Did you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday night? Not only did we have a thrilling game and an extravagant half-time show, but the commercials were a focal point of the night as they always are. The Super Bowl is the one night of the year when I actually want to watch the commercials. With the ad spots going for top dollar, this is the time when new and creative advertising is offered to the viewing public. Did you see a theme running through the ads this year? My reflection is that this year was about “marketing love.” In the midst of all of the Super Bowl hype, I think that churches can learn something from what we saw.
Sharing love with the world seemed to be the theme of the night. McDonalds offered a special promotion during February that says you may be randomly selected to simply share love in payment for your meal. Call your Mom and tell her you love her . . . have a family hug . . . tell your kids how much you love them. That is all you need to do and your meal is free. Marketing love. Or what about the ever-present Coke ads. We moved away from polar bears to the information superhighway which gets infected with a Coke spill and suddenly everything is coming up with happiness, kindness, and love. Marketing love. And then there was that whole string of “Dad Ads,” run by different companies, which touched our heartstrings with the love of Dad for his children. Marketing love. That is what I saw during the timeouts in the Super Bowl. What about you?
Marketing love . . . there is a lesson here for the church. Madison Avenue is always a mirror allowing us to see who we really are and also a window that provides a view beyond who we are today. Here is what I thought the ads were saying:
- In an American culture that is becoming more and more polarized and less civil, there is a hunger for simple kindness and great love. (Millions of dollars would not have been spent on this theme is such a statement were not true.)
- In our culture where families are often torn apart, there is still a longing for the love of a parent who can shape our lives in positive ways.
- Love and kindness can be shared within the closest of relationships, but love is something that can be offered to strangers. This love is not because the strangers are lovely, but because we are loving.
- The “bottom line” – love is never something you keep, but it is always something that you share.
I was touched and encouraged by these ads. I was also a little saddened. The greatest message of love in our world should not be offered by Corporate America on the high holy night of commercialism. Followers of Jesus who are in the community of the church are the ones who know and experience the greatest love. We are the ones with the story of love to share!
But are we marketing love? The world is hungry for kindness and love, but too often church and denominational fights do not send a message of love to the hungry world. At other times, we are so happy to love one another within the close family of the church, but we are not so good about “marketing” our love to those on the outside. Our church may be a close-knit family of love, but if we are not willing to take this love to people on the outside, then soon our church will be a very small family loving each other to death. One of the greatest opportunities for churches is to truly market love – that is to take the deep love of Christ and a love for one another and share it in the marketplace of today. And, unlike the ads from the Super Bowl, we are not trying to “sell” anything. The love we share is a free gift – that is why it is called grace.
A church might ask the following questions of herself related to “marketing love:”
- Will people recognize us as followers of Jesus by the way we relate to one another? “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35, NRSV
- If we do love one another as Jesus loved us, do we limit that love to those who are like us in our own circle of church friends, or are we willing to share this love with people who may be very different from us but who hunger for love?
- What will we do as a church to “market love” by freely giving it away?
The world is waiting for love. Don’t let fast-food burgers and carbonated drinks take the lead! The transforming love of Jesus is what the world needs now. What is your marketing plan?
David Hull is the Southeast Coordinator for the CHC. A native of Louisiana, David has been an active leader in community and denominational life for 35 years. David is an accomplished author and teacher, and has a special love for the local church. Over the years, he has developed a passion to see all churches become healthy and thriving. He has a special interest in helping congregations navigate leadership transitions in a healthy and Spirit-led manner.