Question of the Week: What Role Should Advertisement Play in Church?

In January, Fellowship White Rock will begin its hard launch and move from developing the core team into being more intentional about engaging the community. As Gabe and I and the rest of the team begin to make preparations for the shift in our church, I’ve been forced to wrestle with this idea of advertisement in the church? If you asked me a year ago what I thought about advertisement in the church, I would have probably went off on some rant about the commercialism cancer eating away at the organ’s of God’s precious church, found a Christian bumper sticker to flip off, and then storm away. But now that we are in the position to try and get the word out about our churches, I am realizing the need to think more deeply about this issue.

America runs on advertisement. And yes, there is a part of my soul that mourns this reality. The manipulation of man’s depraved tendency for stuff for the sake of profit seems like a system built on exploitation. However, that is just the cynical way of looking at it. Events don’t happen the way they do in the “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, you need to tell people that it’s there if you want anybody to show up.

When it comes to advertisement in the church, there seems to be two different extremes:

1. Go all out! Buy the billboards, the radio spots, hire the best web guy, social media guy, get the best gadgets and shout from rooftops about the presence of your church or ministry. Nevermind the money it costs, ignore who is really profiting from the money spent, and hope that through advertisement, the world comes to know Christ.

2. Run away! Hide yourself in your rooms. Pray. Fast. Hope that people will somehow find their way to your gathering through visions and that the world will just be convicted of sins without our witness in the public.

Obviously, the above are extremes. But it nevertheless does need to be thought through. I found this interesting blog about church marketing called Church Marketing Sucks if you’re interested in further discussion.

What do you think? Is there an appropriate element to advertising in church? If so, what is the too far?

I’m looking forward to hearing your input and hope that it can help our team through our decisions about the issue as well!

8 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What Role Should Advertisement Play in Church?

  1. Cody,
    It might help to travel back to Jesus’and the disciples’ time to see what type of crowd gathering techniques they used. They travelled around healing, exorcising demons, and feeding thousands (billboard ads, print and media blitz of their day). They had officials interviewing them and getting the word out. There were also many people that came to hear them preach because someone told them of their experience with Jesus and the disciples (He healed me, He fed me, He told me all the things that I have done). This is probably the most effective and long term form of advertising – word of mouth. I see them all having benefits and taking innovative forms to get the word out about a new work.

  2. I have put a lot of thought into this myself (I even have a couple of Frontline documentaries to recommend, if you’re interested). It comes down to two related issues for me: deception and manipulation. Bad advertising is not completely honest about what it is trying to sell; Jesus on the other hand shared some ugly truths about the life His disciples would have to lead. This part seems pretty straightforward, but manipulation is harder to pin down. The best way I can define it at the moment is a matter of motives: manipulation is using people to accomplish your ends rather than lovingly guiding them to what is best for them for their sake.

    Finally, I think there is an aesthetic component worth considering, which I’m guessing you already feel. A truth beautiful enough to advertise should be advertised beautifully. I’m still wrestling with all the implications of this, but I think it frees us up to do some cool things with the message.

    • This is some great insight Josh! I think there does need to be a distinction between good advertisement and bad advertisement. And an excellent point about proclaiming the beautiful truth about God beautifully. I’d be very interested in those documentaries on this.

  3. Because I live and work in the advertising world 40+ hours a week… this is one of the hardest topics for me to wrestle with. I can raise a pretty good case for either side… and that makes it even harder. I’ll enjoy hearing your perspective more when JT and I come for dinner.

  4. I am not sure it is a question of whether we advertise or not. But what we advertise. Are we glorifying God or us? are we just trying to fill seats that translate to dollars? A clear mission focus which is well in place clears all those questions up I think. I also agree with Darcey, If we are witnessing to the current miracles of Christ in our lives and are going about His work, people will not be able to shut up about us.

    here is a link to a John Piper sermon and an excerpt

    .But in the end it is not the counsel and plans of men that are established, but of God’s. It is all-important to realize that God plans the world and he plans churches and he plans lives—and his plans succeed. His plans take precedence over our plans. Our plans have significance and durability to the degree that God plans for our plans to be significant and durable. God is the all-important reality in planning from beginning to end. God’s will is for that to be known, to be explicit, to be admired and enjoyed. Piper

  5. Pingback: The High Cost of Church: Why are we Advertising? « Shouts From the Wilderness

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