The High Cost of Church: Why are we Advertising?

Last week, I asked the question is it okay for churches to advertise? I first off want to thank everyone for their input into the subject matter. There was some great discussion on the blog post and great conversations in addition throughout the week.

With the impending “hard launch” of Fellowship White Rock, I really do want to be seeking the Lord about what is right and what is wrong with church advertisement. In discussing this with others and looking through people’s comments, there seemed to be a general presupposition that basic advertisement for a church is fine. People can’t come to something they don’t know about. Jesus sent twelve disciples out telling people about the kingdom of God. When he healed the man with the demon, he told him to go out into the nearby villages and tell them what happened to him. Jesus used the common media of the day (word of mouth and disciples), sent them to the places with the most visibility (synagogues and the Temple), and got his intended return on investment (most places he went already knew who he was because of the “advertisement” of his disciples going before him).

So when a church sends out a mailer or does a billboard or has a website, at least in its most basic form, they are doing something Jesus did too. They are using the common media of the day, displaying it in public places, so that people might be made aware of Jesus. There is no point in hating something current just because it is current.

As I have thought through the issue this week, two things continue to come to my mind. Is the money spent on church advertisement worth it? And what is our true expected ROI? To answer the first question, I need to answer the second one.

What do we truly hope to accomplish by church advertisement? The average church spends 85% of their annual budget on serving the needs of their existing members. This includes salaries, building costs, and small groups or Sunday school materials (to name a few). 22% of church budgets are spent on updating building costs. In contrast, only 5% is used in supporting overseas missions or evangelism campaigns. The spending habits of the church seem to reflect an unfortunate shift in the motivation of many churches. Churches have moved from the “movement” phase, to the “organization” phase. They have moved from existing for the sake of expanding the kingdom to existing for the sake of maintaining existence.

What troubles me about church advertisement is not that they are advertising, but that often times the motivation for advertising is not for the sake of expanding the kingdom, but for getting the right kind of people in their pews to tithe a certain amount, so they can fund their new building project. Church costs a lot of money. Many larger churches now have annual budgets over 1 million dollars. Likewise, churches spend a lot of money on advertisement to maintain these large budgets.

This brings me to the next question.

Is it worth it? There is a common complaint amongst pastors in this down economy about people not giving enough. The belief is that if only people gave enough, then we could make an impact on world hunger and overseas evangelism. If only people gave even 10 percent, the mission of the church would be easily within our grasp. There is something to be said about church members not giving enough. However, I’m not convinced that is the real issue. I think all of us in ministry need to take a hard look at how we are spending the money we have already been given.

Advertisement is only worth it if the product we’re selling is Christ and his gospel. But if our motivations are anything less than that, we are nothing more than money lenders in the Temple.

Please be praying for me and the rest of the team as we move forward. Pray that we would not spend the churches money on anything that doesn’t ultimately serve his kingdom.


Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore

I love Ryan Adams…and Mandy Moore only if she is backing up Ryan Adams.

I know that I’m like a week behind on this viral video, but it’s well worth watching.

LeverageU at Rusty Taco

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know about an event I will be playing at next Tuesday. (This post is only relevant for those readers who live in Dallas, so if you don’t, kindly disregard this). LeverageU is a non-profit that helps you leverage things you do everyday to benefit those in need. My good friend Phil is heading this up and has asked me to play at this with my band. Basically, we will be at Rusty Taco from 7-10 hanging out and playing music, and for every $2 taco you buy, Rusty Taco will donate $1 to the No Hungry Child Campaign my church is doing.

I’m very proud of my friend Phil and the work he is doing. I would love to see you guys at the Rusty Taco this Tuesday (Nov. 9, 2010).

Question of the Week: What Role Should Advertisement Play in Church?

In January, Fellowship White Rock will begin its hard launch and move from developing the core team into being more intentional about engaging the community. As Gabe and I and the rest of the team begin to make preparations for the shift in our church, I’ve been forced to wrestle with this idea of advertisement in the church? If you asked me a year ago what I thought about advertisement in the church, I would have probably went off on some rant about the commercialism cancer eating away at the organ’s of God’s precious church, found a Christian bumper sticker to flip off, and then storm away. But now that we are in the position to try and get the word out about our churches, I am realizing the need to think more deeply about this issue.

America runs on advertisement. And yes, there is a part of my soul that mourns this reality. The manipulation of man’s depraved tendency for stuff for the sake of profit seems like a system built on exploitation. However, that is just the cynical way of looking at it. Events don’t happen the way they do in the “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, you need to tell people that it’s there if you want anybody to show up.

When it comes to advertisement in the church, there seems to be two different extremes:

1. Go all out! Buy the billboards, the radio spots, hire the best web guy, social media guy, get the best gadgets and shout from rooftops about the presence of your church or ministry. Nevermind the money it costs, ignore who is really profiting from the money spent, and hope that through advertisement, the world comes to know Christ.

2. Run away! Hide yourself in your rooms. Pray. Fast. Hope that people will somehow find their way to your gathering through visions and that the world will just be convicted of sins without our witness in the public.

Obviously, the above are extremes. But it nevertheless does need to be thought through. I found this interesting blog about church marketing called Church Marketing Sucks if you’re interested in further discussion.

What do you think? Is there an appropriate element to advertising in church? If so, what is the too far?

I’m looking forward to hearing your input and hope that it can help our team through our decisions about the issue as well!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” Acts 9:26

Every time I read the story of Paul’s conversion, I’m shocked. Literally two chapters before (Approximately 2-3 years earlier), Saul was overseeing the murder of Stephen and the imprisonment of many of the Christians in Jerusalem. On his way to Damascus, Jesus appears to him and completely transforms his life.

Since the narrative of Acts is fairly terse and spanning a number of years in a relatively short book, the drama of the book can easily be lost. Imagine one of the most loved and respected people in your current church was murdered publicly for what he believed. His wife lost a husband, his children lost a father, and even worse, the murderer was not brought to justice but rather applauded for his actions. He was your friend, maybe your mentor, and nothing will bring him back. Now imagine that murderer, two years later, sending you a letter asking permission to not only attend your church, but be supported and sent out by your church. This would be a nearly impossible situation to deal with.

But this is exactly what happens with Paul and the church of Jerusalem. Stephen was one of the most loved and respected men of the Jerusalem church. He was chosen as one of seven men to take charge of the care of orphans and widows and was unflinchingly bold when it came to declaring the gospel. And then he was murdered. And Paul was in charge of murdering him.

Paul’s return to Jerusalem after being trained and ministering in Damascus takes up such a short space in Acts, so the emotive complications of the situation is easily glossed over. The man who murdered Stephen and put friends and family members in jail was wanting to come and partake in communion with them. Paul wanted to break bread with Stephen’s family and friends, and they would have to pass the wine to the murderer and terror of the Jerusalem church.

I can’t imagine being in that situation.

But this story shows both the challenge and the awesome power of God’s grace. Becoming a Christian means sitting at the table with enemies, sharing resources with those who at one time harmed us. God’s grace does not discriminate because of worthiness. God in his providence chose to end Stephen’s ministry early and call the man who ended it to bring his Gospel to the Gentiles. That is how grace works.

The truth of the matter is, what Paul was to the Jerusalem church, we have all been to God. Paul later writes in Romans, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV) As hard as it is, we don’t get to choose who we allow to the table. We’re all at the table by grace.

Lord Jesus, You are the Mighty God who shows grace to the undeserving and mercy on the unrighteous. Please give us the grace to show others the same!


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