“We must alter our lives in order to alter our hearts,

for it is impossible to live one way and pray another.”

-William Law

As a bi-vocational church planter, I had the opportunity to clean toilets and stock the dairy section at Safeway.  During one of our employee orientation meetings, I learned that back in the 1970’s, Safeway spent millions of dollars trying to buy their image, but when the customers showed up to the store, they realized that the TV image was not the in-store reality. Eventually Safeway learned that it was more profitable to invest in training their employees to have good customer service, rather then waste millions in advertising something they did not really offer.

Apparently, not everyone learned the lesson as quickly as Safeway. In the 1980’s Cannon used Tennis star Andre Aggasi to promote its Rebel line of cameras with the slogan, “Image is Everything”. Sure it was a cute play on words, but the slogan betrayed the same old attitude that image is more important than substance.

I think the church is finally starting to realize that we cannot buy our image, or use marketing campaigns to create our reality. Because we have bought into the idea that image is everything, many churches have spent a lot of money crafting a false image of perfection. Then when people come to our churches they are surprised to find that the people are not perfect. Christians have hurts, they have fears, they have struggles, and yes they have sin too. Somewhere along the way we forgot that Substance is more important than image. Honesty about our lives, integrity from our leaders, and transparency about our struggles is what the world needs to see from God’s people.

So lets stop trying to craft an image and start investing in our people. Then, when someone comes in search of Jesus, they will find something of substance they can hold onto. Let those who come to us in search of meaning find the power of open lives.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!
Read more articles like this @ ChurchPlanting.Com

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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