This Sunday, many preachers will stand in the pulpit and proclaim the virtue of honesty and the primacy of Truth. And, then the church will run an ad in the local paper that seems to ignore that message. Consider the following account shared by Larry Osborne in his book Sticky Church.
“When I first came to North Coast, we were a small church meeting in an old high school cafeteria. I hadn’t been there long when someone showed me an adveertisement we were putting in the local newspaper each weekend. You know the drill: We weere supposedly the friendliest church in town, with great preaching, great worship, and a world-class children’s program.
“The truth was, we had none of those things. Not even close. I’m not sure I would have kept coming if I hadn’t been the pastor.
“The cafeteria was old and smelly. Remnants of food fights hung from the wall. One whole side of the room was a large Plexiglas window, which was cool–except when skateboarders started showing off in the middle of a sermon. That was hard to compete with. Most of the time they’d win. They were a lot more interesting than my early sermons. They’d probably still be more interesting. That’s one reason we moved.
“So I did the only reasonable thing. I canceled the ad. I had enought issues on my hands. I didn’t need the Federal Communications Commission hassling me for false advertising.”
When was the last time you checked your promotional literature for accuracy?
I hasten to say that I think one of the most critical skills of leadership is storytelling. We tell the stories of who we are and in the process we become what we say we are. In this instance, ontology recapitulates philology.
However, leaders need to be circumspect to avoid dishonest misrepresentation. It may not be true that your church is the most loving church in your town, but a similar message can be sent by saying, “We want to be the most loving church in town.” With this alteration you are still casting a transformative vision, you are still painting a picture with which people can identify and an ideal to which people can aspire, but you are not misrepresenting yourself.
So, tell your church’s story, cast your churches vision, but please, please, please be honest about it.