So I can honestly say that I haven’t really been a fan of the United Methodist Church’s ad campaign “ReThink Church” since it began. There is just something about these sleek and professional ads that make me leery of the fact that such ads are supposed to represent the denomination I am a part of. Have any of you seen these ads:
Now before I continue let me offer a few words to preface my feelings about these ads. First, I think there is something to be said about church being a verb. That’s a great notion and one that should inspire the United Methodist Church to become more socially active. Second, I probably chose their worst ad to display here. But there are many and they might be judged a little better. I chose this to help better clarify a greater point. So now that I’ve said that…
Do you notice something missing from these ads for the United Methodist Church? Maybe God??? It feels like a little bait-and-switch to advertise yourself as this inclusive social club only to surprise folks at the door when they realize it’s a church they are going to. Please note my sarcasm there. I also have a problem with this strange notion that the UMC thinks people are naive enough to come to a Sunday morning worship based on some quaint ad about how church is really like a basketball game.
I also would like to ask higher-uppers in the UMC if they think disguising church as something ordinary will actually inspire people to get involved. If church were just another basketball game then why should I get up at such an irrational time on a Sunday morning to be a part of it? Can’t I just stay with the things already a part of my life that let me sleep in on Sundays? In other words, if church were actually like everything else in my life or on TV then why come?
Why can’t the church just offer, well, God? Why do we have to trust modern technology and sleek ad campaigns to do our job as God’s witnesses in the world? Church is different. So what? We in the church might be surprised how many people are actually looking for something different these days.
Don’t get me wrong. The United Methodist Church needs a jump start in expressing our voice for social concerns. But I don’t really think we will EVER do that with any kind of theological integrity through ads like Rethink Church. In a world where people suffer from so many social ills I have a hard time believing that being a part of a basketball game or a daycare center can offer people real hope or salvation. They can be means by which God’s message is better conveyed. But they can’t EVER be a substitute for what the Church is about at its core. We dare to worship a peculiar God who chose to reveal God’s self through a peculiar man from Nazareth. And this man died on a cross for people who were too busy to leave the ordinary aspects of their life to join his social revolution. And this man rose from the dead for people who for the most part were too busy with activities to notice. And our hope is in that cross and empty tomb. And yes, such hope is lived out when church becomes a verb and when it is at it’s most inclusive state. But we can’t forget what makes us unique in the first place as the Church. So forgive me if I don’t think quaint activities like basketball games and daycares could ever to fully articulate the meaning of Church.