Would You Advertise Your Family?

Have you ever driven down the road and seen a billboard advertising somebody's family?

Does your family have its own custom tailored website?

Do you ever hand out bumper stickers with your family's name and professionally designed logo on it to people that visit your home?

My guess is that your answer to all these questions is "no."

So my question to all of us today is simply this: If we don't develop marketing strategies for our families that we love and adore, why is it that we feel compelled to develop slick marketing strategies for our churches?

I think we do such, and do it almost instinctively, because more and more in our culture we are looking at the church more as an organization or shopping center than as the people who make up our spiritual family.

Thus, we often hop from church to church in our area looking for the one that meets most if not all of our desires and ideals. Is the preacher charismatic? What denomination is the church affiliated with? Can I wear jeans and flip flops? Is the music awesome? Is the children's ministry something that my kids just absolutely love? Is there a women's ministry?

Our churches often do their best to capture whatever share of the market they can, and to reach their particular target audience and demographic. They try to make products and services that really "sizzle" and sell well. And some of them do a bang up job at this.

But in making the church into something marketable with unique brand recognition, I can't help but feel that we are somehow transforming the nature of what it means to be the church.

You may not think so and may disagree, but stop and think about it for a moment. If I put a billboard of your family up on the side of the interstate as something that could be bought or experienced, don't you think that would change the family dynamics back at home?

Or think back to your single days when you were dating. When you decided it was time to pursue a relationship in your life and you "put yourself back on the market," didn't doing such a thing change something about you? When I was single, anytime I put myself out there, it always changed my inner disposition and outward appearance.

So why do we think it is any different for the church? The truth of the matter is, the moment you begin marketing something, it is at that moment that you begin to change it.

Now, instead of the church being a family that grows itself and expands through intense loving personal relationships, like natural families do, in marketing the church we have transformed it into a mere commodity that you pick up and discard as you see fit. And deciding what church we want to belong to becomes something akin to debating over whether or not we should get an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone, and if we should go with Verizon or AT&T as our provider.

As a result, people often come and go to church, and hardly anybody there knows it.

People don't easily come and go in a family.

When somebody comes and goes in a family, it is an intense moment filled either with great joy or great sorrow, and everybody that makes up the family knows something has changed. Everybody knows when there has been a birth, an adoption, a marriage, a death, or a divorce.

In the church we have exchanged these events for headcounts, connection cards, the size of the offering, and mailing lists.

Something is very wrong with all of this. And as I read the pages of the New Testament, I can't help but feel that there is a great disparity between the way we "do church," and the way the saints of old lives out their lives with one another. As I read the pages of the New Testament, I can't help but feel that there was a very strange sense of family dynamic and connection between the members of the church.

If you read the letters of the apostle Paul, he sometimes spends entire chapters (that we often quickly skim over) simply writing personal greetings and salutations to individuals at all the churches he's planted. He recalls their names and faces with deep emotion and affection. He writes his letters, not simply as an itinerant minister addressing a congregation, but he writes like he is a soldier who has gone off to war, writing a letter to his family back home.

When was the last time you felt so loved by anybody in your church?

Yet of all the things Jesus said the church would be known for, it wasn't our amazing worship experiences, relevant sermons, or terrific youth ministries, but rather, Jesus said we would be known for our "love for one another." If the church is to have any "branding," we should be branded as the diverse community down the street, that for all of our differences, we still show an intense love for another.

That sort of love should be more than enough to attract everybody to hear about the Jesus who is at the heart of our church. We shouldn't need a bumper sticker for that.

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