I have been to the conferences that tell you how to market the church, and have seen the efforts by churches in the community to do so. However, beyond informational uses such as a Yellow Page ad, sign in the front, or a webpage, we have not made advertising a big effort of ours during the history of our congregation. I am uneasy with promoting the church, as the marketing efforts that are commonly used by churches appear to practice the oneupmanship that is contrary to our Lord’s injunction to be humble and not seek the chief seat. As the Cambridge Declaration states, “In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God.”
But with just over two weeks remaining before our Hope for Eternity Outreach on April 23-27 will be held, as you can see below we are pulling out all the stops in advertising to get the word out. Let me tell you some of the things we are doing, then end by briefly explaining why I believe this is different than marketing the church.
Ten of us watched Saturday as Robert Jones went “way up in the middle of the air” on a mechanical lift to hang the banner pictured above on the side of our building announcing Hope for Eternity. This banner is designed similarly to the billboards that are now around town.
4000 copies of the premier edition of our newsletter have almost all been distributed in neighborhoods, workplaces, on campuses, sent via mail, etc. We have also uploaded it online, as we are seeking to combine traditional media with old forms. For instance, we are asking the young people involved in the campus ministry to create an event on Facebook and use their walls to make it known to their friends.
By the way, many have commented on the incredible graphic artwork of our newsletter, billboards, and other pieces of media. Susan Spiegel has given her efforts and talents to producing these high-quality works. Having a talented graphic artist in our midst has been a blessing!
Our college students surveyed 100 students at IUK using the survey below. One of them will be writing an article for the school paper to publish the results. Even if those who took the survey or read the article do not come to the outreach, we hope they will be stirred into considering what takes place after this life.
1. Which statement best describes what you think about hell?
A) Hell is a place of eternal judgment.
B) Hell is a place where I will have a good time with my friends.
C) Hell does not exist.
D) Hell is a waiting place to some other part of the afterlife.
E) Other: Hell is _______________.
2. If a person wanted to go to heaven, how do you think he could get there?
A) He should try to be a good person.
B) Everyone is going to heaven.
C) All he needs to do is be faithful to his religion.
D) He should trust in Jesus Christ to get there.
E) I’m not sure.
3. How will our actions in this life impact the next? A) Our efforts in this world will help us move to a higher level.
B) We will be judged by God for how we lived our lives.
C) Our good works will outweigh the bad.
D) Since there is no afterlife, our good works just help others now.
E) Other: _______________.
4. What do you think will happen to you when you die?
A) I’ll go to heaven.
B) I’ll go to hell.
C) I’ll no longer exist.
D) I do not know.
E) I do not care.
5. If what you believed about the next life was wrong, would you want to know?
We have recorded a radio ad done by a young boy in the congregation who has demonstrated a real heart for this outreach. Several times a day during the outreach week it will be airing, with him asking the listeners questions about eternity and inviting them to come.
I could share other things, but back to the question at hand. Is not all this just a slick marketing campaign by the church? Perhaps some will accuse us of that. Yet I see a vast difference between marketing the church and advertising the gospel. Advertising can be used for self-promotion, but it is better used to serve others by making them aware of what they need. With the opportunity for the community to hear Pastor Ted Donnelly from Ireland preach three times on the topic of hell and twice on heaven, we want to do everything possible to let people know they need to hear these massages.
Afterall, we may not be able to perform signs and wonders as the apostle of old did to draw people to the gospel, but can we not use signs to encourage people to wonder about their eternal destiny?