Friday, January 4, 2019

Rebranding. . .
You can see in the photo, the rebranding of one of our larger LCMS congregations is complete and the new name is Pathfinder Church.  It is the second iteration, the first one simply being the decision to drop the name Lutheran and keep the generic St. John Church.  The pastor is quite excited about the name change for the church.  I found it interesting that the votes totaled 431, a rather small number for a congregation that posts its membership as 5,000 and change.  I admit to snickering that the new brand is an old name, the Adventist scouting alternative and a fairly popular Nissan product!  But I find it even more curious that a name change matters all that much.  I venture to say that most folks in the market served by the St. John brand already know who this congregation is and will now have to relearn who it is and associate a new name with the same location and, we are told, the same congregation and ministry.  So what is the benefit of rebranding?  It is a rhetorical question and if you can inform me, I am waiting to hear and understand.

Rebranding is usually a move that signals either discontinuity with its past or an attempt to refresh a tired old brand in decline.  So I am confused.  Either the rebranding means that there is going to be a clear disconnect with its past or it is suggesting that it is in decline and is trying to project a new image for an old entity.  Neither option would be admitted in this case.  And who am I to know better.

There are some who say that Lutherans need to be rebranded.  The old one no longer positively identifies us (if it ever did) and people are confused by it (of course they are since people are more inclined to a generic name like Pathfinder).  Who knows, if it works for Ellisville, perhaps we could be the Pathfinder Church body?!  Of course, by now you know that I am not so much in favor of a rebrand.  It is not that I like the brand Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  I don't.  I would much rather be known as the Church of the Augsburg Confession or the Evangelical Catholic Church.  That rebrand would never sell, of course, and it would present serious problems for many of our folks, especially those who like names like Pathfinder Church.  It is just that while rebranding presumes that you get a fresh start, the reality is you begin by alienating a core group within and wasting the money spent developing the original brand (do you recall a tr-color burgundy cross or perhaps its bluish iteration?)

Perhaps an odd name is a blessing in disguise!  If that is the case, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is a name worth its weight in gold.  At least no one would ever confuse us with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America or the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod or a host of other names.  Oh well, its our oddball name and we don't have the spare cash to come up with a new one anyway so I guess we will keep it.  I probably am able to convince a goodly number of LCMSers to retain the strange old name but I doubt I will have much success getting the edgy folks in our Synod to take back St. John Church.


Anonymous said...

It’s ironic that one of the premises of church revitalization is the analogy of the church as either a battleship or a cruise ship. Of course, this idea depicts the local church as either seriously engaged in spiritual warfare winning souls to fulfill the Great Mission Commission or it is complacent and comfortably turned in on itself caring not a whit for the masses of unsaved in the community. The irony is that “revitalization” proponents fundamentally transform their battleship into a cruise ship, into a service organization, a community welcome wagon with creature comforts you won’t find in the stodgy churches. Hordes of earnest young volunteers that would make the Peace Corps proud make church warm and friendly again. The best musicians in town are attracted to a venue where they can showcase their talents before a large audience. Theater seats with cup holders beckon the visitor to the best seat in the house while stage lights and fog machines rival a live Vegas showroom performance projected up on dual screens to capture the evasive social media attention span. The excitement and wonder are palpable. And that is what they call church. The worst thing that can happen on this cruise ship is for the congregation/audience to become bored. Performance art preferably with amplified instruments and the back-beat of a set of drums holds sway and the “audience” no doubt will want to come back for more next week. Variation and creativity have given us things like the Beatles Mass and the praise band rendition of Highway to Hell. This is what the people want, right? Democracy rules, right? After all, it’s hard to argue with a megachurch of 5,788 baptized members. They must be doing something right, right? Who can compete with that? Let the people vote with their feet.

Anonymous said...

I think what the church formerly known as "St. John Lutheran" and then "St. John" simply is demonstrating truth in advertising. They are no longer recognizable as Lutheran, so why not drop all pretenses about it? All you have to do is watch a few of their "worship events" and listen to a few of the sermons to realize they are simply trying to imitate what the big non-denom churches do.

Anonymous said...

Phase 1: Introduce contemporary worship.
Sing pop-Evangelical songs instead of confessional Lutheran ones.

Phase 2: Start small groups. Purchase pop-Evangelical DVDs, study guides, and books recommended by the Willow Creek Association and by Saddleback. Shun any materials that teach Lutheran theology. Who cares if much of the content in the materials contradict confessional Lutheran doctrine. We're all Christian, right?

Phase 3: Start using the small group pop-Evangelical materials in Sunday morning bible studies classes. Incorporate materials, such as "Orange," into the youth Sunday school curriculum. Start an all church study based on the latest Evangelical author. Have the pastor preach a sermon series based on said author.

Phase 4: Fill the church library shelves with works by pop-Evangelical authors. Gradually remove confessional Lutheran theology books to make room for more pop-Evangelical books.

Phase 5 (optional): Rename the congregation to complete the look and feel of a non-denominational mega-church. Come up with a hip and cool name such as Pathfinder.

Whew! Transformation complete! But our congregation is still "Lutheran," right? I mean, our LCMS pastor did get a degree at an LCMS seminary. Congregations Matter......and ours sure did! The LCMS Texas and Michigan districts would be proud of us! They will surely hold us up as a shining example for other congregations to follow!

Wait, who is this Chris Rosebrough person? He needs to be stopped. Arg, he is not an LCMS pastor! That means the LCMS national and district executives cannot harass him! He is making us look like fools:

Anonymous said...

A comment from another perspective ... I am new to Lutheranism. For most of my life I attended the big-box non-denominational type churches with "contemporary" type worship services - always chasing the latest fad. I became disillusioned with this, began reading books about theology, liturgy, etc. Long story - but I eventually and finally decided to take my family to visit a local LCMS church and have been there ever since. The church practices the historic liturgy and is sound in doctrine. I wish I had done this years ago. However - for what it's worth - one of my initial hesitations about "trying Lutheranism" was the label "Lutheran". I was a Christian. I did not want to be labeled a "Lutheran". I was a follower of Jesus, not Luther. Of course, now I know that the LCMS does not follow Luther. But still I wonder if the name does present some unnecessary confusion. Also, it has been my experience that the common person on the street does not know any difference between LCMS, ELCA, WELS, etc.. They just hear the word Lutheran and lump them all together and assume that we are the mainline liberal group. Not to mention the comments like - wasn't Luther anti-Semitic? Again, I am not suggesting we abandon the confessions, the liturgy or anything like that. But honestly I sure do like your suggestion of Evangelical Catholic Church. It seems to me that even Luther himself would not be comfortable with the name "Lutheran Church".

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous poster. Due to the actions of the ELCA and its partner bodies, the name "Lutheran" has been damaged beyond repair. Few people unfamiliar to Lutheranism will take the time to figure out that the LCMS is NOT the WELS, ELDONA, NALC, LCMC, ELCA, etc. Chances are, a non-Lutheran will automatically think about the ELCA and then dismiss Lutheranism as an option.

Wasn't there a serious Synod renaming proposal in 2010 that never made it to the LCMS national convention floor for a vote? I hope that the proposal could be resubmitted at a future convention. I like either one of these:

Confessional Christian Church

or, since we don't "follow Luther" but adhere to the Book of Concord,

Concordian Christian Church

Anonymous said...

I grow weary of the silly handringing about the name "Lutheran" or "Missouri Synod." It takes just a few minutes to explain things.

Joseph Bragg said...

I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Luther. Is Christ divided?

Anonymous said...

It seems a bit condescending to call it "silly". I don't think it is silly at all. And furthermore, you just made the point with your comment ... "It takes just a few minutes to explain things". If I have a few minutes to explain things to somebody, I want to be explaining the gospel. Not the difference between the alphabet soup of different names for the "Lutheran Church". Or not defending Luther against some (supposedly) offensive statement that they found on the Internet. Why should we waste time explaining or quarreling about things that are irrelevant to the gospel or the sound doctrine of our church? As the previous poster said, due to the ELCA, the Lutheran name has been damaged beyond repair. Again I will ask, would Luther himself be happy with the label of "Lutheran Church"? I don't think so.