Friday, May 29, 2009

Skip the advertisements, go back to the book!

In response to precipitously declining numbers, some liberal denominations are turning to professional ad campaigns to try to draw young people in…

Ad campaigns invite people to church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Shrinking mainline Protestant denominations are turning to marketing to help stem decades of membership losses and stay afloat.

The United Methodist Church recently unveiled a $20 million rebranding effort aimed at attracting younger members to the large but diminishing Protestant group. The new ads will appear over the next four years as part of the denomination's "Rethink Church" campaign.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has invested nearly $1.2 million over the past two years launching a similar branding effort based on the theme, "God's Work, Our Hands."

The denominations are trying to bounce back from losses that began in the mid-1960s.

From 1990 to 2008 alone, mainline Protestants dropped from 18.7 percent to 12.9 percent of the population, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

One telling statistic from the article: "The median age for a United Methodist is 57, according to the Rev. Larry Hollon, the denomination's chief communications executive.". Yikes! In a few decades, between people fleeing and people dying, the UMC will virtually cease to exist.

Here are a couple of their advertisement videos…

Here is where the disconnect happens. People are not abandoning the ELCA, the United Methodist Church and other mainline/liberal denominations because they aren’t helping enough women in Senegal to start their own businesses or passing out enough care kits to people crossing the border in violation of the law. That is a very noble cause but it puts the ox before the cart. When you abandon the Bible and the Gospel, you cease to be a force for the Kingdom and become a do-gooder organization with a religious patina. Make your message first and foremost the Word of God, the Savior on a cross who died and rose again to redeem lost sinners. Then and only then talk to people about women starting businesses in Senegal.

What is going to draw people is the Gospel. Once we win them with the Gospel, we absolutely must turn to helping feed the poor, the widows, visiting those in prison. We do a shameful job of that for the most part in the church. But we cannot reduce the Gospel to a philosophy of good works and not expect people to abandon the church. If someone wants to help people removed from the Gospel, there are lots of secular social organizations that will do the same thing and probably do it better. It is no different from “seeker sensitive” churches, there will always be a more exciting circus that will draw them away if they are not there first and primarily for the Gospel. The world is always going to be better at doing worldly things.

You don’t need a marketing agency and clever TV ads. You just need a very old book. That book is always relevant and always speaks to what people really need, whether in the first century or the twenty first.


Dusty Chris said...

Wow. Great thoughts. It seems to me that presenting the gospel in it's simplest form is attractive to most people...and it never gets old. The thing is there are denominations that are presenting the gospel better than others and those churches seem to be growing...hmmmm.

Perhaps churches need to rebrand "Back to the Bible" or "Jesus is Enough." Most people who are seeking God know the difference between substance and marketing.

gloria said...

"What is going to draw people to the gospel is the gospel"


These adds reminded me of the LDS church. The LDS church has an amazing PR program and draws people to it's programs.

But shouldn't churches be drawing people to Jesus?? Should that not be the central message of Christianity?

So many churches out there are intent in building up their numbers, their buildings, etc. What about building up the name of Jesus?

God bless,

ps. thanks for coming over to Heart Issues and going to batt for the gospel, Arthur. I felt as if I was being interrogated by 2 attorneys ( seth and blake) ... it's wonderful to have brothers and sisters in christ who step in at the right time to defend the faith.

God bless you!!!

Arthur Sido said...

Gloria, as you have noticed and I pointed out, Seth and Blake don't actually address any of the issues raised. They are nothing more than bullies and I have no stomach for that. I try to be civil with people but I have run across them before and they are always ugly and unpleasant, preferring to pick fights with people who have the grace and class not to get down in the mud with them. I guess it makes them feel manly or something. I however have no qualms about getting down in the mud with them! If you want to make bacon, sometimes you have to wrestle with pigs.