No Need to Impress

August 11, 2004 by

“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.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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13 Responses to “No Need to Impress”

  • To Wit
    March 15, 2005

    Marketing Shmarketing

    I was reading an old post in Church Marketing Sucks which caught my eye because 1) it was posted on my best friend’s birthday, August 11th, and 2) the first paragraph mentioned the worship band at my church, Something Like Silas. As I read further, I …


  • Scott
    May 26, 2005

    “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. ”
    You have completely and totally hit the nail on the head here. God will get His work done regardless of my efforts and/or hang-ups.
    I’ve recently come across your blog and can’t stop reading. I’m part of a Church in Northern California that is starting to employ use of targeted and purpose driven marketing. The leaders of these initiatives are successful business men and women. We’ve had some growing pains and push back (as expected) but on the whole, branding and marketing our church is a wonderful thing! God is blessing these efforts.
    Your insights are eye opening and encouraging. As a younger leader in my congregation, (24) I find the idea of employing tried and true business practices (with the correct intentions) to the Church a great step toward reaching my generation. The youth of America has grown up in a society overflowing in ruthless targeted marketing. From food to clothing and everything in between, we are communicated to in (usually) intelligent and captivating ways. I believe the Church MUST use targeted and relevant communication to reach the lost sheep of new generations. Now, this of course is said in the vein of thought that we need to do everything in our power to reach people for Christ. Not that God can’t reach people despite our efforts.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  • Phillip Ross
    September 4, 2005

    Is there really no need to impress? Marketing is the art of making an impression, and all marketing makes an impression. The only real questions are are 1) what kind of impression should we make? and 2) who should we impress?
    The right impression to make is the right impression, by which I mean the correct impression, the impression that is the most honest with regard to who we are. In other words, we should not make false impressions or portray ourselves as being other than we actually are. Nor should we misportray Christ or the concerns of the gospel.
    But that requires that we know who we actually are, that we actually know Jesus Christ and know the real concerns of the gospel.
    But, in fact, people don’t know who they actually are. Paul himself struggled to understand his own intentions, doing what he didn’t want to do and not doing what he actually wanted to do. Paul noted that not all who thought they were of Israel were actually of Israel (Rom. 9:6). Jesus noted that not everyone who called Him “Lord” would enter into the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Thus, there is much confusion in the church.
    But Jesus isn’t fooled. He knows His sheep, and they hear his voice. Hearing His voice, they follow Him by living in obdeience to their Shepherd.
    Church marketing sucks when it tries to make the wrong impression on the wrong people.
    Christians are called make an impression. Living our lives in conformity to Christ 24/7 makes an impression on people. All evangelism is outreach by impression. However, taking every thought captive to Christ means that the person we are to impress is Jesus Christ, not one another. Our focus needs to be on the Lord, not on ourselves or on potential visitors.
    Jesus Himself commands us to be perfect, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat 5:48). We are, in fact, called to perfection. But it is a perfection that we cannot of ourselves accomplish. Our perfection is only accomplished by the Holy Spirit in obedience to Jesus Christ in glory. We are called to do our best and trust the Lord to supply for us what we cannot supply ourselves.
    The reason that church marketing sucks is that it attempts to make a false impression on the wrong people. When the church returns to making the right impression on Jesus Christ by actually being who we are called to be without concern for our own popularity (or the size of our ___________ (fill in the blank), then the Lord Himself will move to impress others with our example. And that will be Christian marketing in action.
    Phil


  • Aaron
    September 17, 2005

    “All evangelism is outreach by impression.”
    I don’t know, Phil. I believe evangelism is defined as “preaching the gospel.”
    Also, I noticed you mentioned (and rightfully so) that God calls us all to be perfect. Then later in that same paragraph you toned it down to God calling us to “do our best.” Which is it–be perfect, or do our best?
    I’m not trying to be argumentative–I’m simply hoping for some explanations as to what I perceive to be contradictions.


  • shelley
    October 3, 2005

    As a church community we need to be teaching (and celebrating) freedom from the image-obsessed mainstream. I am offered slick, savvy and sophisticated marketing everyday-it is everywhere. The billboards and ads are usually trying to seduce me into buying a product.
    I do not want to BUY a church community I want to help be a part of it.
    I do not want to be IMPRESSED by a church, I want to be welcomed, challenged and encouraged.
    If I imagine the church as a person … I would be more impressed by person dressed simply and un-selfconsicously, with a reassurance born of knowing who they are then someone so insecure they that they have to be seen wearing the latest clothes.
    I find it a constant challenge to learn to see people/products/ organisations for who or what they are rather then the image they have created for themselves. We are taught by our society to judge others by their appearance and only embrace that which is attractive; Christ’s message is the opposite.
    It is hard work to learn to see beyond seduction and look for truth, but it is good work. If we as a church can begin to show freedom from an obsession that plagues the world then THAT will be our ‘light on the hill’-it’s the freedom people want not funky business cards and power point presentations.
    As a graphic designer, I realise there is a place for good craftmanship, beauty and intelligent design -clever ads can be great. My experience of working for churches (and church organisations) is that they often produce ugly design due to a lack of resources; so how should we present ourselves?
    1. Reject using the mainstream as a template. Our values are different and our aims are different. We are trying to communicate not seduce. Aim for truth not lies.
    2. Use simplicity and intelligence. Use resources carefully and be good stewards by using your brain more. Let simplicity be like a breath of fresh air.
    3. Think more. move slower and contemplate. Slow marketing cares for people and the environment as well as the message and it’s market.


  • Leigh
    November 1, 2005

    I prayed for God to give me a job working from my home office. Well, guess what? He did! But, it’s marketing an evangelist and his wife to churches to get speaking engagements. I’m scared to death!! I am not a marketing person. I don’t know where to begin. They are beautiful christians and I want very much to help them. I want even more to please God and be in His will. Any suggestions? What is the best way to accomplish getting speaking engagements? Is it by phone, e-mail, letters? What works!!!! Thanks for any help…


  • Anthony
    January 10, 2006

    Colossians 3:17 — And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus — Jesus did ALL things with Excellence because “as you have seen Me, you have seen the Father”.
    We should do the same


  • Jose Gomez
    January 21, 2006

    I read a few posts here about marketing being about making an impression. The problem with that statement, which defines why most church marketers fail, is that it does not give us a valid form of measuring success. The truth is that marketing is LESS about impression, and much MORE about ATTRACTION. It is about compelling someone to a specific action by attracting, drawing interest, stirring up desire for the product or service, and calling the individual to action.
    Brand marketing is about impression. But, for most churches, brand marketing does no good since the brand is meaningless to most people. In order to effectively grow your outreach and see impact from your message, the goal should be ATTRACTION above impression.
    This will lead us to measurable results that we can quantify and use to make sucky marketing a million times better.


  • Chad
    March 2, 2006

    I think the best marketing is people who have been changed by experiencing community with a group of other rag-tag, broken people – discovering their spiritual poverty together as they discover an amazing God of love and grace. When they talk to their friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, neighbors kids and those kids’ friends, etc. etc. etc. you don’t need a lot of other marketing.
    Maybe a simplistic idealogical thought – probably a little too much so. I guess it’s just where I’m at and I’m sure in some contexts you need something more.


  • brad
    August 31, 2006

    Yep, you’re right Jack. I’m sure the choir will love your approach. And that clanging cymbal might even go well with the drums. :)
    If love isn’t the reason we as the church exist, we’re off-base. I dig the idea of marketing that’s based on an authentic love for people. We have the opportunity to redeem one of the deepest, darkest forces in our culture. The incessant voice-over that says:
    “You’re not pretty enough!”
    “You’re not rich enough!”
    “You’re not doing the right stuff enough!”
    And we can stand and say “Enough!”


  • Matt Holley
    September 18, 2006

    That’s a great way to look at things. Here all this time I was just thinking that the person who help my position prior to my coming sucked at design, when it might just have been he was doing the best with what knowledge he had. I appreciate that thought. It really made me reflect on my attitude towards people who just might not know any better. Not everyone has a degree in graphic design or marketing.
    Thanks


  • Dawn Bender
    April 29, 2009

    God called us to “be the head not the tail” Duet. 28:13
    I believe this goes across the board, from music and marketing, to the children’s ministry and the paint on the walls.
    In media that means that we are better at this stuff than the world – which we’re not. The church is greatly lacking in the area of media, and I think it makes God cry.
    As the ultimate creator, and the very creator of creativity, God wants the Church to be the head of all that is creative. Quite frankly, that’s one thing we as Christians are really bad at connecting with God about.
    A pastor friend always tells a story of a young (11 year old) girl that was painting these masterpiece paintings. Someone interviewed her and asked her how she came up with the concepts. She explained that she spent part of her mornings with God and asked Him to show her what was in heaven the needed to be brought to earth… then she would paint.
    That’s quite profound if you ask me. Tune your ear to heaven, and God has soooo much in heaven – creativity – that He is begging to show us. As Christians we have the greatest resource of creativity, beyond all the earth! And a God that can’t wait to give it to us!
    God also told everyone in the Bible that ever gave some excuse why they couldn’t do what He’d called them to, that HE would equip them. We need to look to God to make us excellent at the GREAT things He’s WAITING for us to do.
    Has He not called us to be excellent?


  • Rick Baker
    March 10, 2010

    I just want to chime and say that it really is all about perspective and willingness to invest in what is truly important based on that perspective. I am sitting on a 75,000 square foot cafe connected to a large church. This facility exists because this church believes it was worth investing in. The best design and marketing solutions have a cost associated with that is directly proportionate to the value that it delivers to our clients. I cannot tell you how many people call me and have a huge vision in a great online concept but are not willing to invest in that vision so it never happens or is done poorly and never succeeds. These are great ideas by the way. I wonder how many “Ebays” are out there because they were conceived by Christians with the “free” mentality. We don’t pay our youth pastors, our designers and our artists and that needs to change. For those that get it, we thank you for your business and the results that have come along with the investment. “Return on Ministry” is a concept we need to adopt.



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