DOES the church have a PR problem?
You could be forgiven for thinking it does.
News stories come around quite often about the fallout from the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, secrecy, corruption, betrayal and on it goes.
I often wonder what someone who has never stepped into a church must think of the place if this is all they know.
As someone who grew up in the church these stories don’t match my reality.
They aren’t a part of my experience.
I haven’t been surrounded by perfect people all my life, but by and large they were good people who taught me the faith well.
These awful stories about church failings are terrible and there are no excuses.
And yet the stories are not unique amongst humanity.
When connected with the church however, they do seem to bite harder, as their own teaching condemns them.
We expected more, much more.
Responding to this public perception is truly significant, eternally significant.
In a world focused on business branding, charity branding even personal branding one response could be to go on the PR offensive.
There are many good news stories that should also be told.
People whose lives reflect all that church should be and does contribute to our society.
But I can’t get away from the fact that church is not a brand.
Firstly, the church shouldn’t be focused on marketing itself.
Jesus teaching makes very clear our efforts should be directed to humility, service, kindness, compassion, truth and so much more.
These ideals don’t need promotion.
They are to be pursued not as a ploy for new recruits, but because they are true, beautiful and good.
We were made for them.
Secondly, the negative publicity is often needed and justified.
Needed because the Christian practice of confession is about repentance.
A jargon word meaning we should want to own up to our failings, to also learn from them and then look to Jesus to do differently.
It is justified because too often we aren’t following the way of Jesus.
As stated in a recent documentary about the record of the church in history, Christian faith is at its worst when it leaves Jesus.
What should the church do?
Our aim is to point people to Jesus not ourselves.
Anyone who labels themselves a Christian knows, and often expects, the spiritual hangover from sin to raise its ugly head in their life.
It is why we have a regular practice of confession in Anglican liturgy.
Why would we focus on it when the solution is found in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus?
Better PR is not the solution.
We need more of Jesus.