The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Market church as brand of Christ

Marketing the church is big business.

Michael Duduit, editor at PreachingNow.com, recently noted that the U.S. Army has moved from a slogan of "Be All You Can Be" to "Army Strong." In that vein, Duduit suggests the following slogans for churches:

"Methodist Calm"

"Presbyterian Orderly"

"Baptist Loud"

"Pentecostal Happy"

"Evangelical Sharing"

Duduit doesn’t stop there, but extends the idea to those who are anti-Kingdom:

"Agnostics Unsure"

"Atheists Alone"

As a journalist-pastor — one who is big on words, as well as the Word — it sort of appeals to me, but I have to wonder about the effectiveness of marketing schemes in the name of Jesus Christ.

When I joined the community of faith as pastor at Green Meadow United Methodist Church in 2002, I started referring to the church as "The Meadow," which is what my friends call the community. I liked it. I thought, "That’s catchy. It has this peaceful, serene feel to it. Kinda makes you want to sit down on a rock and pray right there."

We even went so far as to buy the domain name, themeadow.org. I had business cards printed with the slogan, "Come Walk With God ... In The Meadow."

One thought behind all of this was the possibility that it would lessen the confusion factor between us and our cousin church down the road, Green Meadow Church of God. Don’t get me wrong: We have no problem being associated with Green Meadow Church of God, but we would like to get some of their visitors there on time — or at least let them know that we start worship at 10:30 a.m., not 11 a.m.

It didn’t work.

Not long after we launched the Web site, Green Meadow Church of God put out a banner that said, "Welcome to the Meadow."

So much for unique marketing ideas.

We still occasionally have people wandering in a little early on Sunday mornings, thinking we are Green Meadow Church of God.

To quote a famous frog, "It ain’t easy being green."

All of this has led me to believe that marketing the name of Christ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s the possibility that Madison Avenue techniques only further blur the line between the church and the world.

As you can tell, I didn’t always think that way, and I recognize there are those who believe that using anything short of sin to reach people in the name of Jesus Christ is acceptable.

It may be acceptable, but is it lasting?

If it’s the slogan that appeals to someone, what happens when a better slogan comes along?

The same might be said for Christian consumerism: If the First Church of the Mighty Good Brethren and Sisters has the best whatever in town and draws a huge crowd for Christ, what happens if the Last Church of the Cistern comes up with something better?

A key aspect of contemporary marketing is something called "branding." Branding is a marketing concept whereby concrete symbols are closely associated with a product’s values, ideas and even personality. Brands are intended to be so well integrated into the product and marketing that the hopeful outcome is that consumers will not be able to see one without thinking of the other.

Since the church represents Christ, then perhaps we ought to be marketing suffering, self-denial and sacrifice.

Admittedly, it doesn’t sell very well in today’s consumer Christianity, but let’s face it: That was the only brand he carried, and he carried it all the way to the cross.