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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Church-Branding Overwhelms the Cross

Jesus' object lesson in Mark 11:15-19 about the ineffectiveness of religious ritual continues to stir in me because I recognize that church attendance, just like temple worship in Jesus' day, can provide "a den" (a refuge, a hideout) for people to take cover under the banner of: "Me & God are good...because I'm a pretty good person who goes to church." Worse yet, those of us who are pastors, elders, or lay leaders are prone to propagate this twisted idea - even if unconsciously. Thus, the irony: We hurt the church we love by spending ourselves to promote the church we love. We ought not be about "our church" preservation and "our church" promotion - but Jesus-preservation (preserving his teaching) and Jesus-promotion (promoting His name).

JR Kerr provides a "gut-check" to every church, including ours, in this little article: "Church-Branding Overwhelms the Cross." (A side note: I met JR Kerr at a Chicago Cubs baseball game - in the bleachers of Wrigley field. I kept in touch with him for a while and he helped me during a pivotal time in my ministry. A gracious and godly dude). His question toward the end is particularly challenging: "When people think of your church, what do you think they more readily think of, the cross or your brand?" Recently, a new Christian who attends our church turned to me and a friend and asked: "After all these years walking with God, how do you guys keep the fire going?" Let's just say neither of us respond firstly with: "A firm Commitment to our local church." Rather we replied similarly with: "A daily, return trip to the cross of Jesus Christ" (see Luke 7:47; II Corinthians 4:11; Galatians 2:20). Let's point people toward the fuel that will sustain the fire!

Why do people get so "my-church-promoty"? Various reasons I'm sure but one comes readily to mind: The Fear of getting left behind. Here are some fears that go to work on us who rightly love (but perhaps over-love) our church: "Is God moving in our church? If not, will others leave us for a newer and more exciting work? If He is working, I'm pretty weak and inadequate: Won't He choose to use others and leave me and my puppet ministry in the dust?" However, God promises a couple things concerning the local expression of His universal church - (1) He has every desire and motivation to advance and build His church (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:22; 1 Peter 2:5) (2) He wants to use your God-given gifts to do so (Ephesians 4:7, 4:12-14). 

I pray God uses your holding on with confidence to these two promises to free you and your church to be all about speaking and living the message of "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) while letting Him take care of the advancing and the using. He says He will. He can be trusted to do so.

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