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The First Vagabonds Church of God

August 18, 2005 by

Back in May, Kevin posted about choosing a church name. There’s been a definite shift over the past several years of churches looking for a new identity. The name of a church can go a long way toward establishing the atmosphere that people expect to find when they walk through the doors.

That’s part of why a news story about an “open-air” church that meets in Orlando caught my eye. Aline Mendelsohn writes about the church dubbed “The First Vagabonds Church of God,” which is ministered to by Pastor Brian Nichols.

Nichols’ church has no pews, no pulpit, no offering, no walls.

The church doesn’t have a home.

Neither does Nichols.

Nichols doesn’t market his church. It’s not what he thinks the church is about. He doesn’t have the money to pay for advertising anyway. So he comes, and he sits on a curb and he shares the gospel with whoever is there to listen.

Is there a lesson there for the church as a whole? Does constant fuss about name changes and new logos simply serve to mask the real concern of the church? Maybe branding the church should be more about presenting the Gospel and less about having a cool logo. Maybe Brian Nichols is on to something. Or maybe I’m completely wrong and image is everything.

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Jennifer Laycock


Jennifer Laycock is a search engine marketing consultant and editor of Search Engine Guide. She's also a full-time work-at-home mom to an adorable little girl named Elnora.
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12 Responses to “The First Vagabonds Church of God”

  • Nate
    August 19, 2005

    Jen,
    I wouldn’t say your completely wrong, but I think there needs to be a balance. Where as some churches consider image as everything, there is the polar opposite (As you presented above) that believe image is nothing.
    So, not that I disagree with you 100%, I just think that there needs to be something more to the ‘image’ (for lack of better terms).


    • Steven
      August 12, 2010

      While your thoughts are somewhat valid, about image, it was certainly noteworthy that this church, founded by the late Brian Nichols is all about image and hits the mark on the spot. The 1st Vagabond Church of GOD is exactly that, a homeless ministry without walls, roof, windows or doors, and meets in Langford Park, where vagabonds (homeless) hang out and live. I have had the priviledge of taking over for Brian and find it very rewarding. Unlike Brian, I am not homeless, and find quite a few people looking for answers as well as a comfortable place to sleep. There are those that do not want to hear the word of our Father, but those that only want a warm meal……..
      Steven Proctor, Pastor
      1st Vagabond Church of GOD


  • Mark
    August 19, 2005

    Jennifer,
    I totally agree with too much fuss in the church about image. Though, there is a good balance, most churches don’t seem to find it. Good design and marketing is simple and direct like God’s word. If a church has talented creative people in visual communication who are eager to help with their God-given talents, great. If not let God handle it. I mean the best messenger for God’s word is GOD. And if he thinks that your community needs to be reached in the ways of marketing and visual communication he will bring people to your church for that. God is also the best talent scout, I know he brought this graphic designer to work for his little ones at a Christian adoption agency.


  • Anthony
    August 19, 2005

    Once more, let me toss into the breach – the “B” word — BALANCE. Too much of a strength becomes a weakness. If we are all “logo” and no Word – we are useless. But if we want to catch fish, we have to use the bait that works (as long as it is not sinful bait, of course) Why oh why does it seem that people want to create a “God in a box” and say it is all one way or another. The challenge and the beauty of serving the God of the universe is that He is dynamic. Just as the children of Israel that followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by nght never knew when the pillar was going to move, we MUST be flexible and able to acknowledge that we must follow the Holy Spirit and be willing to mix/blend whatever He says in the measures that He says.


  • Michael
    August 19, 2005

    Some people may have said that there used to be too much fuss over fish…why is everybody always worried about fish? But Christ gave them fish, that’s where they were at, that’s one of the ways he connected them to Him.
    Perfect world: people would come to Christ because it’s what their soul longs for…but today people still need a hook…from there the Holy Spirit will take hold and show them what they’ve been searching for.


  • Jen
    August 19, 2005

    I look at it this way…it’s about doing what works for your audience. God doesn’t call every church to reach out to every individual. (I know, that’s crazy talk, but hear me out.)
    God has called Brian Nichols to reach out to a part of the community and he’s doing it with everything he’s got. That’s the point that I wanted to make here. It’s perhaps the most basic marketing principle that there is… know your market and know how to reach it.
    That’s exactly what he’s doing.


  • John Silver
    March 31, 2008

    “Use the bait that works”?
    This is the fundamental problem with the Western Church. The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ. Period. I am a graphic designer and I make my living creating memorable imagery for businesses. But would find it difficult to think to terribly hard about creating “an effective brand strategy” for a church. The Gospel simply doesn’t need an identity. I have created identity systems for quite a few churches in the past but have recently been convicted of using my gifts to brand a church. I do, however, create communication pieces within the church (much the same way the first century churches might have written letters or announce upcoming events using scribes). I do not, under any circumstances, charge for my service to the Church. I charge private businesses and individuals for my livelihood and not to affect the Gospel in any way (much the same way Paul made his living as a tentmaker). I am exteamy distressed about the direction the Western Church is going as it relates to marketing Jesus.


  • Angela Grace
    November 21, 2009

    PAstor Brian passed away yesterday here in Ashland Oregon. He was full of the spirit of GOd. He lived on our Mountain for a few weeks and got the chance to see his son in Portland before he died.
    Pastor Brian carried the true living fellowship and was perfectly content. Someone heard him say, “I accomplished more homeless than I did without a home”. My plan is to learn from him and remember his genuine love. God’s love through him.
    My fellowship here in Ashland is honored to have met him.
    RIP Pastor Brian Nichols
    First Vagabonds Church
    November 20, 2009


  • Angela Grace
    November 21, 2009

    PAstor Brian passed away yesterday here in Ashland Oregon. He was full of the spirit of GOd. He lived on our Mountain for a few weeks and got the chance to see his son in Portland before he died.
    Pastor Brian carried the true living fellowship and was perfectly content. Someone heard him say, “I accomplished more homeless than I did without a home”. My plan is to learn from him and remember his genuine love. God’s love through him.
    My fellowship here in Ashland is honored to have met him.
    RIP Pastor Brian Nichols
    First Vagabonds Church
    November 20, 2009


  • Steven Proctor
    August 2, 2010

    I have seen the videos, read the emails, and realize this was a man that put the word of GOD in the hearts of anyone that would listen, with all his heart. I was sorry to hear of his death, and I am sorry that his presense and words are now lost to this earth forever. However, he is with the LORD now, and he will be in the hearts of many forever. If you are one of those that approved of his efforts, I am collecting donations to place a marker next to the large oak where he delivered his messages, if the City will allow it…..still waiting for an answer. I am attempting to “step into his pulpit”, and deliver messages to those that will hear. Stay safe and be blessed…..SP


  • dls
    April 22, 2011

    The Lod said You will know them by their fruits. How can a pastor who dont support his own family come to terms with being a minister????


  • Sam Clemons
    July 11, 2011

    Thank you for this post. I loved it!



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