Is your church’s brand an idol?

Their signs were all along the road. The flags stood high in the air, letting me know I was in the right place. As I entered the parking lot, it was filled with cars with the church logo in their windows. Approaching the sanctuary, directly to the right of the door, was the merch table. I could buy a t-shirt with the church’s logo on it. 

No mention of Jesus. 

No mention of God.

No mention of the mission.

Just the logo.

Here’s the thing, minus the merch table, this could have described my church.

In the beginning, it was so important that people knew we were different from the other churches. I wanted the people in my community when they thought of church to have mine come to their mind first. After all, isn’t it about getting people in the door?

The point of the church is to proclaim that there is a better way. Jesus comes with love, hope, and liberty. Jesus’ Kingdom is being established in hearts and changing lives.

We want others to be a part of that.

Yet what I see, and what I have had to address in my own heart, is that we are creating organizational kingdoms and not Christ centred ones. Churches have become more concerned about branding their church and living out the mission of the church rather than proclaiming Christ and living out the life God is calling us too. Church’s do service projects in their community for the publicity rather than out of a heart of love. They love to broadcast all their good deeds, some are even God deeds, yet their self-praise ends up leaving them hollow.

I fear that we are treading too close to a Pharisaic mindset.

In the Scriptures, the book of Matthew takes the role of calling out the hypocrisy within the faith community. There were no “Christians” at the time. Thus, Jesus is speaking to the Jewish community, the one he was a part of. You see, the Jewish religious leaders of the time were more concerned about showing off the brand of their religion—holiness and piousness. In the book of Matthew, especially in chapter twenty-three, Jesus calls out the religious leaders tie to their religious brand, the promoting of themselves, and their lack of Integrity.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.”

Matt 23:5-7

It is not about your brand. It is about the Kingdom of God. It’s about a God who loved us enough, that while we were still covered in the muck of our misdeeds, he comes to lifts us out.

I love what Neil Cole writes,

“There are many books, tapes, seminars, an CD’s made to help people build the church, but if you are building the church, it isn’t the church. Jesus did not say ‘And upon this rock you will build my church.’ Jesus, an only Jesus, builds the church. If we build a church that is based on a charismatic personality, an innovative methodology, or anything else, we have a church that is inferior to that which Jesus would build.”

Your church isn’t about you, your church name or logo, your pastor, system, style, or whatever else you can think of.

The Church of Christ is about one thing, Christ. He will build it. Not your savvy.

Sure, you can market people into the building. We can appeal and dazzle. Unfortunately, time and time again, what I see is that people are attracted by the brand and then commissioned to be spokespersons’ of the church rather than the cross.

The Church is called to more. Let’s set aside the idol of our brand and instead pursue hearts that align with what it means to be a Christ Kingdom builder.

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We need you small church Pastor

A lot has been made these days about the size of a church. In comparison to many, I’ve only been on the scene for a minute, so I really can’t say if this is a new trend or not, but it has been around for my 15+ years in ministry. However, I talk to a lot of pastors, most of which would pastor small churches, and there is an overwhelming feeling of discouragement and a lack of confidence. It appears that their hope is dwindling

In my new book, Hidden Faces, one of the things I explore is defining ourselves as either a small church or prominent church pastor and how it has detrimental effects on our identity. The state of your church does not change how God views you.

Saying all this, I believe it is sad that we praise and honour the large and never acknowledge the sacrifice and important pastoral work of the small. I once heard Karl Vaters say that the large church is Ikea and the small church is a Starbucks. Both are great but they are different.

I think about how sad it is that there are a group of people serving God to the best of their capacity who feel as though what they do no longer matters to the broader church. These men and women have dedicated their lives to the greatest message of hope in the world, they have sacrificed and lived on little. Some have moved to communities where everyone else is running out, and many are one of the very few spiritual lights in their communities, and they feel ignored. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking about one better than the other. I believe it is about honour. We need to say thank you to the big and thank you to the small. We need to figure out how to help each other. After all, we are all doing kingdom work.

I think that instead of heaping shame (whether it be perceived or not) on why they are the size they are or offering them “advice” on how they can break the next growth barrier. Maybe, we could encourage.

Thank you for being faithful when others would have turned.

Thank you for ministering to people who would never dawn the door of the closest large church.

Thank you for standing in the gap in a community where there is very little light.

Maybe what others should do is ask, how can we help the dreams this pastor has in his heart for their community become a reality? After all, aren’t we all playing for the same team? Augustine once wrote, “…the life of bodies is superior to bodies themselves.” Though their flock maybe smaller is not the value of the people, they are serving just as vital. We need big and small in order to reach all people. Ikea and Starbucks serve different functions according to peoples needs.

I’ve heard it said, do for the one what you wish you could do for the many. It is because the smaller church pastor stands in the gap that half the worlds Christians have a someone to do for the one. The small church pastor can provide specialized care. 

Small church pastor, you are not insignificant, what you do has value.

Small church pastor, thank you. Keep the faith. Fight the good fight. You are not forgotten. God wants to change your community, and he would love to do it through your church.

Thank you, from a small church pastor.

Check out the resources used in this post

Augustin Confessions.p.42