A few weeks ago, I spoke at Northside Bible Church in Perth, a small, independent, and somewhat conservative church in the northern suburbs, whose pastor is my dad (hence the invitation). They have deliberately chosen the name “Bible Church” to express their primary focus, and use the Bible as the centre of all they do (and the King James version too!)
In my meanderings through various fundamentalist circles, especially in the southern United States, I have found the Bible used extensively in the advertising material for a variety of churches. From the roadside billboards to church signs and promotional material, pictures of the Bible and Bible-related slogans feature prominently. I’ve included a few here.
At one stage in American history, using the Bible as a marketing tool would have been a recommended strategy since the Bible commanded respect and was a sign of integrity, honesty and truth. In our present culture, the Bible no longer holds the same prestigious position as it once did (one can argue that it never has been revered to the same degree in Australia). Thus, it seems to me, that use of the Word of God as a promotional tool only serves the purpose of attracting the converted–or, at least, those who respect the Bible–to your church.
You may argue that it is not the Bible that has lost respect, but those who preach and claim to follow its precepts who have lost credibility. This may be true, yet, in my daily dealings with students and their families, I have seen firsthand the attitude towards the Bible and attest to the fact that the Bible has largely lost its place of honour and is now just another religious book. Even among the religious, those who use the Bible are seen as fanatics and fringe-dwellers.
To the outsider–the unitiated–slogans, clichés and advertising which feature the Bible–will be at the best seen as irrelevant. It really appeals only to those initiated ones, who hear the phrase or see the picture, and nod in agreement, “Yep, that’s what we’re about!”
It makes me wonder for whom is the church advertising? Does it really want just more of the same? Or is there a larger vision–a more holistic view–which should be seen as its centre? I’d be interested in reading your thoughts.