“How do we get our name out there?” I heard this question over and over gain for about a year when I was involved in planting a church. I grew sick of this question. To go along with previous posts of mine regarding church marketing and being relevant, I will continue in that direction today.
When we planted that church, we started asking the innocent question, “how do we get our name out there?” At least it started innocent. I remember those beginning days, there was excitement, there was momentum, there was anticipation in the air. We were excited to be together, we knew that we had something special there. We felt the Lord leading us, and there was nothing that could stop us. But then, as time went on, the newness of it started to wane. There was no longer new people coming as regularly, we grew tired of the setting up and tearing down, and we were having a very difficult time financially. We started to realize that things weren’t going well. My theory (though many who were on the leadership team at that church would disagree) is that we lost our first love. We didn’t remain true to the calling God had given us and we didn’t remain true to our stated mission and big vision. About six months into this church plant, we were failing.
So, our discussion at leadership meetings transitioned from dreaming about what could be (vision) to talking about what to do to survive (maintenance). Here’s the thing…it isn’t just this church plant that slips into self-preservation mode. It’s not just the small churches in Grand Rapids suburbs. It’s also the large churches in big cities and the rural churches in the middle nowhere. It’s so easy to forget our calling…our mission…our vision (especially in these difficult economic times) and begin to do things in order to preserve and maintain instead of blaze ahead into uncharted territory. The question “how do we get our name out there?” is indicative of a church that is focused on themselves. Why would anyone want to get their name out there? Why would any church want to get their name out there? Don’t we realize that we are all…all…broken and bruised and sinful. We are all on a level playing field. I am no better than the prostitute I drove by on the corner of Division and Burton last night. Megachurch pastor with a toothy grin is no better than porn shop owner. And we want to get our name out there? Isn’t that what most of our churches are? A reflection of the personalities that pastor/lead/preach/lead worship? So, if our focus is to get the name of our church out there, then we ultimately are getting the name of our personalities out there. And I will boldly say (not that it’s news to anyone) that personalities will fail us every time. Before long a personality will fall to sexual immorality, drug addiction, alcoholism, idolization, money…you name it.
Seems to me the only safe thing to do is radically dangerous. To no longer market our churches and our pastors and our worship leaders. To quit investing money in flashy websites (sorry to all of you web designers out there) and huge marketing campaigns, and starting putting God in the forefront. See, when we put God at the forefront, we can be assured that people are buying into something that will not fail. God is so much more than just a personality, but if he was only a personality it would be a personality that doesn’t fall…that doesn’t let us down. So, why would we not place him at the forefront?
Forget asking ourselves, “how do we get our name out there?” Our name will fail. Let’s begin to ask the question, “how do we get the name of God out there?” I think Paul answers it in saying this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” How do we get the name of God out there? We tell the world how messed up we are and how God is redeeming and restoring us!