“Each year at Easter I get to preach on the Resurrection. In my sermon, I always say to my skeptical, secular friends that, even if they can’t believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true.

“Most of them care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun.

“They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference?

“If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.”

In a similar sermon, N. T. Wright said:

“The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won…If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense — [then] it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life.

“But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world— news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts.

“Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence, and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things— and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement victory of Jesus over them all.

“Take away Easter and Karl Marx was probably right to accuse Christianity of ignoring problems of the material world. Take it away and Freud was probably right to say Christianity is wish-fulfillment. Take it away and Nietzsche probably was right to say it was for wimps.”

At the risk of sounding crass … that’s everything I know — and the only thing you need to know — about selling to the human soul.

Let’s save the world from bad content

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