Saturday, May 14, 2005


I live in the country, a couple of miles outside of a very small Ohio village. There aren't many things you can do in my town. We have one gas station and one other small convenience store, a bank, a hardware store, a pizza place, an ice cream stand, a beauty shop, two grain elevators and a couple of bars. There is a four-way stop at the main intersection in town, and a "part-time" stoplight out in front of the school. As you might guess, there isn't a great deal of the out of the ordinary around town. Even a trip to the grocery store means a ten mile drive to the county seat.

On one of those grocery runs this week, I noticed a small 8 1/2 by 11 page tacked to the store's bulletin board. On the notice was the frequency of what was billed as a "new radio station" licensed to my little town. This was news to me. The county has only one AM-FM combination, aside from this new startup. And I am still unaware of any new radio tower being erected anywhere in the area. As someone who made my living working in radio, I figured I'd know if a new local station was going on the air. Apparently I was wrong.

When I got back to the van to get the groceries back home, I tuned in the new hometown station. Kind of Top 40 and rock mixed together. I heard no live voices, just some taped announcements which I couldn't understand. That could be because of my bad hearing kicking in, poor reception, or a really inexperienced announcer. But for better or worse, my hometown now has a radio station although I doubt I'll be a regular listener.

I got to thinking how a new radio station sets out to get listeners. Certainly you can't just hope a lot of people will be playing with the "seek" button in the car and stumble across a song they want to hear and eventually find out that this is a new station. So you have to advertise. This costs money. Well, most advertising costs money. What my new hometown station found was one free mode of advertising -- local bulletin boards. It worked for me. And the station owner's hope is that I will tell others because that's more free advertising. From all I can see, the station is not advertising in the local newspaper or area television stations. There are no outdoor billboards with the call letters splashed across them. The owner is counting on a few free signs and a lot of word of mouth.

I've recently put up a store at eBay to sell merchandise. Yet unless I give the address to people or get listed on search engines, no one will shop at my store. Most people reading this have blogs which could remain mostly secret with no blogrolls or links or other tricks to get people to visit your site. Unless we advertise, almost no one will show up.

I'll admit that I'm uncomfortable with some ways that a church advertises. Let's face it, most of the time the church is advertising itself, not Almighty God. I know, I know, we're hoping to bring people to church to introduce them to God. At least that's the common line. Sometimes though, I wonder. Are we looking for glory for God or is that just a nice side effect to glorifying the church? Perhaps that's another post entirely.

It seems to me that our main advertising concern should be in pointing people to Christ. Why is it that we expect people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior if we aren't ambitious enough to get the word out? We think that certainly everybody knows, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Many around us are living with completely false ideas about who Christ is, what He said, and what Christians believe. They get those false ideas because we are just plain poor modes of advertising. We mess up the message.

I'm not just talking about having someone ask you a question about God and you giving them the wrong answer. Certainly that happens when we get too scared to admit we don't know and the first answer to pop into our heads comes tumbling out of our mouths. But we give God false advertising by the way we live our lives. Christians are often called "hypocrites" because we don't live perfect lives. Obviously we can't live perfect lives, but how many times have you sinned in full public view and laughed it off like it didn't matter? I've caught myself doing that once in a while. What a lousy advertisement for my Savior! When we sin like that we should be admitting our guilt not simply brushing it aside, secretly a little glad that we can fit in so well with the other sinners around us.

Every Sunday, I close our worship service with a benediction based on Matthew 5:16.
"Go in peace and let your light so shine before men that others will see the good deeds you do and praise your Father in heaven."

That's my idea of good advertising.

Instead of hoping some "seeker" finds Jesus by hitting the "seek" button, examine yourself. Are you falsely advertising Christ by what you say and do? Are you seeking to glorify God and not you or your church? Are you giving God any "word of mouth" advertising? Do you know the truth well enough, and if not what are you doing about that?

All it took was a little piece of paper tacked to a grocery store bulletin board to get me to try a new radio station. A huge multimedia campaign isn't necessary. What is necessary is the sign on my heart and on my life, directing people to Christ Jesus.

No comments: