Cinematic church

I just read the article entitled “By your adverts ye shall be known” on the BBC News website. The article was interesting, but the comments really got me going…

Let’s start with one that makes at least one good point…

“This is quite comic – another one of those gimmicks that church-goers might think is ‘cool’ but to outsiders has the same air of desperation that characterises much of the church’s public-facing work. Also, I can’t help but think that if a left-wing revolutionary group were using Christian imagery to promote their messages, the church would be in uproar. Lenin on a cross, anyone?” Keith, London, UK

Firstly, the good bit – yeah, I think if there was Lenin on a cross that people would kick up a fuss, so maybe this advertising is inappropriate, so I’m not going to defend it on those terms. But desperation characterising the church? I guess that’s right in one sense too – Christians are desperate (or should be) to share their relationship with God with other people and to help people. But I don’t think that’s the sense that it’s intended here… I think they feel like the church is on its last legs and is trying to stop itself from dying. That’s just not happening, there is a reduction in church-going in this country (although arguably not in the number of Christians) but world-wide I believe it’s on the increase… And certainly the church I go to is not desperate for survival – it’s desperate for more space to fit all the people in that want to come!

“The only thing that bothers me is that the money might have been put to better use. I recall a Christian event called Soul in the City which stunned London residents with the hard work of Christians who were simply willing to give some time and effort to cleaning up neglected areas in the community. Are adverts like these going to have the same effect? I worry that the church nowadays isn’t willing to dedicate the same kind of effort that Jesus and the early church dedicated to their cause.” Helen, Rochester, UK

I’m not sure where this person is coming from – is she a Christian or not? If she is a Christian, then I guess it could be legitimate worries about mis-use of money… however I’m pretty sure that most Christians would see promoting the Christian faith as a worthwile thing to spend money on. If she’s not a Christian, then who is she to presume to tell the church how to spend their money? It seems bizarre to me that there are quite a few people out there who expect the church to behave in a certain way and display certain values despite those people not holding those values themselves! I think a lot of these people have mis-conceptions about what the church stands for. However, it is true that there are a lot of apathetic, lazy Christians out there… I count myself among them sometimes.

“Unfortunately, the narrow minded, stultifying reality of most English churches hardly matches the dynamic, revolutionary image they’re trying to push. If they spent more time helping the poor, campaigning for social justice, doing the things they’re meant to be doing and less time self-consciously trying to get bums on seats or serving stale biscuits and weak tea to defenceless pensioners, they might find things work out for them a whole lot better.” Toby, Canterbury

Here’s another person presuming to tell the church what to do whilst being himself narrow-minded! I wonder how many churches he’s really been to, or has he, perchance, formed those opinions from the odd trip to the local church whilst at primary school and then what you see on TV of the portrayal of church. He does, of course, have a good point – that the church should be out there be doing what Jesus did… and some churches are (I’d include mine with that) but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“I think this corporitsation of religion is disgusting. Church is a symbol of peoples faith. It has nothing to do with modernity, and certainly not this kind of marketing. I am one of the younger generation of Church goers that this is being aimed at. All these campaigns would cause me to do is question the need to attend a church if it is not ‘churchy’. It’s the people that make the church not the building or the history/achitecture. If young people have faith then the church will automatically modernise to suit the people of today.” Sam, Norfolk

Religion not being part of modernity? Sounds weird from someone who later says that “the church will automatically modernise”. Perhaps this is the church “automatically modernising”?

“As a vicar’s son, an atheist and a former ad agency guy, I can’t help feeling the church are wasting money putting up big posters or running cinema campaigns. Jesus lead by example – whether you believe in his divinity or not, in fact whether you believe he was real or not – the character was a man of action and strong words. His parables are not just cute stories; he uses them to illustrate powerful messages. People listened to him because he was a compelling speaker with a message that seemed relevant. What the church needs is better speakers – more committed activists – (or simply more obviously ‘holy’ people like Brother Roger from Taizé) then people will come to listen to them and to learn from them. They also need to get away from this medieval concept of the church building as the only place where religion is relevant. Look at most evangelical branches of religion and they have their meetings in public or in people’s homes not state institutions. Stop copying Kellogg and Coca-Cola – you have work to do!” Huw Sayer, London UK

Good points here – Jesus leading by example & the church building being the only place where Christianity is relevant.
Bad point – “speakers” today do not generally get heard very easily, and when they do, there’s normally marketing around them so that people know it’s going on…

(Yes, I’m running out of steam, but I hope you’re finding it interesting)

“I like the ad campaign but am concerned at the representation of the Alpha Course(s). Speaking from my own experiences, and those of friends who have attended these courses, I would express my concern at the decidedly ‘un-open mindedness’ of these courses. While I accept they are built upon Christian viewpoints, I had expected something rather less rigid and more open to questioning, philosophising even.” Guy, Horsham

I think that’s a shame that this guy feels this way. Alpha is often described as an opportunity to investigate faith, but it does have a large bias towards Christianity. But a well-run Alpha course should allow everyone to explore their beliefs without pressure to conform to Christianity. I think some Christians are afraid of doing a truly free-form Alpha course, because they feel they need to keep people heading the right direction… I like engaging with people’s beliefs and, of course, challenging any mis-conceptions they have about Christianity. I’m a free-form kinda guy 🙂

“Church advertising is a pet hate of mine. The smug cleverness with which it is presented usually comes across as desperate. “The Church isn’t the same without ‘U’.” Who exactly are these adverts targeted at? What next? Jesus in black silhouette on a lime green background, his crown of thorns in white relief with the slogan “Think Different”? The problem is that religion isn¿t a brand, it can’t be cool and hip, because it¿s a personal philosophy.” Rory, Edinburgh, UK

Heh, yeah, some church advertising sucks. Ship of Fools has a great collection of cheesy ones, but I can’t find it right now (they also have a 3D Church… of fools)
Religion can’t be cool and hip because it’s a personal philosophy… that’s quite a big leap – religion and philosophy are different things I’d say. And also who said a personaly philosophy can’t be cool & hip? There seem to be a fair few philosophies that are “cool and hip” these days – like “get what you can, whilst you can”, or “what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger”, or “put yourself first – no-one else will”, or “if you can get away with it, it’s not wrong” … seem pretty popular those ones to me.

Anyway enough ranting away at you… sorry!

Interestingly (and possibly irrelevantly), I was also reading Nick’s LiveJournal and he wrote about Sunday trading a while back… but I think you need to register with him to see it… you can give it a go anyway if you like.

Author: Alex

I am X3JA

6 thoughts on “Cinematic church”

  1. I’m not too sure I understand what you mean by a truly free-form Alpha course? Please explain!

    On the general theme of advertising: millions of individuals on the ground spreading a message to their friends will always be a much more effective strategy than a highly centralised, flashy, advertising campaign. I think Bowling Alone has some stats comparing the likelihood of someone to change their mind in response to adverts compared to in respone to conversations with friends.

  2. I just left the following comment on the BBC website:
    “I agree that adverts are a good way of bringing the idea of going to church, or investigating Christianity, into people’s consciousnesses, but it is worth noting that the vast majority of new Christians/church-goers get involved through either a friend, colleague or family member. I think it is more important to encourage and enable existing Christians to spread the word within their own lives and communities than it is to spend huge amounts of money on adverts which may do more harm than good. If we lead by example, we will draw positive attention to our faith and beliefs in a way that not even the cleverest slogan could do.”

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