Carlton Pearson built a church that would be the envy of any clergyman. Six thousand people in attendance every Sunday and $60,000 in the weekly offering plate. Then one day Carlton Pearson had a revelation from God and from that day forward he no longer preached his “fire and brimstone awaiting everyone in hell” sermons. Instead, he preached his gospel of inclusion which said everyone had been saved and everyone was going to heaven. What happened? You would think that the pews would be overflowing and they be turning away people at the doors. Instead, the congregation dwindled to a few hundred and they could no longer make their mortgage payments.
The message of fire and brimstone with a visible depiction of the Hell that waits sinners filled the church because it is a message that in effect says we who belong are better and are going to be saved and that all those horrible people who are not in attendance in our church are going to Hell. Carlton Pearson is correct in saying that up until the time of Augustine, everyone was saved. Then Augustine said only those who believe and belong to the one true church are saved.
The idea that marketing the brand is important to filling the pews is tough one for me to understand. I do understand that if everyone has been saved without need to do or believe, then there is no need to attend church on Sunday.
This illustration is evidence that we need to understand how ideas influence people and their behavior to understand the rise of Christianity. It is not enough to use a sociological model to explain the rapid growth of Christianity. We also need to understand the message being marketed. In the early years, the followers of Jesus marketed the brand by preaching the victory motif. They may have even used artwork depicting a Christ victorious on the cross as part of their marketing.