catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 2 :: 2003.01.17 — 2003.01.30


Marketing the church

"It lay on the counter and glowed. I know that sounds a little crazy but that's what it was like! It was there for two weeks and my wife and I read it from front to back numerous times. We finally decided it was time to attend this church."

These are the words of an unchurched person who received a flier from Crossroads in the mail. He had no background in church. His wife had some distant and not so good memories of church growing up. Their teenage son had never attended church.

Today, some five years later, the father is an elder at Crossroads Church. The whole family speaks with excitement of the transformation that has taken place in their lives since they first received the mailing. When I hear them talk about the paper glowing on the counter I know that what they saw and did not recognize at the time was the Holy Spirit moving in their hearts and calling them to find rest for their souls.

I could share so many other stories of people whose journey to Christ at Crossroads began with a flier, a trip through the Yellow Pages, a visit to the website, or a billboard on the side of the road. Many of the testimonies shared at our new members' banquets begin with the words "I got the flier in the mail" or "I saw the Yellow Pages ad." The simple fact is God has used these simple and sometimes costly means to draw people to Himself.

Crossroads has historically spent from $5,000 to $10,000 every year on advertising. Through our ads, we work hard to help people understand a few key things:

  1. We are open to new people.
  2. We are church for people who haven't been to church in a while.
  3. We have programs for their children.
  4. We are rooted in the historic Christian faith.

Obviously an eight-page piece could say a whole lot more than a Yellow Pages ad, but we don't have the space to explain everything. We have found it is most important that people have as many of their unnecessary fears assuaged when they come to church for the first time.


Knowing how to dress, knowing they won't be singled out and introduced as a visitor, knowing we have many other visitors every Sunday, knowing they don't have to know our lingo or how to find Habakkuk can be important for people who need a place to start. It is not our intention in advertising to present the Gospel. Our intention is to invite them to a place where they can discover who God is, in a way that they will understand. Evangelism is a process not an event. The journey to understanding will take time. Advertising is simply an invitation to experience God's presence in church and begin the journey of discovery. That is an important distinction. Advertising is not evangelism. However, advertising can be a very effective way to invite people to hear the Good News and experience its effects in the life of the church.

Some might say that advertising the church can be a bait and switch. In other words, we tell people it is a "safe place" to "come as you are" when the church is really a dangerous place where God radically changes who we are! Advertising is a medium whose intrinsic nature is misleading. You can't tell the whole story in a sound byte. Whether you are advertising a new car or recruiting for the army. Maybe the army should have a disclaimer in their ads-WARNING: You will be expected to kill people and you may experience a unique hell on earth! Maybe the church should put a warning label on its advertising as well-WARNING: You will be expected die to self, give 10%, be invaded by the Holy Spirit and have your priorities completely rearranged! I may consider that for our next mailing.

But the fact remains, advertising is severely limited in how much it can communicate. Can we adequately balance the blessings and the curses, heaven and hell, justice and mercy in our advertising? No. As a church we need to be keenly aware of the medium we use to represent Christ to the world. Recognizing its limited nature and its tendency to skew reality we must carefully and creatively find ways announce to the world that they are invited to a place on earth where God dwells.

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