No, I haven’t sold out the blog yet.
Sometimes last year, I lamented the fact that the church used to make art.
The church was the center of culture. Now we just make advertisements, and we’re usually pretty lousy at it. Most of it amounts to questionable church marquees.
Before I went to seminary, I studied design. And the more I think about it, the more I’ve changed my mind. The fact is, I like advertisements…when they’re awesome and clever. Advertisements really can be modern art. It’s just that most of them aren’t. Most of them are irritating cartoons of bears talking about how amazing Charmin toilet paper feels. Great. I’ll remember that next time my talking pet bear needs to poop.
I’m still sad that the church doesn’t make art anymore, but even moreso that the same apathy seems to go for our advertising efforts.
Check out some of these amazingly compelling advertisements, crafted by master artists.
We Advertise, Whether We Want To or Not
Church people are funny. While thousands of advertisements are created every day, we can’t even decide that we should be advertising. We keep going around in philosophical circles about how Jesus isn’t a “product” to be marketed and monetized. The church stands for something so grand, that advertising is “beneath” it. Whenever some church tries to be creative, we inevitably get into some grand debate about whether it “belongs” in church.
Great, except that’s a totally moot point.
Whether we try to or not, we advertise. We brush it up with a holier sounding word, like “outreach.” Even if we’re not trying to do outreach, we are advertising with our buildings, our signs, and whatever half-hearted message we communicate.
We Let Others Advertise For Us
Politicians know that once they let their opponent define them, and they get on the defensive, they’re toast. Why can’t the church figure this out? While we’re minding our own business, hoping people will like us, we allow the world to define us, to constantly put us on the defensive. The most ridiculous cults always make the news. The only Christian pastors many people know of are the phonies on TV. Christians are always talking about how we need to break the negative perceptions that the world has of us.
We’re always on the defensive, because we let those negative perceptions fester. Our true message is not getting to people. All we do is put out fires and say, “Not all of us are like those stupid Christians!” Rather than just trying to break down negative perceptions when they pop up, we ought to be actively creating new perceptions.
And They’ll Know We Are Christians…How?
I know that advertising is an impersonal way to communicate. There is no substitute for one on one sharing and fellowship (referred to as ‘word of mouth’ in the ad biz.) But, consider this:
More people than ever have no clue about what Jesus is all about.
More people than ever do not have a Christian friend.
More people than ever will not go to church or listen to a Christian if confronted by one.
More people than ever consume more advertisements a day than ever.
And while millions of people get millions of ads a day, nudging them this way and that, what do they get from the church?
They are not hearing from us. They don’t even have the chance to ignore our message, because they aren’t hearing it. We expect them to come to us, check our tweets, listen to our podcasts. I’m a Christian and and can tell by looking at most church buildings that they probably aren’t a place I’d want to go. If we try to go to them, it usually means trying to insert ourselves where we don’t belong and looking foolish. A few of us can pull it off. Guys like Jay Bakker are the exception.
We don’t have thirty minutes with people to communicate the four spiritual laws. We don’t have ten minutes to tell people how much we love them. We have two seconds to nudge people toward Jesus while they’re riding the bus to work.
What we’re doing isn’t cutting it. If we’re going to do advertising, we can’t do it ourselves. We need to spend some of that money that we spend on buildings and shows for ourselves, and hire real artists to help us communicate with people we don’t know how to communicate with.
What do you think? Is the church above advertising? Is advertising a waste of time? Can advertisements truly be modern art, communicating the church’s message, the way sculptures and paintings used to?