New Creation: Letters of Recommendation

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Corinthians 3:1-6

A constant question that the church faces is the question of marketing – how do we get our name out there?  How do we get our name out there so people will come be with us here?

To answer that how question I would say – Go Out There!  Have a Little Mermaid Moment and “be where the people are!”

But what seems to be the case?  Churches appear reluctant to go out there…they would rather invest in the latest and greatest marketing technique to get people to come here.

Websites – Social Media – Live Streaming – 24hr Prayer Lines – Brochures – HUGE Electronic Signs and Billboards – 15 page full color 11”x17” inch weekly bulletins – TV advertisements – and more!

One of the most frustrating points in all of this…once you invest in one technique or update another…it’s all out of date!  Once all your information is current…it’s immediately past tense.

As churches we want people to know who we are.  So we seek, we strive, we struggle to capture who we are on paper, in a text box, and sometimes in under 140 characters.  “Who are you?  Who is this church?” someone asks and what do we do…we direct them away from us.  (and in that “.” please read “!?!?!”)  Visit this website.  Read this brochure.  Sign up for our text message reminders.

Why not just answer their question?  Paul says we are capable of doing that.  Paul says that is our purpose – to be the Christ’s recommendation letter – to be the church’s recommendation letter to the world.  Do you want to get to know the church – whether church as a specific congregation or church as the Body of Christ – get to know me.  All my successes and struggles, all my joys and fears.  I am the church.  Get to know me.

Martha Sterne shares incredibly profound thoughts in her commentary entry on this Scripture passage in Feasting On The Word.  Sterne writes, “What if all of us accepted the responsibility that Jesus gave us in our baptism, which is to be a letter of recommendation to the whole world of the good news of God in Christ?  We would have to stop looking for the next newest and greatest marketing ploy for church growth.  Instead we would know that we are invited to be, not just the marketing program for the church, but the healing and growth of Christ – in us, through us, and among us.”* (400).

To be the healing and growth of Christ – in us, through us, and among us – we have to get out from behind the social media, the signs, the bulletins.  We have to be where the people are.  We have to take the message of Christ into the places of pain, hurt, and need.  I believe as the church we would be better stewards and collect a greater return on the investment of teaching one another how to share our faith one-on-one rather than updating information to a third-party, non-personal marketing technique.

What’s the common denominator for all of these marketing techniques?  They are all bound to one place – a yard, a piece of paper on a credenza in the church foyer, and yes, even on the web.  People, however, we are everywhere.  We are dynamic.  We are capable of being an outstanding recommendation for Christ to the world.

Let’s go be where the people are.

Prayer: “‘Go, make of all disciples.’  We hear the call, O Lord, that comes from thee, our Father, in thy eternal Word.  Inspire our ways of learning through earnest, fervent prayer, and let our daily living reveal thee everywhere.  ‘Go, make of all disciples.’  We at thy feet would stay until each life’s vocation accents thy holy way.  We cultivate the nature God plants in every heart, revealing in our witness the master teacher’s art.”** Amen.

*David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting On the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B Volume 1 – Advent through Transfiguration (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 400.

**”We Are the Church,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 558.

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