In many ways, the independent nature of protestant churches is a marvelous thing. Even with a long history of major denominations here in America, it’s the fully independent congregations today that are exploding. While the Catholic Church can be slowed down by bureaucracy and sheer size, independent protestant churches are responding to cultural shifts and becoming more and more popular, especially with younger people. However, that independence and fragmentation comes at a cost in terms of cultural impact.
Smaller, independent churches – or even mega-churches – don’t have the financial backing to build national platforms for engaging today’s culture. This generation is a media-driven generation, and if the Church today is going to be heard, media has to be part of that strategy.
I was reminded about that when I saw that the church of Scientology’s recent national advertising campaign. Apparently, it’s designed to change the public’s perception of the organization which has been criticized as a cult, and more toward an apparent legitimate path to self-realization. They’ve even expanded that campaign with videos of professional athletes professing the virtues of the organization. Like the campaign or not, Scientology’s centralized organization allows them to afford the cost of national advertising and promotion.
Certainly mainline protestant denominations have made attempts at creating national media campaigns, and in fact I produced a series in the 90’s for the Southern Baptists. Although the spots won awards, like most large organizations, the leadership at the time bungled the distribution, and the spots were hardly seen. Likewise, Methodists and Episcopalians have made similar attempts, but more often than not, the spots focus more on why you need to become a member of that denomination instead of the bigger issue of changing people’s perceptions about God.
2011 will be the 400 year anniversary of the English Bible. I can’t think of a better reason to create a national media campaign that would cause people to re-consider the Bible’s impact on the Western world. Changing that perception would be a major move toward the culture re-thinking Christianity itself.
Our company – Cooke Pictures – is certainly here to help develop the creative strategy to make something like that happen. But the truth is – in today’s fragmented world of Christian churches and ministries, finding the level of funding to make a national impact will be the greatest challenge.