If I get one more of these church mailings with stock pictures of people on it who don't really attend the church being advertised, I think I'm going to throw something!
You know what I'm talking about, right? Everybody knows these mailings are mass produced by some company in Nashville, and splashed with pictures of beautiful people (from diverse ethnic groups, of course - we wouldn't want the public to think our churches are segregated!) all full of smiles because they go to this particular church, which isn't true in the first place. The name of the church in question is just imprinted on the front, with their service times stamped on the back - right next to the name of the pastor's hip-sounding upcoming sermon series.
I don't know, I guess I'm a lot less impressed by this kind of thing than I used to be. I know churches send these things out because it's tons cheaper and more professional-looking than something created in-house. Heck, I've done it myself. But, c'mon. Is the image of church we want to saturate our communities with THIS kind of church...where members are in-right, out-right, upright, downright happy all the time? Do we really want to pay an advertising agency to make us look hip and diverse and happily married and child-friendly, when the fact is we are usually a few steps behind last year's trend, we're fairly homogenous, divorce is as prevalent among Christians as among non-Christians, and we are more likely to push our kids to get involved in sports than in Sunday School?
I think the best way for a church to get its name out there is to follow the counsel of the prophet Micah, who told us "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God" (Micah 6:8). Maybe the best church advertisements are honesty, repentance, and kindness. Sure, we will always need to promote our church activities; we want the public to know what we've got going on. But let's level with them. We're not beautiful people. We're wounded and broken and searching just like they are. If we have the answer, it's because of grace. As Steve Brown says, "We're beggars telling other beggars where to find bread."