Billboards and brochures. The church is typically promoted like a commodity or a club—it is a thing you can “own” in some sense or a thing you join. The sloganeering for the promotion is either “you need this” or “join us.” We tend to just accept this as normal and appropriate because in a consumerist society it is how we approach everything.
But studying the record of the early church I have noticed something interesting: the church did not promote the church. It did not market itself at all. Not that the church was not promoting something…it just was not marketing itself.
Certainly people came into the church. Evidently people knew about the church—so it was “out there” and available for consideration in some way. But the program of the church was not one of self promotion. The contemporary concern of “neighborhood visibility” was not an issue…after all, the church met in homes. Churches did not self-brand with names, slogans, billboards, mission statements, and t-shirts to get the message out.
Nevertheless…the church had a message. And it promoted that message. The message was the Kingdom of God. The book of Acts begins with (1:5) and ends with (28:31) the promotion of the Kingdom. This was the core of the message of the church (Acts 8:12, 19:8, 20:25, etc). To promote God’s Kingdom is to invite others to transfer their allegiance to the King. It is a personal and spiritual invitation.
The church is the mechanism for Kingdom promotion. But by promoting the church itself and making the church our message, we introduce a number of confusions. One of those confusions is that our job is just to bring people to church. More and more I am seeing that people think that inviting people to visit church is evangelism…but in Acts evangelism is the promotion of the Kingdom of God wherever the church (believers) may be. The church is how they stayed charged up and informed on how to do this work. The church was the training place, the point of accountability, the coaching program for the outworking of the project to promote God’s Kingdom. The church was not the message, King Jesus was the message.
Naturally I am not suggesting that church promotion is wrong. My concern is that the modern trend to promote the church may relieve the sense of personal burden in the individual believer to share Christ and promote His Kingdom. After all, if church promotion is a line-item in the budget, it must be taken care of. The confusion is that church promotion is somehow evangelism…and it is not.
By the way, this evangelistic enterprise in Scripture was not accomplished by crusades in stadiums, Christian movies, Christian novels, or even by evangelistic preaching on Sunday mornings in church! It was accomplished by the proclaiming of Jesus by the individual believer who is “prepared to give an answer” for the hope that lies within him (see Paul’s example, Acts 28:30-31).
Promoting the wrong thing may confuse evangelism. As awesome as Mill Creek Community Church is…it is not what I am called to promote. Mill Creek is not the Gospel. And it is not the Kingdom of God. If a person does not find Jesus Christ he will never want or understand the church.
You are the church, called to promote the Kingdom of God. Who have you shared King Jesus with lately?