What would happen if we took all the time, energy, and resources we poured into marketing church names and refocused it on making the name of Jesus big? I’ve been wrestling with this question lately and struggling with its implications.
Here are a few initial reasons I think this question matters (and please understand this coming from someone who’s put a lot of time, energy, and resources into marketing churches and ministries):
- The overwhelming majority of nonChristians I know dislike and have a general distaste for religion and especially church. I realize that some of this is because I live in Burlington, but I believe that’s the direction of many of our communities and culture. When I talk to many of my friends about coming to church I might as well be asking them if they want a rash. I expounded on this more on a previous post.
- I don’t know anyone who says that they dislike Jesus– not even the most pagan immoral people I know. They may not in reality know that much about Jesus, but they at least like their own idea of Jesus. That’s still a really good starting point, as opposed to bringing up something (like church) that creates unneeded barriers.
- We often equip people to market our churches at the expense of discussing Jesus. That’s probably because as leaders we’ve often unwittingly communicated to people in our churches- “you get them here, we’ll take care of the rest.” The byproduct is that many of followers of Jesus are incapable of having meaningful conversations with people who are not about Jesus.
- Focusing on our names often creates unnecessary and unhealthy competition. I’m not saying we should do away with our local churches’ individual identities. I am saying that we’re often OK with other churches until they steal our spotlight. This desire for “brand loyalty” often prevents us from working together in kingdom-minded ways.
- We may set-up ourselves as individuals and churches to be the heroes rather than Jesus. Don’t get me wrong- I want our community to be glad that me, my family, and my church are here. The reality is that thinking we’re great people is not going to satisfy their soul nor will it alone alter the trajectory of their lives or eternity. They need to see that without Jesus everything we are and everything we do falls apart.
So, I’m not suggesting you shutdown the website, throw out the coffee mugs, burn the promo fliers, or change the church name to something highly irrelevant. Here are some “nuts & bolts” thoughts on what we could do:
- Pour more of our energy and resources into developing leaders and Jesus-followers who love Jesus and live out His mission and message. If someone could fill a leadership role in your church just as effectively with or without this being true, then that’s a major red flag. Also, from a pragmatic viewpoint this just makes common sense since the overwhelming majority of people who make a personal commitment to Jesus is through a relationship with a close friend or family member and not due to a pastor or a church program.
- Mobilize our churches to serve our community in a very practical way without doing any promo about the church. In other words, do something simply because Jesus would do it and not because your church gets any reciprocal benefit or PR. Who knows? Serving with no strings attached could possibly be one of the most personally satisfying and life-giving things your church ever does.
- Do something kingdom oriented with other churches in your community where no one gets the credit. I wonder what would happen if instead of saying we’re all on the same team, that as Gospel-driven churches we occasionally worked shoulder to shoulder together on the same team. I’m not sure what would happen, but I’d like to see.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts and push-back.