Does Church Marketing Suck?

One of my favorite websites is ChurchMarketingSucks.  Their mission is “…to frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.”  Good stuff.

As an United Methodist, we have launched a new marketing campaign called “Rethink Church.” Much has been written about it.  I like it in theory but, ultimately, I think the theme is a problematic. I don’t see that many UMCs that are truly rethinking church at a time when church definitely needs to be rethought.

But that’s not the point of this post.

I am the layleader of Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church, a small church with a big old church building in downtown Indianapolis.  Its an all volunteer church; we got great musicans but they don’t get paid; we get great pastoral support from a UMC pastor  but he doesn’t get paid, etc.  A lot of what we do now happens through our community collaborative Earth House Collective.

We have  a long way to go but we have captured the imagination of our community a bit.  Despite qualifying as a “nano-church,” we were voted by the readers of  Nuvo Newsweekly, the alternative free weekly newspaper here in central Indiana, as the best house of worship.   I talked to one of their advertising sales people and he said it wasn’t even that close.  We won in a landslide.

We had a debate at our church gathering on Tuesday night.  How do we celebrate this victory?  Or is  it even a victory?

I wanted to put a sign out front that says:

Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church

Worship 6:00 PM Sundays

Voted Best House of Worship by the readers of Nuvo

And then run some ads in Nuvo thanking their readers for their support and thanking NUVO for their support.  They have been very generous in covering the going-ons of our community and our partner Earth House.

When I proposed this I got a bit of a cold stare from a few of our church leaders.  They had a good point.  Church Marketing sucks.  And evangelism mostly sucks too.

I thin the point of contention can be summed up on this blog post by  UMC pastor Taylor Burton Edwards on EmergingUMC:

Probably many of us in the emerging missional movement have given up on institutions doing anything helpful toward real transformation, personal or social. Representational evangelism is thus something we’re more likely to critique than to do, much less endorse. And as for the marketing and seeker service models of passive evangelism, I think most of us have ruled that out on principle long ago. “Attractional is not missional” might be the way we put it.

Burton-Edwards goes on to talk about the oft qouted St. Francis “Preach the Gospel, use words if neccessary.” He warns that “The cultural supports remaining that could interpret actions without words as any sort of proclamation of the good news of God’s reign are in a jumbled shambles at best.”

He concludes,

Evangelism requires of us, at the very least it requires both lives that correspond to the way of Jesus AND a way of telling others, for whom few if any coherent cultural supports exist, why we live as we live and inviting them, personally, to follow Jesus with us.

He is absolutely right.  We have to to find a way of telling others about why we seek to walk in the way of Jesus and why it might make sense to join up and become part of this community.

Thank you for listening.


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