UNtruth in Advertising

I came across this article from the United Kingdom [linked via Tom Perrault] about a report from two advertising agencies that were hired by a British Christian magazine to create marketing strategies “aimed at encouraging people to attend church services.”

Since my undergradute major was in advertising, and I currently work for a marketing company, I couldn’t help but to comment on the outcomes the ad agencies reached. The punchline of the findings of the two agencies was,””We don’t think people want to be preached at, and we didn’t want traditional images like pictures of Jesus on a cross…”

To remedy this horrible image of the church, the agencies conceived of such ideas as:

…using an image of a goldfish in a bowl together with the tag line: “When did you last really need someone to talk to?”

Another ad featured an image of a vicar with the line: “When was the last time you saw some really good stand up… for free?”

These concepts were based upon the notion that “churches should promote themselves as a place to catch up with news and friends.”

Although this was commissioned by a magazine, and not a specific church body, it is not so far off the mark from what many churches do. They try to “re-invent church” (hmm–eerily reminiscent of Al Gore…) and try to shake up those so-called stadgy old traditions.

While it is true that churches should be careful in relying too much upon tradition, they should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The reason the advertising agencies’ pitches weren’t far off the mark is because many churches have thrown out the Gospel along with their stodgy traditions. Paul warned of this when writing to Timothy.

We must be careful not to expunge something just because it is offensive. The Gospel itself is offensive because it exposes us for who we really are: sinners in need of salvation. Christ upon the cross is offensive simply because he was there in our place.

It is not fun think on things such as these. It is does not feel good to know that we are helpless on our own. If, however, we do not think on these things and do not feel these things, we can never know the joy of what it means to have Christ upon the cross in our place. I pray that the Church at large never gives up the distasteful cross to attract more visitors, because they will indeed be attracted–but the attraction may lead them in a direction they did not wnat to go.