Every church’s brand has a face. And that face belongs to its head pastor. Yes, other components help define the brand: its logo, its graphic standards, its facility, its style of worship. But I’d argue a growing number of churches’ outward identities are inextricably wrapped up in the humanity behind the pulpit.
That’s because, unlike cars, software or fast food which we marketers regularly anthropomorphize by giving them brand attributes like a personality, a sense of humor and a voice, people (pastors) come from the factory with all those things pre-installed.
And in an era where video preaching is becoming ever more popular and makes more of an impact, the connection between church pastor and church brand can’t help but grow stronger. After all, every podcast downloaded is one more lengthy impression with the consumer (to use crass media buyer-speak).
Therein, though, lies the rub. Every pastor I’ve ever met is a person. A fallen, imperfect, inherently sinful person–just like every human who has ever lived, except for one guy about 2,000 years ago. So when a pastor leaves, falls publicly into sin or just goes on sabbatical for a few months, the church, its identity and its brand come tumbling after.
That is, unless the church and its leadership has a culture in place that’s deliberately, intentionally and passionately committed to pointing people toward Jesus and away from the guy with the wireless mic. That’s how disciples are made, how Christ is lifted up and how all our churches are made healthier and stronger.
In a recent interview at Leadership Journal, Rob Bell cautions about this very thing:
“With technology today it’s easy to spend all your energies reproducing your own voice, but there is a longer view that says, what if instead of beaming video into those ten locations, we train ten people who can go there and lead.”
I’m not arguing for or against video. Heck, I subscribe to a gaggle of vodcasts myself. What I am arguing for, though, is decentralizing leadership in an effort to avoid the worship-the-rock-star scenario that both non-Christians and Christians alike often fall into. If we do, not only will we be helping create stronger, more enduring church brands, we’ll be spreading the gospel more effectively.