Last week the ELCA announced the launch of a brand campaign, which immediately caught my attention. You can view all of the ads that the ELCA will be running in various television, print, outdoor, and online advertisements by clicking here. I must say that as far as church advertisements go, these are actually pretty good. The advertisements are quite kerygmatic in nature, proclaiming the work being done in the ELCA rather than trying to entice people to join our churches. If I were going to advertise a church, I would likely take a similar approach. Of course, the question becomes whether I would advertise at all.
However, there were some interesting comments made in the press release regarding this brand campaign:
The purpose of the ELCA brand campaign is to grow awareness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and inspire members to invite others to a worship service.
We could debate whether “growing awareness” has anything to do with evangelism or mission, but I really caught on to the assertion that these advertisements were meant to “inspire members to invite others to a worship service.” The reason that I am so intrigued by this is because the goal is completely separated from the means. The brand campaign focuses solely on the work being done by the ELCA on behalf of God (“Gods work. Our hands.”): feeding the homeless, training literacy to African women, providing medical training, rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. How this missional emphasis in the advertisements would inspire regular members to invite people to sit in a sanctuary and listen to a sermon and sing to an organ is beyond me. Are we still caught in the mindset that inviting people to a worship service is what is meant when Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”?
I would have rather seen the money spent on these advertisements go towards grants that inspire and facilitate the kind of missional acts of service that are highlighted in the campaign. Churches who can barely afford to pay a pastor might be able to feed the hungry in their town, to train people in a trade, or to offer financial counseling and resources in these economic times. Would that not also grow awareness of the ELCA and inspire people to serve, love, and sacrifice for one another?