Adverts eh? Seeping insidiously into our subconscious and setting up residence, surviving like cockroaches as we try to nuke them out of our tiny minds. As I rebuke myself for the umpteenth time after catching myself humming ‘We buy any car’, I wonder how some of these ideas get the green light. How did the meeting go at one famous comparison website? In my head it would be rather like Alan Partridge pitching last gasp ideas to the Director of the BBC in an effort to save his TV career – Monkey tennis anyone? I imagine the Advertising Executive having run out of all the ideas he considered good making one last gasp effort – ‘Well, em, market sounds a bit like meerkat…’ Was he surprised when his boss leapt on the idea of comparing meerkats? I hope so, for humanities sake. And from there the idea has spawned a character, website and a whole new brand, burned forever into our psyche. Advertising? Simples. (Couldn’t resist.)
The church, Christians, and by extension God, are often subject to poor advertising. Whether it’s the stereotyped God channelesque send money and be healed types, or the tacky posters we put up on notice boards to entice people in. We are often guilty of putting out worse adverts than our secular contemporaries. In fact you’d probably have a case for questioning whether we think the God we are promoting is that good anyway. And what about our false, or at least misleading adverts? We advertise becoming a Christian as a free gift from God, when in reality it will cost, maybe not at first but doesn’t Jesus say that those who follow Him will have to daily make choices that put others first? Yes, He gives rest to the weary, yes His expectations are placed lightly, but don’t be fooled, following the way of Jesus is not without cost. A cost we should pay through gratitude not guilt or duty. The gift is free given and the life is lived through sacrifice.
Perhaps if we were more honest with our advertising, but that’s also the problem isn’t it. Most of the advertising we do is not through witty slogans, or positive celebrity reinforcement, but through us, living day to day as Christians. No wonder we get a bad rep. How do we reconcile trying to be representatives of God while trying to live? How do we behave when we know people are watching? How do we make up for all the atrocities performed in the name of religion? Do we separate ourselves out as the only one with a grasp on things? And so becoming more like those we are trying to oppose? It’s not easy, and I don’t think there is a cut and dry. As I have previously stated, I do not live up to the preconceptions of what my colleagues think a religious Christian should be. Am I a good advert for God? I think it’s the times I try to hardest to be a good advert that I end up failing the most spectacularly.
At the end of the day we have a God who it in control. We are the tools in His hands, not the brains behind His plans. Although we often think it’s the other way round. And as we scheme our latest brilliant plan to make God look better, we have to stop and ask who are we really trying to help?