As a writer in college working to hone my craft, I’ve reached the point where I must learn about my target audience.
Consumer America is driven by profit, and if I want my works to be picked up by a publishing house, I have to be willing to understand how to market my work so that it has the greatest appeal to the largest, most relevant audience around it. That way, I’ll have the greatest chance of reaching these people so that they may enjoy my work and be moved by it, and so that I can pay the bills and keep myself fed.
Though I am loath to analogize too closely consumerism and Christianity,
I do wonder what the target audience of my Christian walk is.
An obvious answer is God, the audience of one. His opinion, this relationship we are building together, is what I care about; if my words and deeds are pleasing to him, then what does it matter what others think? I will have kept the most important thing, and I will be on proper terms with God.
That perspective has merit. The approval of God is one that most counts, and we want to make sure that everything we do is a sweet-smelling offering of worship to our Lord, an act that delights and honors our creator.
But, using this relationship as the sole gauge of effectiveness falls short of the full context of a Christian walk. We do not exist in a vacuum; rather, we interact with and are observed by others constantly. They are our audience as well, whether we take them into account or not.
This idea comes up occasionally in the context of a church service. The type of music we typically play, the seating arrangements, whether we use incense or have communion every week—these things are, as first priority,
implements to help us worship God together.
But on another level, they help us as people feel the appeal of the space, of the public gathering of believers.
Finally, these things also help others outside of our group see the appeal, a method to attract them through the doors, to make their acceptance of our invitations something they won’t regret. In this way, we may well look at our church services as “marketing” our walk with God, taking into account our audience so that we might reach them and pull them closer to him.
This analogy goes beyond the corporate to the individual. As much as the audience of our Christian walk is God, our audience is also the people we pass on the streets, the friend groups with whom we hang out, the coworkers or clients at our businesses. They may not be God, but they are still affected by our actions. As my mother says, “We may be the only Jesus someone sees.” Through the words we say and the things we do, we may be drawing people closer to God—or pushing them further away.
At least for me, the way I choose to display my Christian life may well depend on those with whom I’m interacting. Not to say that I’m hiding who I am or pretending to be something I’m not; I’m still a Christian in all my contexts, wherever I go, and I never wish to deny that. But I want to be sensitive to the needs of those around me. I want to help them feel the attractiveness of a personal relationship with God.
There are some groups where I can belt out Christian songs or talk about how God has blessed me or spontaneously start a prayer of intercession without anyone batting an eye.
Other groups, the furthest I can go before people block their ears and leave the room is to say a simple “Thank you, Lord,” or to ask if I might pray for them in my private time. Sometimes they refuse, and I have to accept that. God sees them, God knows them and their needs, whether or not I
directly intercede on their behalf. In many ways, I believe that is more than enough.
Of course, this gentle approach may not always be appropriate. Sometimes what people need is a rebuke, for someone to kick down the door and scream the love of God into their face. For some people, this is just the push they need to see that a relationship with God is what they’re missing.
And that’s the point. Different contexts, different people, different needs, one life that I can live. Just as I must discern the best ways to reach the target audience of my fantasy fiction writings, so too must I work to discern how I can be the best witness to those around me. Sometimes that’ll mean the Christian t-shirt and the Chick tract. Sometimes it’s the tearful hug as we mourn together. Sometimes it’s just the way I listen as they talk about their day. And when the people around me see the respect and sensitivity I grant them, often I’m met with respect in turn. They’ll accept that I am a
Christian, one willing to interact with them wherever they are. They’ll see what a relationship with God can look like. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be
willing to learn more.
Where the relationship goes from there, God knows.