We Hate Church Too … As Usual

March 31, 2009 by

There’s a story that caught my attention, raises some questions and points to a trend in some church circles.

A church has launched a campaign that includes billboards that read “We hate church … as usual.” Of course the message is that this church has something different and for those that are disenfranchised by the church they are doing it in a way that will prove you wrong.

I wonder if this indeed reaches those who have left the church, or if it just reinforces some of the reasons they left, maybe even letting them know it’s OK.

Is the best way to grow the church by pointing out the faults of other churches? My drink of choice is Diet Coke. I drink it because I like it, not because I don’t like Pepsi or Sprite. I choose to consume it because I prefer it.

Using that same analogy, are Pepsi and Coke allies or competitors? Is it really good church to compete against one another? Isn’t it enough that we compete with the things of the world, do we really need to add the church down the street to our list of detractors?

On the other hand, there are too many people that have been hurt by the church for a variety of reasons and I desperately want the church to reach out to them. So I understand and applaud the underlying desire of this church and maybe the best way to reach this group is to admit our shortcomings and faults.

During Christmas we did a turkey giveaway campaign for one of the churches we work with, the headline copy being “We Realize The Church Has At Times Acted Like A Bunch Of Turkeys … now we’d just like to give you one.” It was a big hit with both the community and all the local churches (which we discussed the concept with as it was developing). So I do think it’s OK to not take ourselves too seriously and be real with people. A key point in this campaign was that we, in effect, had a green light from the other churches in the area.

OK, it’s your turn. Is this a great example of grabbing people’s attention or is it just another smear campaign?

Post By:

Michael Buckingham

With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is the former creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks, and is currently the experience pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
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25 Responses to “We Hate Church Too … As Usual”

  • Kevin Purcell
    March 31, 2009

    I cringed when I read this. It gave me a visceral response that I didn’t like. And then I read your article and I understand why. It seems like they are saying “we are better than those guys” which is possibly true or not, but we are not the ones who should be making those judgments except to improve ourselves.

  • Matt
    March 31, 2009

    One of the best perspectives I’ve heard was from Kenton Beshore (Mariners Church). In a staff meeting, he clarified oru purpose. ‘I don’t care if someone leaves Mariners as long as they are going to church. We aren’t competing with other churches, we are competing with bars and clubs.” It really helped me align my focus on that goal. We need to encourage people to go to church, not just to go to our church.

  • Michelle
    March 31, 2009

    I live and work near the church running that campaign, and I know people who have attended it. I understand what they are trying to say, but I agree that it makes a rather negative judgement about other churches. Moreover, the church running the campaign is my idea of “church as usual” – they are large, well-funded, and well-polished. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but they aren’t the type of church that those disenfranchised by the church flock to. Just noting that the pastor gives himself the title Bishop gives you a glimpse into the church’s culture, so I find the ads misleading.
    I also agree that this type of advertisement is competing with other churches, instead of reaching out to the lost and unchurched. In Oklahoma City, there are countless churches. There are still lost people here who have been hurt by other churches, but I can’t see them visiting The Cathedral in response to these billboards. It will take a relational, servanthood-based approach to reach non-Christians in our community, not judgemental ads.

  • Dan Richardson
    March 31, 2009

    I agree whole heartedly! When we launched our church 2+ years ago we thought we were going to be pretty cool by having the web domain “notyourgrandmaschurch.com”. All the church people thought it was hilarious. Then I asked my buddy who doesn’t go to church what he thought about it. And his response was “Why would I ever want to buy something when you’re telling me what it’s not? Tell me what it is!” It was like a slap across the face but woke me up to what we were truly about. It’s completely changed our perspective and focus and we may have had to close our doors otherwise because I think people are sick of that kind of crap. I know I am at least. Some people have the slogan “A church for people who hate church” does that make any sense at all seeing you’re still a church? Huh?! Anyways, we ended up settling on the domain livethemission.ca as that’s everything we’re about. Haven’t looked back since.

  • David Luttrull
    March 31, 2009

    I wholeheartedly disagree with the proposition of “hating church.” I love church! My pastor isn’t perfect and can sometimes be hard to follow in sermons. But, the people who put up these signs are the people who go to church 5 minutes late, sit in the back row, and leave directly after the closing prayer. They are the people who don’t put anything into church. Church is not about you! When have we Americans decided that churches are there to serve us. We skip around until we find a church that we “like.” Church is about God. When you have this mentality you overlook the problems and see what you can do to make things better.!!!

  • Jameson
    March 31, 2009

    First I would just like to say that I have seen the campaign and I’m actually on the marketing team that put the campaign together and attend this church…for more of an understanding of the campaign please check out this video.
    This campaign is not a campaign of competition at all, it’s about pushing Jesus and not a church service so to say. Once again that link is:

  • Jay
    March 31, 2009

    As the creator of the billboard, I would like to point all of you to the explanation of the billboard.
    We do not intend to compete with or judge any other churches in Oklahoma City or any other city for that matter. The point of the billboard is to do exactly what it has done – to generate interest and drive people to the website. It is a marketing strategy.
    As far as being “large, well-funded, and well-polished” that would be a judgment of its own based on the look of the property. The Cathedral is a 700 member church (and growing) in a city with multitudes of mega churches. We celebrate the people God has given us!
    We agree that “It will take a relational, servanthood-based approach to reach non-Christians in our community”. If you question that, please read our values and ask about our responsibility to Mark Twain Elementary (the poorest public school in OKC), or ask about the many free events that we provide to the community, including Eggstravaganza, Jazz in June, Gameday, and Christmas Fest.

  • Dan
    March 31, 2009

    I see what you are saying with the marketing idea and getting people to go to the website. However, I if I saw that billboard as I drive by at 45MPH I don’t think I would go to the website to “for more of an understanding of the campaign”.
    In general I think that if I have to go look at and read a different marketing medium to understand the point of the first medium, then the first is failing in some way.

  • Ismael Burciaga
    March 31, 2009

    It’s ok, it seems like these blogs like to talk about church campaigns before seeing the end results. For example, check out the previous blog entitled “Pastor in a Box.” There have been a lot of negative feedback as well as some positive. So your church is not the only one being talked about.
    I would understand if the blog entry was written after a certain campaign who’s end results weren’t great. Then the blog could help educate the church by providing a better solution for a future campaign.
    Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch of great resources on this site and I am very thankful for CMS, however, some of these blogs can really bring negative attention.

  • Jay
    March 31, 2009

    What we have done is something that many churches and businesses as well have done. It is what this own blog does- just look at the banners. They say “Church Marketing Sucks.” How many of us found this website by seeing that phrase somewhere and thinking “No it doesn’t” only to find that this is a blog to help churches in media, not degrade them.

  • Joe Smith
    March 31, 2009

    One thing that I notice this billboard doesn’t say is “We Hate CHURCHES as usual”. It says “We Hate CHURCH as Usual”. In that way it makes no attack or comparison to other church bodies. It refers to a church service! Basically it could even be a challenge to individuals to no longer go to their own church EXPECTING the norm but go to THEIR OWN churches expecting something unusual to happen! Like maybe more people getting saved than usual, or more marriages being restored than usual, or more kids being brought back to peace with their parents than usual! Maybe…Just Maybe….thats what this billboard meant!

  • Michelle
    March 31, 2009

    Jay, I don’t doubt that The Cathedral is a great church. But what are you doing so differently from others that you aren’t “church as usual”?
    I watched the video before my first comment, and it never explains what makes you different from the “usual” church. You guys are a traditional (albeit charismatic) church. I thank God for churches like you who do touch many, but you are not unusual.
    What you do with Mark Twain Elementary is to be applauded. I attend church in a neighborhood a few miles south of that school, in a crime-ridden, run-down neighborhood. Churches like yours are our best financial supporters, and we’re grateful for them. But offer church in Mark Twain’s neighborhood, for the people who live there, as they are, and you’ll understand why I have a different idea of what makes a church unusual.

  • scott
    March 31, 2009

    Before I started at my current church, we had a t-shirt design that read “hate church? love God? try (our church)”. At first I thought this was pretty cool, but the major problem is that other area churches took it as a jab toward them. Not a great unifier, not a great strategy.

  • Ted
    April 1, 2009

    I’ve been *begging* our church to do this one:
    “WANTED: Open Minded Sinners
    (Religious bigots no permitted)”

  • Ted
    April 1, 2009

    One more thing: a church should use their advertising to BOAST about what they do. Hardly ANY churches brag about what they have accomplished.
    “Last year, we saved 46 marriages, cleaned up dozens drug addicts, healed 11 terminally ill patients, revived a dead child, rebuilt an entire neighborhood destroyed by storms, and counseled 39 men and women back to mental and emotional health. Who are we?”
    By now anybody reading that wants to know who this is…
    “We are (church name) and we do amazing things. Come see how this Sunday.”
    What has your local church done for you lately?

  • Johnnie
    April 1, 2009

    Wow. You guys missed the whole point of this billboard. This is not in anyway saying “Hey that church over there sucks, and we hate it…”. Anyone in the ministry should realize the church has been crumbling for years…you know whose fault that is? That’s right it’s the fault of the church. We have to realize that the usual mundane show up on sunday, sing 4 songs, catch a three point message, and go to lunch with family and friends; isn’t going to change a community, and definitely won’t change the world!
    A guy above who said the pastor of this church gave himself the title of Bishop. First thing you should do sir is look at the biblical definition of a Bishop. Then look at what this Pastor does, and try to explain that he’s not a Bishop. He doesn’t need me to defend him for one second, however sir, you should be careful what you say about people. Especially when speaking out of ignorance….it’s dangerous.
    I know the guys who put this billboard together and can look far enough past my nose to understand what this sign is saying. Every church should be re-evaluating what they do…EVERY CHURCH!
    Jay and Jameson keep up the good work, and come to south Florida for a vacay anytime! Love you guys!
    – j –

  • Elijah
    April 2, 2009

    I think this is all strangely ironic considering the negative approach to the naming of this blog. Quite frankly, I see the writer of this article able to shift his stance on marketing approaches based solely on his visceral reaction.
    However, The flaw of a campaign is if you have to explain it. It should stand on its own. If a film director had to follow his film with an explanation of what the audience has just seen, then he has missed the mark.
    I think we also have a competing view of marketing techniques for different generations. 18-25 yrs are leaving typical religion in droves. They want non invasive “feeling” marketing. Stuff that is non conformist.
    Just take a second and realize that this campaign will NOT reach everyone. But it might hit that group that is looking for something that does accept the status quo.
    I will get off my soap box now.

  • Michael Buckingham
    April 5, 2009

    I think Ted really hits the mark, we have plenty of positive things to be talking about. if you step back far enough to see the campaign you will see that, while I think the intentions may very well be good, it does attack other churches.
    If you hate church as usual, and you are doing it differently what does that say about the other churches…that apparently aren’t? Do churches need to change some of their tactics, sure. But focus on what makes you great other than the fact that you’re better than the church down the road.
    My hesitation with the campaign is that this type of marketing lends itself more toward growth from transplants from other churches than growth from the unchurched.
    And yes I change my stance on different marketing campaigns (aka. some church marketing sucks), but not through a random knee jerk reaction…but by analysis of how the communication is delivered. The heart behind this campaign may be pure, but the execution of it could have been better. Results are an important aspect to look at, but not the only one. Let’s say this church grows by 20%…but churches in the area see a decrease by 25%…whose victory is that?

  • Michelle
    April 6, 2009

    If the point was to get people to visit Cathedral’s website, I think that goal could have been better accomplished. The billboards boldly declare “We hate church,” and the words “as usual” are so much smaller and lighter-weight are they go mostly unnoticed at 45+ mph. The church’s web address is also not prominent on the signs, so I don’t think people memorize it as they zoom by.
    My question – how much research was done to determine if “we hate church… as usual” resonated with lost people? Who were they trying to reach with the campaign – those who have never really attended church, those who have stopped attending, or those who attend but are disatisfied?

  • Mark
    April 30, 2009

    Our culture isn’t any different than the culture of Jesus’ day. So why look at it any differently. We know that many “churches” either reverse the word of God or promote what is evil. Is that what we see as “church as usual”.
    Why didn’t more people in Jesus day follow him and listen to him after he was gone. Millions were slaughtered by Rome in 70 AD because the larger majority had failed to listen. In fact they were quite content with doing “temple as usual”. It cost them their lives.
    Whether this church is any different seems to be undetermined. What does it matter. We recognize that it appeals to something within us. The question is do we see our church as Christ want’s us to see it? Or are we content with the usual. God may love the church but is what we call church something God loves?

  • church outreach ideas
    August 18, 2009

    I never have thought of it that way. I am sure they did not plan it to put down other churches. I do agree that it raises questions.
    What is wrong with church as usual anyway? Are they making it more like a classroom? Or maybe a starbucks? This doesn’t really answer that except to say “It is ok you left your church… we want to as well.”

  • Rebekah
    September 1, 2009

    In reading some of the comments listed above, I can see where you all have tunnel vision. You see from one viewpoint or another. but you truly don’t see it from the point of view of someone who is on the outside looking in. You see yourselves as the best thing since sliced bread, you and your group, your pastors, wives, children, etc. But it seems that is ALL you see.
    I read a church bulletin recently where they were offering a witnessing class-how to witness to dirty low down sinners. Some of the advice was: “…show kindness, be loving to the person you are witnessing to…” It said nothing about actually making friends with someone, and KEEPING THEM AS A FRIEND. No, just get them saved, and then kick them to the curb, and especially IF THEY DON’T AGREE WITH YOU.
    Narrow minded? That would be a complement for some of what I’ve read in this above column. Life isn’t according to your whims, political points, insecurities, or desires. It isn’t according to what you are comfortable with, it isn’t according to what you’ve experienced or known in the past.
    Do you pray for people to be healed and then reject them after they are healed? It has happened to me. Jesus helped a young man who was put out of the synagogue because he was once blind but then he could see because of Jesus. I suppose he made a lot of people uncomfortable.God just didn’t fall into the box he was put in, was he?
    You’re judgmental, hard to get a long with, stuck up, stubborn, religious, self centered, you don’t pray much (except on Sundays), do you even know what your Bible says?
    I guess your batting average isn’t much better than a lot of others I’ve met. and still you persist in your self righteousness…puke.

  • Tony
    September 26, 2009

    It appears they are reaching out to those who are unhappy with their church or past church? My experience has been that most of them are unhappy wherever they choose to go. God be with the pastor of the church! I’m up for whatever leads people to Christ but I would want to be careful not to be “bashing” church. Maybe they could say, “Our church is better than all the rest.” It would have the same feel although I’m sure that isn’t what they are saying.

  • Lee Yokum
    December 28, 2009

    “In reading some of the comments listed above, I can see where you all have tunnel vision. You see from one viewpoint or another. but you truly don’t see it from the point of view of someone who is on the outside looking in. You see yourselves as the best thing since sliced bread, you and your group, your pastors, wives, children, etc. But it seems that is ALL you see.
    I read a church bulletin recently where they were offering a witnessing class-how to witness to dirty low down sinners. Some of the advice was: “…show kindness, be loving to the person you are witnessing to…” It said nothing about actually making friends with someone, and KEEPING THEM AS A FRIEND. No, just get them saved, and then kick them to the curb, and especially IF THEY DON’T AGREE WITH YOU.”
    I can see someone has obviously seen the not so pretty side of Church, forget about campaings or ads or targeting an audience people period want authenticity with Church, we want Pastor so and so to honestly and humbly admit when he/she is wrong and give God the credit when they are right, we want to see beleivers coming together in unity with each other for the sake of living as Christ has called us to live and instructed us to live through the bible. Authenticity and a sense of egalitarianism are always good for church, we are the body of Christ we should be willing to make whatever vision statement or ad we need to in order to reach the lost and help beleivers be mature followers of Christ..at any cost!! if that ad campaign of “we hate church” works, then it works hands down..I see church worrying too much on “what its about” the church should be busy doing the will of the father, I dont see this ad as competitive but v3ery creative, they seem to have already changed it though as the URL no longer seems to be valid, its all a perspective issue

  • Marc S.
    January 31, 2013

    Interesting article. However, I believe there are two real reasons we struggle with the issue is because we are often operating under a flawed viewed of “church”. The church is not a place we go to. It is the people…the kingdom of God. Gathering on Sundays (or any other day for that matter) or even in someone’s home is just where the disciples of Jesus gather.

    The second reason is our belief that if we were only “nicer”, then people would storm our doors looking to be a part of our “church”. Jesus makes it very clear that the world hates him and will hate us too. Of course, this does not mean that we are to be rude and self-centered. It simply means that our worldview is not the same as the world’s worldview. Therefore, let us not be surprised if we are rejected by the world.

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