I just saw a billboard promoting a particular church that said “church for the rest of us.” The sign also contained a picture of a very tattooed and pierced person. The idea that the sign was communicating was that the fringes of society not usually accepted in the church can find a place at our church. At first glance this might be an attractive way to let unchurched people know they are welcome at your church. But is this the idea that any church should be communicating?
There is a danger with this type of advertising. There is currently a divide in the church over what is acceptable when it comes to reaching the de-churched, the unchurched and the non-church attenders. But I think we can all agree that throwing our Christian brothers needlessly under the bus is not the way to reach others with the love of Christ.
First of all the church isn’t “for” anybody. The church “is” the body of Christ. A called out group of believers. If anything the church is the bride of Christ and should be “for” Christ alone. But we know what they mean, the church service or the corporate worship time of the church is geared “for” this rest of us demographic.
The idea behind this marketing might seem good to you. Some people do have preconceived ideas that the church is against people with tattoos or won’t accept someone who doesn’t look churchy. The problem is, if they were wondering this, your sign just confirmed their suspicion. The concept of “church for the rest of us” implies that there is a “rest of us” a supposed unwanted group that the church refuses to accept. According to the sign this unwanted group is tattooed and has piercings. There is no doubt that there are condescending, legalistic, pretentious, unwelcoming people in the church. However the steretype that most church people are condescending to the unchurched is a fallacy. The vast majority of churches I have seen and been to are filled with broken people who love each other and their Savior and anyone who walks through the door to worship with them.
Why spend money on a sign that only confirms this tired stereotype?
But lets say your clever ploy works. Let’s say they come to your church because they feel your church is a safe, condescension free zone. They won’t be judged.
Even better let’s say they come and accept Christ into their life. This is truly great! But what about their future life in Christ. Have you created a person that loves Jesus but has a negative view of their brothers in the church down the road?
Now what? Are you going to break the news to them that Christians aren’t as hateful as you insinuated and it was just a marketing ploy to get them to attend your church. Or do you just encourage them to continue to think that your church is better than all the others because you are the only one that loves “the rest of us.”
Look I am glad that there was and is a movement in the church that wants unsaved and unchurched people to feel comfortable when they enter church. We need to continue to think through this. But throwing other churches under the bus through passive aggressive signs should be off limits. Why can’t the sign read “church is for all of us.” Because it is.