The other day I received an email from someone telling me his marketing secret. His advice? Don’t sell your company, tell the story of your community. His theory was that branding and marketing get it wrong by trying to tell you how awesome they are, what awards they’ve won, and how they are the only thing for you.
A better alternative he suggests, is for the company to tell you a story about yourself. If they know your story, and you’re the hero, you’re more likely to listen, and more likely to buy.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I think that has often been true of the way we’ve done church in the past.
We’ve created bigger buildings, structures, programs, and plans to showcase how awesome our churches are. We hire superstar pastors with charisma, a great smile, and slicked back hair to complement the rockstar worship leader that perform as well as any Rolling Stones concert.
In short, we’ve done what his email suggests that businesses have done wrong: tooted our own horn a little too much.
We’ve neglected to tell the story of our community and instead tried to brag about ourselves: our church is better looking, richer, and more awesome than other churches, come find out Sunday at 10am!
And the community and larger culture has slowly learned to tune us out. As problems and social issues crept into our neighborhoods, we refused to listen or act and left others to deal wit their ‘own’ problems while our churches put on the facade of perfection and awesomeness. While our neighbors went hungry, we built reserve storages of pews and fellowship centers. As they lost hope amid high crime and gentrification, we paved bigger parking lots and hired private security firms to police the grounds.
And it’s why the institutional church is not only struggling, but failing in so many areas, and why something new is needed.
The missional church movement is (or at least should be) primarily about storytelling. It’s about sharing the story of a God who sends, calls, and redeems. It’s finding the story of your community, and sharing it. What are the highs? What are the lows? Where is God working and moving, and what are you going to do about it (how are you going to find your place in the story?)
I’m not sure what the best marketing approach is, I have little to no interest in designing, branding, and selling a product; but I do see the need for a church culture change that strips itself of celebrity following and works harder to equip the greater body of saints for effective storytelling and missional discipleship.
Today is part one in a series on celebrity status and the church. Part two will run tomorrow.