Meaningful or Spectacular: The Importance of Identity
There is a famous quote from Bill Hybels, declaring his passionate resolve that “the local church is the hope of the world”. I believed it then, and I believe it now. That doesn’t mean that every once in a while the local church doesn’t need a little help getting their message out. As a marketing strategist and a 20 plus year veteran in worship ministry, I’ve seen the church go through several trends in regards to branding and promotion.
It’s not a bad thing to portray a good image (brand). However, it’s easy to vilify the importance of a good image (excellence). Both mega-church and small-town chapel alike have the same mission, to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. This is our collective aim, right? The message remains the same, but the method can and usually does evolve. So why do we go to war over the way we attract people to that message.
“The simple truth is this, spectacular attracts,
but meaningful changes lives.”
One reason has to do with identity. We can identify easier with a strategy that promotes our current series, programs, or latest album or book campaign, yet we will wrestle with simply believing we are His beloved. As someone who once thought I had to incorporate every new means of promotion in order to grow the church, I know the striving it produces. I also know what it means to swing the pendulum far to the other end and simply just “rest” in His presence and “trust” that God will draw all men to himself. The fact is Jesus said, “if I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself”.
So, what role does marketing play in the church?
So what is our role in this tension between proclaiming what He is doing in and through our local community and who He actually is? How you “lift up the name of Jesus” is an important factor because it should be a reflection of your unique hardwiring and identity.
Another struggle we have to contend with is nothing new. It’s 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 pot luck this weekend in the eNewsletter. Ultimately what matters is this, what story are you trying to convey?
It’s important to ask a few questions when we are sharing the most powerful story ever to be told. Before you set out to promote your next series or event try using these three points to guide your creative process.
How are you getting the message out?
The church is the most uniquely designed expression of one common story in the world. From multi-site to the 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 question is this, are we trying to create something spectacular or meaningful? When the argument for relevancy becomes the primary theme around our planning meetings or worship setlists we’ve lost the heart and soul of why we are doing this in the first place.
What story are you telling?
The simple truth is this, spectacular attracts, but 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 and 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 and relevancy of both the meaningful and the spectacular. I don’t necessarily agree with all of what has been done in the name of Jesus in the church through the modern movement. But I can appreciate that the aim was to see people come to the saving grace of Jesus.
What are you measuring?
Lastly, Jesus isn’t saying our measurements are wrong. It’s just that we are measuring the wrong things. Our branding is important because it gives those who come to our church a sense of belonging and 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.
and lastly, Who is it for?
Remember you are a part of the collective “C”hurch. You are one part doing its unique work to express the love, grace, and beauty of God to a fragmented and wanting world. 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 and 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.
*Published on theworshipcommunity.com on April 22, 2016.