Centuries ago (in internet time) graphic designer David Airey wrote a blog post asking folks whether they’d seen any good church logos. My brother Bryan responded with a thought-provoking comment asking whether churches should even be concerned about “branding”.
Bryan’s answer is a fairly firm “no”. His comment is worth quoting in full:
Apologies in advance for the length of this comment. It’s a subject I feel pretty emotional about, I guess.
I believe in the power of a good brand.
Why don’t churches give more serious thought to their logos? Simply put, many churches — as you faintly suggest when you disregard the question of morality — aren’t businesses, and they shouldn’t be.
Branding is important for businesses because people become emotionally attached to a particular brand, and the ethos and lifestyle it represents. Every business has a different logo, because no business wants to be associated with another business’s ethos.
It’s tempting for churches to do the same, so that people become emotionally attached to their unique brand of lifestyle. But attracting people should never be any church’s primary focus. And emotional attachment to a particular brand at the expense of a love for God and his people is “good” old-fashioned idolatry, in the Biblical sense.
The other reason is that when individual churches have logos, they differentiate themselves from each other. The Bible has harsh things to say about Christians who group themselves into separate schools — when it talks about people who say, “I follow Paul” and “I follow Apollos”. Yes, I know, we’ve got the Baptists, Catholics, Brethren, etc. It’s wrong and I don’t like it, but we can work for positive change from where we stand. I believe branding will set us up for worse competition.
It’s not so much a question of right or wrong, as of what is important. The emotional attachment of a brand is much shallower than that of a human to a human, or of a human to God. And we churches simply don’t want that superficialness. We don’t want to attract people who love God less than they love our branding.
The Church of God is global. Always has been. In fact the Church has always had “logos” of a sort — but we tend to call them “symbols”. It’s a similar idea, but it goes much deeper. Deepest is the symbol of the cross. It’s a symbol based heavily in reality, and it represents the most horrible, and at the same time the most beautiful thing that God ever did. We also have symbols that are actions rather than images — when we eat bread & drink wine together, we remember the last time Jesus did the same with his closest followers. When we wet a child or new christian with water, we symbolize how God has already washed their guilt away, and we welcome them into God’s family.
Many Christians don’t wear or draw crosses, because they don’t believe a visual symbol is necessary or good. I respect that. But I (like you) believe in the power of a visual symbol, and the cross is one that I believe is deep enough to be worthy of what it represents.
To be honest (without wanting to moralize!), when churches want to have their own brands, it says to me that they don’t think the original symbols of the Church are cool enough for them. But that’s not really my call, at the end of the day; it is God’s call.
Told you it was thought-provoking!
And there’s a commenter further down who notes how “the original Greek logos means ‘word’, which to Christians is Jesus.” It’s kind of strange how a word which to us means “image” came from a word meaning “word”, or the Word.
So, what do you think: should churches be concerned with their “branding”?