Updated: The Episcopal Church has produced advertising that can be used as post cards, print ads or billboards. Are they clever and witty…or snide and unwelcoming?
Adam Trambley at Black Giraffe is not impressed.
Earlier this week, I received our diocese’s e-newsletter that included a link to camera-ready evangelism materials produced by the Episcopal Church that can be used by congregations for postcards, ads and billboards. Since I am always looking for helpful evangelism tools (what parish isn’t?), I clicked the link. I moved quickly from shock to disappointment to anger that our church is still promoting messages that make sharing the good news with unchurched people more difficult.
Here are a couple examples, and why we aren’t using them.
“Summer sermons will be shorter. Priests play golf too.” I can’t help but rephrasing this ad as, “Our preaching is such a waste of your time that in the summer, when your leisure time is more valuable, we’ll waste less of it.” If our preaching isn’t helping people live out their Christian lives in important ways, then we shouldn’t be preaching. If it is, let’s advertise that: “Hear a message that will change your life before your Sunday morning tee time.”
“Why not surprise us and show up this Sunday?” When I showed this one to my deacon, he couldn’t believe it. “We pray daily for those who need a relationship with Christ to come to us,” he said. “We’re expecting them when they come, we’re not surprised.” Really, would anyone want to go to a church, or anywhere else, that would be surprised and unprepared for their arrival? Many people don’t return to a church they visit for precisely that reason. When we hung the banner off the side of our church last year, we included our purpose statement (Worship God, Care for People, Grow as Christians) with the message “We’re Expecting You” underneath.
Neither is Mark Harris, who imagines getting one of these in the mail:
How long would it take for it to go into the trash? Well, here in Preludium land, not long at all. The card borders on snide, but more it is wrong headed.
Snide because “why not surprise us and show up…” is a bit petulant and unwelcoming. And more, the movement of evangelism is not to bring people into the Church but to bring the Gospel out into the world. If the Good News is out there, then we really don’t need to be worried about people in church. “The Episcopal Church welcomes you” is OK I suppose, but better we find people, who because of our actions in the world, say “The Episcopal Church welcome here.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people put a sign on their window that said that! Well, dream on.
The feedback on twitter is not so positive, either.
This alternative from the Diocese of Ohio has been suggested:
Update: The postcards were taken down this afternoon. The following appears on the website:
Many thanks to those of you who have given us constructive comments on the billboard and postcard suggestions we had posted. We agree that the concept needs more work, and we are going back to the drawing board with your ideas in mind. We sincerely appreciate your feedback and encourage you to keep sharing your ideas and, when appropriate, your criticisms. We take them all seriously.