“That’s why it’s so wonderful to have a home church. We get to mess up in front of them. Have fun with them. Experiment with them. Try things that work, and others that don’t. It’s nice to have a community of people where you don’t really need to impress anybody. They become your ‘soundboard’ and a little bit of a testing ground where you can explore things together.” -Eric Owyoung, vocalist for the worship band Something Like Silas, which despite releasing a national album is sticking with its San Diego church home (Source: Christian Music Today).
Church is supposed to be a place of acceptance and love where there’s no need to impress. Perfection should be checked at the door. Which makes clamoring for excellence in church marketing a sticky proposition.
I think the church and Christianity especially are full of this kind of contradiction. Paul’s struggle with sin captures this contradiction: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do,” (Romans 7:15 NIV).
It’s also seen in the faith/works debate: “Not by works, so that no one can boast” says Paul (Ephesians 2:9 NIV), yet James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James 2:14 NIV). It’s the whole ‘already but not yet’ aspect of the kingdom of God.
I don’t think God calls us to be the best, but simply to do our best (Colossians 3:23). Striving for the top spot goes against everything in the Bible. We’re not to be consumed with being the best. That sort of competitive spirit yearns for perfection and lacks love. Without love we are nothing.
If church marketing sucks, we should do our best to make it better. Not to be better than other churches, not to impress design-savvy visitors, but because we’re doing this for God and we want to reach people. Yet amazingly (here comes that contradiction again), God accepts our pathetic efforts. He certainly doesn’t need our marketing, our evangelism, or even the sacrifices of old. For God it’s all about our hearts. Are we giving this our all and doing it with the best of intentions?
The church is a broken institution, made up of sinful people. And that’s exactly the draw. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to clean ourselves up. We come as we are. That doesn’t mean we wallow in the dirt and the muck, but it shouldn’t keep you from coming in the door.
Sometimes that might mean the marketing sucks. Quite frankly, it all sucks. Church is a ragtag bunch of losers, you and me both. Which is why we so desperately need God.
When it comes to the marketing, the flyers, the postcards, the sign out front—all we can do is our best. And maybe our best sucks, which isn’t exactly where I was going with this, but it’s an interesting thought. If our best does suck, let’s be honest and open about that. Church marketing that does the best it can, that’s honest about its shortcomings, that truthfully presents that particular congregation, can’t possibly suck.
We’re not here to impress. We’re here to help the church bring people to God. That might happen through helping churches avoid cheesy clipart and bad design decisions. But it also might happen when churches drop the facade and embrace the fact that we’re all broken. Church marketing sucks. But church marketing that acknowledges we suck might be on the right track.