Ministry Branding

I was thinking about how many churches try to distinguish themselves from other local churches. There is often a sense of pride in membership in a specific church, and a feeling among members that their church is somehow better than other local churches. This feeling, is more like a tribalism, a sense of community that forms within the local church, instead of the church universal.

In modern marketing, both branding and tribalism are tools that marketers use to increase or maintain one company's or product's share of the market. The market has a competition around a fixed resource (our money), and they try to measure a brand's "share" of that market. But the church isn't in the business of marketing, and it does not try to increase its share (at the expense of other churches), does it?

So why would a local church spend any energy on branding? Why would a local church spend time on distinguishing itself from other local churches. Let me say one thing first:

The only valid brand of the church is Jesus Christ.

If you are distinguishing yourself from someone else, you are talking about Jesus and something. Jesus and Theology. Jesus and Experience. Jesus and Seeker Sensitive. Jesus and Prosperity. Jesus and Righteousness. Jesus and Tolerance. Jesus and Social Justice. Jesus and a Great Show. Jesus and Come as You Are. Jesus and Sound Doctrine. Jesus and Great Teaching. I suppose if you are an apostate or heretical community, you could be taking things away from Jesus, like the LDS church (Jesus without Grace) or the Jehovah's Witnesses (Jesus without True Deity). You could be softening the message like some churches – Jesus without all the hang-ups.

The problem with branding as it applies to ministry is that in order to produce fruit, we should not be marketing ourselves, our programs, or our local religious flavor. We should be marketing Jesus Christ, period. The great commission is not "Go, therefore, and get market share among the religions of the world!"

Our goal is not to distinguish ourselves from other churches, but to penetrate hardened hearts with the gospel message. I have been to churches where the church brand is promoted, like a tribal badge. The We spoken of is the we of the local assembly, not the we of the church universal. Look what we did, look how well we are doing. I have seen what that tribalism does in the extreme, and it becomes a form of spiritual pride and the church can devolve into cliquishness and fail to receive new members, especially new leaders.

Our boasting should be in the work of Jesus Christ, and our humble gratitude expressed when He deems it appropriate to use us as tools to accomplish His purpose. Not in any aspect of our ministry or local assembly.

Does this go back to the reformation? Martin Luther and the other bishops, monks and priests who reacted to the doctrinal issues in the catholic church, or earlier? I think earlier… Paul vs. Apollos… I think that human nature creates parties, clans, divisions. It is all about pride. Pride is the enemy of unity. Unity requires humility. True unity requires all to be humble. So take a look at your branding strategy. Look at where your pride is evident. Look at what you are saying about yourselves. What are you adding to Jesus? What are you taking away? Really? So in the end, what you are distinguishing yourselves from is… Jesus Christ, the Brand.

Rotting Fruit

What happens when fruit begins to rot? It smells very sweet, then after awhile it smells foul. How can we avoid letting the fruit of our ministry rot?

There are a number of things that will cause the fruit of our ministry to rot, mostly it is when it is not used.

If our fruit is to produce disciples, and the disciples we produce just sit there in the pew doing nothing, friut will rot.

The fruit we produce gets planted, forming the vines, plants or trees that grow the next crops of fruit.

OK here the farming analogy breaks down, but follow along anyway, this is important:

  • When a person accepts Christ, and becomes a new Christian believer, that is fruit. If that believer, never grows beyond their initial decision, following the path of discipleship, they quickly become rotten fruit. The attend church, they love to hear preaching, but the deep life transformation does not happen. When changes happen in church (change of pastors, change of location) they can easily become dissatisfied. They have friendships, but are not deeply bonded to one another, When these friendships fall apart, their connection to the body is easily severed. They fall away.
  • When a person accepts Christ, and follows the path toward discipleship but does not have many opportunities to use the spiritual gifts that God has provided in ministry, if his specific gifts are not appreciated or celebrated in the church where he worships, he can become dissatisfied, and disconnected. His seeds are not planted, When a God-Gifted teacher finds himself in a church where only a select few (elders?) are allowed to "teach"; When a God-Gifted evangelist, finds himself in a church that does not support evangelism ministries (leaving him on his own), or have meaningful follow up ministries to help new believers "plug in"; When someone with a talent for analysis and stewardship finds himself in a church that has no "plan" for the future; these believers will feel undervalued, unappreciated, and ultimately dissatisfied. They fall away.
  • When a disciple is a behind the scenes worker, perhaps with the gift of "helps", or "administration", and works themselves to burnout, because the church does not have a plan to identify these believers and band them together with leadership and organization to maximize and celebrate the impact of these gifts. Behind the scenes types don't often need or want to be celebrated individually, but most are encouraged when the ministry they are involved in are celebrated, recognized. When these ministry programs are shut down (lack of funding, lack of results, leadership transition), often these workers are devastated, because they are part of ministry communities that provide them deep friendships as well as opportunities to use spiritual gifts. When these are removed, they can feel disconnected, unappreciated, and undervalued. They fall away.
  • When a disciple is deeply connected to the body through staff, and less deeply connected to others in the community, staff transitions can cause them to feel disconnected. If the staff transitions are "troubled", the disciple can feel divided, and ostracized. If something is not done specifically to repair the connection, they fall away.

Rotting Out:

One symptom of rotting fruit is that it tends to separate itself from the church. Depending on the maturity of the believer, the disciple that was rotting, may or may not re-connect in a spiritually productive way. Immature believers may simply wander away to apostasy. More mature believers my struggle to find a new ministry to connect to so that they can become productive again.

Churches that have "a revolving door" need to consider their connection model. Who are disciples connected to, who are their mentors, who are they serving alongside, how are their gifts being used, and how are they appreciated and valued in the body. Careful analysis of reasons for separating can reveal real weaknesses in the body of Christ. Sometimes leadership in a church, can be offended by the notion that someone would want to separate, and blame the disciple who is separating, especially if they " wipe the dust from their feet" on the way out. Leaders need to treat those who choose to separate as "the weaker believer", and bless them on the way out. They also need to be open to accepting real feedback (even among words of blame, dissatisfaction, and frustration), so that they can assess whether there are real issues or weaknesses.

Church leaders need to be willing to accept or receive difficult feedback from rotting fruit believers, because ultimately, the rotting fruit are their spiritual responsibility. Church leaders need to be willing to recognize the need for change, to increase the fruit production of their ministry. When you have disciples that are not growing spiritually, not producing fruit, not deeply connected, they need to recognize that this is their responsibility. Problems with the sheep are the responsibility of the shepherds, when the shepherds are blaming the sheep, something is wrong.

Rotting in:
Another symptom of rotting fruit is that it tends toward inertia. The longer that a believer is allowed to stay in the same spiritual place, the harder it is for them to grow again. A church that does not challenge disciples or provide the means of accountability is likely to trend toward producing believers who are stagnant in their faith. A church that sets "the bar" too high, also can have the same result. Believers in these bodies may not be unhappy or dissatisfied, but they are not likely to be very productive. Happy to remain a spectator, or a support team member, but never growing to true maturity, nor able to study and reason through scripture for themselves.

Believers that are not established as disciples of Christ quickly after salvation develop unhealthy views, habits, and patterns of behavior. Correcting these is much more effort, and they can be much more devastating to the body, than the effort to develop a simple earnest discipleship process. Likewise believers who are saved out of relationships within apostate churches must be discipled very carefully, to ensure that they have accepted sound doctrine. The persistence of legacy belief systems, thought patterns and behaviors is much more difficult to undo after it has persisted past conversion.

Inertial believers tend to be chickens not pigs. This terminology is a play on words referring to making breakfast. Chickens produce eggs, so they are involved – pigs produce bacon or sausage so they are committed. If you were to evaluate every member of your church, and assess which were chickens and pigs what story would that tell.

The problems of rotting fruit are universal to all churches. I expect that every pastor and elder will recognize this. I am not describing anything that is new or revolutionary. By calling out rotting fruit, I am merely using some colorful language to describe what happens when we do not fulfill the great commission. Every assembly of believers is likely to have some of this, I am not suggesting otherwise. As church leaders, we need to take responsibility, not only for producing fruit, but also for the spiritual stewardship of the fruit that we are given.

Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

So how does Fruit Producing Ministry produce this kind of fruit. This fruit is personal fruit. It is the fruit that results from helping people grow closer to God.
This is what I called Fruit is Spiritual Growth, in an earlier post What-is-Fruit.

How does our ministry produce the fruit called spiritual growth. The fruit of the Spirit. Galations 5 – talks about being free, and living in harmony with the spirit. It contrasts the actions of the flesh, and of those ruled by the flesh.

How do we structure our ministry to produce the Fruit of the Spirit? Well, the Spirit is the fruit producing agent, so what can we do to cultivate, measure and celebrate this fruit?


  • Teach the word. Living out the Word of God is part of the pattern that we are cultivating, but how can we live it if we don’t know it, and how can we know it if we are not taught. Not only is teaching a Sunday activity, but it should become a daily activity – that we become mature enough to learn from the word without human teachers.
  • Lead by example. If Living out the Word is what we want, we need live examples to follow, emulate, pattern ourselves after. We (as disciples) need to have live examples of spiritual maturity to “rub up against” to see that faith is real. This requires time – spending time getting close to people. Our elders and leaders need to be involved in discipling activities, where they are up close and personal with less mature believers, so that all can see, taste, smell, and feel what spiritual maturity is.
  • Develop accountability. You cannot grow closer to Christ, if you are focused on the things of the flesh. Yet the flesh is always there, and subtly invades our thought process. To “Take every thought captive” requires that we make ourselves accountable. Accountability works best between those who have a relationship at stake. If I am accountable to someone who I care about, who I love, and who loves me, then breaking the accountability destroys the relationship, and I have something important to lose – again, that means believers developing close relationships between more and less mature believers. This does not always happen without coercion. The cliquishness of some churches prevents new believers from forming deep discipling relationships with more mature believers. A systemic approach to building and maintaining these connections is often necessary to ensure accountability.


  • Individual Measurement: This measurement is personal, and helps each believer set goals and know when they are equipped for service. It helps them understand their gifts, strengths, and talents. It helps them understand their inadequacies, weaknesses, and struggles. It is not publicized, or shared, but is part of the accountability process.
  • Corporate Measurement: This measurement is public, what ratio of our body is involved in this process, and even involved in leadership roles in this process. It is about understanding the success or progress of our ministry as a whole, rather than the progress of individuals.


  • What we are celebrating: We are celebrating the growth and the developing maturity of the believer – but really, We are celebrating how many of our members or attenders are participating in the cultivating process.
  • Why we are celebrating: We are celebrating because it encourages those who are participating to stay the course, and it encourages those who have not yet tried the cultivation process to get involved. Celebration is an adertisement that makes people already in process feel good because they are commended for their participation, even if their progress is slow. Celebration is an advertisement that makes people not yet in process attracted to the cause, because they have a defined path to growth.