In the marketing world, packaging is the “science, art, and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use.”
I am sometimes hesitant to apply business principles and metaphors to the church, because I think that can lead to unhealthy practices, but in this case, the parallel easily applies. When it comes to evangelism or sharing our faith with others, all Christians, consciously or otherwise, take part in the process of packaging. We store our beliefs in a certain “package” which we can then share with others.
Unfortunately, on the whole, I think Christians have a major problem with packaging, and often fall into one of two problem areas:
Honestly, I think some Christians don’t want the Kingdom of God to be as large or expansive as God Himself does. Of course, they will affirm that God loves all people and that Christ died for all, but by their actions they suggest that God’s grace is really only intended for the good, moral, “churchy” people. And so, perhaps to reinforce this idea, or to make the inherently appealing Good News a little less appealing, they wrap it up in a package of arrogance, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy.
And sure enough, people of the world—those who are lost in sin and desperately need what the church is “selling”—take one look at the Not-So-Good News package and easily decide it’s not for them.
Some Christians have just the opposite problem though. Unlike the first group, they really, really want everyone to hear the Good News and accept the grace that God offers, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But here’s the problem: Jesus and his disciples actually taught a lot of demanding, exclusive, hard-to-obey ideas, and a lot of the people in the world (and in the church!) don’t want to follow those teachings. So these good-hearted people, wanting to be as appealing to as many people as possible, water down the teachings of Jesus here and there and leave out some of the most objectionable material.
And for some people in the world, this Better News package (“better” because it involves little moral correction or personal sacrifice) looks really good, but when they buy it, they end up settling for a substitute rather than the real thing (which, when you think about it, isn’t good news after all).
If we want to be faithful Christians, we need to avoid either extreme. To put it another way, Jesus was characterized by grace and truth (John 1.14), and so our presentation of the gospel should be too. The Not-So-Good News package emphasizes truth at the expense of grace, while the “Better” News package emphasizes grace at the expense of truth. Neither of these alternatives are acceptable. Instead, we need to “package” the Good News as Jesus Himself did—with grace and mercy and love, but also with clear teaching on the personal sacrifice required by real discipleship.
Some people will look at that package and snatch it up immediately, while others will leave it on the shelf. But that shouldn’t surprise us—they did the same thing with Jesus. Ultimately, as a follower of Jesus, it is not my task to present Christianity in a way that tastes good to others. Rather, it is my task to present it faithfully, and let others decide if they want to swallow it or spit it out.