Today I had this interesting theoretical (but not really) conversation with a Pastor friend of mine about how we do (and SHOULD) communicate Christianity. This is an area of passion for me and these days I'm realizing that Churches are missing the boat on external communication. In fact I'm considering freelancing/offering seminars to churches on media strategy, public relations and giving Jesus new PR. This is not a fully finished or complete argument you'll read below... but it's a jump-in point. Don't be thrown off or be offended by talking about a faith as a product to be marketed because this merely creating a context to objectively analyze an important issue. Love to hear you thoughts:
Pastor D: What if we "marketed" Christianity for what it is... ancient, demanding, profoundly out of sync with pretty much every culture on the planet?
Dave: As a marketer... I can work with that. It's got a "USP" (unique selling proposition) an audience, a platform and a demand. AND it's laden with testimonials of it's success combined with a competitor that is struggling to prove profitable. I can work with that
Pastor D: I think true Christianity is a paradox. A combination of the pearl of great price and stumbling stone of offense.
Dave: As a product... all you need is something unique, desirable and attainable. It needs new PR, but the product is solid. Buckleys sells cough syrup by saying it tastes awful and it works. Even perceived negatives of products can be communicated well to make people consider buying it
Pastor D: Only if most of our public faces on TV didn't look like greasy snake oil salesmen. But I think the place to win souls is not over the TV anyway, it's face to face in the marketplace. Not the same thing.
Dave: I'm platform agnostic when it comes to Christian communication. The medium never was the message. Good, strategic communicators can master the medium to make sure the MESSAGE is the message. I dig the multi-platform approach. Ads aren't bad... BAD ads are bad when they don't think what they are doing through as A PART of a communications plan. The problem is when we hope that A MEDIUM will be the answer... including JUST preaching in the church.
Pastor D: "The problem is when we hope that A MEDIUM will be the answer." Interesting quote. There was a time I thought (in error) that just the right worship song would spark revival. I began to realize that the song was irrelevant, it was the right kind of worship that matters to God. I think it's like that with Christian communication too. Some people can wield tech & truth and powerfully impact their generation. The slap chop commercials worked because everyone knew it was a joke, but felt they were insiders on the joke.
Dave: Last year on Mad Men... Don Draper said something profound.
"If you don't like what they are saying about you... change the conversation"
I think Christians feel like they are bound by the chatter that comes from the PR created by the negatives surrounding their faith... and sometimes subsequently become adversarial and often even negative ourselves in rebuttal... instead of taking control of the message about something that is SO deep and rich and beautiful. Consider all the muse that is spun into internal inspiring stories ... and then fall flat on the outside because we're intimidated and aren't used to confidently telling this story strategically! We CAN change the conversation through action, communication and telling the story with wisdom. Big churches spend lots on tech and some even on Evangelism... but often ignore telling "The Story" publicly. I'm actually considering starting to offer PR seminars for churches who have never even written a press release or thought of a story-telling campaign to begin to change the conversation about God, his attributes and His church in their cities. It's only out of sync with culture because we've taken it out of the cultural mix through laziness and thoughtlessness.
Pastor D: I think there are few experiences more rewarding than exploding people's perception of the church by doing extravagant or loving things that are outside the box of conventional church. I remarked to our board last night that a huge paradigm shift is happening in our church, the people are beginning to define ministry as something that happens OUTSIDE the church walls. That pretty much is the great commission anyways!
Dave: It's not about A church... it's about THE Church. And it's a high calling.
So how do you "Tell the old old story?"