Bill Hybels once declared his passionate resolve that “the local church is the hope of the world“, and I believe it. That said, the church sometimes needs a little help getting the message out. As a marketing strategist and a 20+ year veteran in worship ministry, I’ve seen the church go through several trends in regards to branding and promotion.
For instance, it’s not a bad thing to put your best foot forward & portray a good public image (your “brand”). Both mega-church and small-town chapel alike have the same mission, “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The message remains the same, but the method can evolve. Sadly, sometimes churches judge each other over how we attract people to that message.
One reason has to do with identity. We naturally identify with strategies that promote our church’s current series, programs, latest album release or book campaign, yet we will wrestle with simply believing that we are His beloved. As someone who once thought I had to incorporate every new means of promotion to grow the church I was serving at the time, I know the striving it produces. I also know what it means to swing the pendulum far to the other end and just “rest” and “trust” that God will do the work. The fact is Jesus said, “if I be lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself.” So what is our role in this tension between proclaiming what He is doing in and through our local community and who He is? How you “lift up the name of Jesus” is an important factor because it should be a reflection of your unique hardwiring & identity as an individual & community.
Another struggle to contend with is the “snare to compare” ourselves with neighboring churches. You may be a church with a huge marketing budget and your least concern is communicating all that “God is doing at @yourchurch”, or you’re the bi-vocational pastor juggling your sermon prep, encouraging your volunteer worship leader to engage the crowd, oh . . . And you forgot to make that announcement about the potluck this weekend in the eNewsletter. Ultimately what matters is this; what story are you trying to convey? The church is the most uniquely designed expression of one common story in the world. From multi-site to living room we are sharing the transformative narrative that was written to redeem the broken world to an awesome savior. So does it matter how that is happening, really? Should our message be less impactful because we aren’t using the latest in technology or the latest delivery method for lyrics on the screen, the most upbeat, engaging worship songs? Should we get so caught up in how we are doing it, that we forget why?
The point is this: are we trying to create something spectacular or meaningful? When the argument for relevancy becomes the primary theme around our planning meetings, we’ve lost the heart and soul of why we are doing this in the first place.
“the spectacular attracts, but the meaningful changes lives”
A simple truth: the spectacular attracts, but the meaningful changes lives. Don’t let your branding make up for a lack of depth or a true image of Jesus within your church. Branding is used to identify things. Therefore, let it point to our rootedness in the gospel & let the brand serve to promote that message. We have to be careful to not get wrapped up in our own narrative. I have come to believe in the power & relevancy of both the meaningful and the spectacle. I don’t necessarily agree with all of what has been done in the name of Jesus in the church, but I can appreciate the heart to see people come to Jesus.
Lastly, Jesus isn’t saying our measurements are wrong. It’s just that we often measure the wrong things. Our branding is important because it gives those who come to our church a sense of belonging & understanding of how your church will fulfill its part in the great commission. It also communicates another unique expression of the body of Christ, that in truth may very well connect with your co-worker but not your neighbor. So don’t let your efforts to be a part of the transformative narrative of the gospel be hijacked by a need to be relevant, aesthetically pleasing or trendy in any way. Find your identity and be you – the collective you as a body of believers & the universal body of Christ around the globe lifting up the name of Jesus in a kaleidoscope of ways so that all men will be drawn to Him.
K.C. Clark is a Worship Pastor/Songwriter/Artist along with his wife Julie, & the Founder/Chief Curator of LEGACY CREATIVE, which exists to mentor makers & make persistent products, helping clients find their story & developing how to best communicate it to the world.