I’ve always been the kind of person who can think of great titles for books I have no realistic intention to write. Subtitles too. I’ve opened a thousand coffee shops, book stalls, and pubs—all of them in my mind, and all of them with great names.
And great logos. And typeface. And taglines. And t-shirts. And bumper stickers.
And so, of course, when I was called to plant a church, I realized that I had my first big chance to actually apply my branding scheming to an actual thing. A thing that existed outside of my mind. I got excited.
I was excited about the church website. About the name of the church: what it would say about us and what it would leave unsaid. I awaited drafts of our logo with bated breath. I felt like I had really become an adult with a degree of influence when I got to press “Add to Cart” on our signage. It was inordinately proud of our Moo business cards, with 13 different images on them. And I figured it was only a matter of time until the t-shirts and bumper stickers would follow.
Now, as I write, I’m wearing a t-shirt that my friend Bobby Griffith (who will be a guest contributor here later this week) gave me last month. It’s a City Pres OKC shirt—the church that he is planting. I like it. And I like Bobby. And I like City Pres OKC. So, take no offense, sir!
SWAG IS A ‘ZIG’
At the same time, it’s swag. All of this stuff I was obsessed with is. And everybody’s got it.
Everybody has a website. Increasingly, churches have professionally designed logos. Bumper stickers abound. T-shirts are ubiquitous.
And that means that having swag as a church plant merely makes you like everybody else—like every business, and, increasingly, every other church.
Marty Neumeier calls this sort of thing a ‘Zig’. He goes on to say that the most important thing a business can do is this: when everyone else zigs, Zag.
YOU NEED A ‘ZAG’
You can be cynical and rule out of order any analogy between church planting and the so-called ‘secular’ world of business and especially marketing. But if you’re honest, a Zag is precisely what the church needs. The church as a whole needs to be different from the world of commerce, striving for community rather than searching for customers. And if you’re planting a church in a place where there are already lots of churches, you’ve got a moral obligation to Zag.
What’s your Zag?
What is the one way that your church can be a gospelicious presence in your community that no one else can, or is willing to?
Are you the only white church in your community that is determined to become multiethnic? Are you the only church in your town that focuses its energies on the University community? Are you the only church in your city that channels most of its missions resources toward local orphans? Are you the only church in town that insists that every child should have access to a private, classical Christian education?
What’s our Zag? Fair question.
We’re the only church in town that eats together three times every Sunday: breakfast before morning worship, a pot luck before evening worship, and the Lord’s Supper at the end of every evening service. A derivative mini-Zag is that we eat at least once together in our neighborhoods during the week, and we celebrate with many special long-table feasts throughout the year. We get around the table because, as Dr Grant articulated in his recent guest post, one of the best ways we can cultivate and demonstrate gospel-rich community is through the simplicity of “saints bearing casseroles.”
We don’t think this is the only way to do church. But a longing for togetherness around the table is an ache we and the neighbors we’re here for all feel deeply. No one we knew of was responding to this ache with a high degree of intentionality. We felt we could. And this is our Zag.
I still like nomenclature and design. I don’t mind T-shirts (although I still think they’re technically ‘underwear’). Bumper stickers are great. Temporary tattoos are a nice touch. But swag is a Zig.
Lose your Swag and find your Zag.
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