Church image: from excellence to authenticity

I was recently asked to contribute to a feature article for a forthcoming issue of Engage Leadership Journal on “Creating an Influential Church Image.” Several pastors are contributing for a variety of perspectives.  It’s a short piece, but I think it gets to the heart of the unique message and approach we believe God has given us at Renovatus.  So here’s an advance preview:

The dominant message most churches have heard in the last twenty years is that we need to create an excellent image—and of course there is something to that.  At Renovatus, we strive to do things well, from graphic design to web presence.  But what is often missed in our efforts to reach people that are over-marketed to is their increased suspicion that we are trying to sell them a used car.  In such an environment, where people are becoming increasingly suspect of slick methodologies and want to see all the way underneath the hood, there is a need not just for an excellent image, but an authentic image.

At Renovatus, our goal is that there be no discrepancy between who we really are and who we proclaim ourselves to be.  Since the Church is both beautiful and broken, we do not pretend to be less broken than we actually are (or less beautiful, for that matter).  The tagline for our church from the beginning is that we are for “liars, dreamers, and misfits,” an apt description of the odd assortment of characters caught up in the story of redemption from Genesis to now.  We do not oversell ourselves.  We promise only what we know we can deliver—an authentic Christian community of people deeply devoted to following Jesus in our day-to-day lives, fully aware of our deep brokenness.  We are desperately dependent on God and on each other.  As a church established on the baseline that we are all in deep need of God’s renovating grace, we feel that we can in fact promise to provide a safe place for people to confess their sins, praying for one another that we may be healed (James 5.16).

The Church of the present is attempting to catch up with the culture in terms of presenting herself attractively to the world.  The Church of the future is one that presents herself as she really is—broken, wounded, and desperate—but desperately beloved.