The Brand vs. the Body


I’ve got to be honest and start this post out by saying that I don’t have any clue as to how to write it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my place in the church, and I think I might have found some traction in understanding a problem I keep running up against: churches are brands.

Planning or leading anything (and sometimes even saying anything about God in private conversations) at a church is equivalent to representing a brand – the bigger the brand, the more exactly you have to align with their strategy and core-values, and the more you are expected to perfectly represent.

I hate that.

I hate it because I can’t and won’t (and don’t even believe I should) represent the brand.

I remember the moment when I realized I’d have to leave that first big church I was at – the one that introduced me to God.

I was leading some youth stuff, and one of the verses the church always gave people to memorize was Romans 8:28 “For God works everything together for good for those who love and obey Him.”

Not.

That’s not what the verse actually says.

I didn’t know that for about 3 years, because I represented the brand, and they gave me a list of verses to memorize, with the verses typed out for us.

Dutifully, I memorized the verse. Exactly as they taught me.

And didn’t look it up on my own for 3 years.

You know what it really says? Of course you know. It’s one of those verses that everyone knows.

“For God works everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

I don’t know of any translation that has it as, “…for those who love and obey Him.”

Because that means something completely different from what the Bible actually says. I know it’s a subtle difference, but it has HUGE implications. In the version the church gave me, blessings are earned through obedience rather than received as gifts.Taking that a step further, we can believe that we’re more deserving of good things (even salvation) than other people are… because we obey.

All it takes is a moment to read the verses that surround Romans 8:28, to see that it isn’t so much about God giving us what we want because we obey Him as it’s about the Spirit, His role in the trinity and relationship to humanity, and the graceful work God does on our behalf (and it’s more than a little about predestination).

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God works everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Romans 8:26-30

When I read the verse for myself and paid attention to the context, I realized that I couldn’t represent that brand.

I never want my relationship with God to fall under a brand’s theological umbrella. I want to know God in a completely personal, honest, and authentic way for the rest of my life. I don’t want to align my beliefs with a brand. I want to align my beliefs with my God. I won’t carve out a place in my heart for lines posted on a church website; that space is already reserved as a hiding place for God’s word.

Which makes me feel like a rogue.

It shouldn’t make me feel that way, but it does.

It makes me resentful that the church isn’t a body like it’s supposed to be.

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12 thoughts on “The Brand vs. the Body

    • Of course there are a few specific churches that have shaped my paradigm, but I’d rather not list them. The point isn’t which churches are brands but that sometimes the church impedes genuine worship by being like the world.

      My conflict isn’t so much an external one against individual brands, but an internal one about how to serve the church and its people, and worship God without losing myself (and my relationship with God) to the brand.

  1. Wonderful post, Katie. Keep listening to His Spirit and commit yourself to obedience, regardless of how rogue it may appear. I’ll be praying for you in your search. God bless.

    • Thanks, AW. You’ve been writing a lot of really good posts lately, too. I haven’t commented on them all because I frequently don’t have anything awesome to contribute. Your posts get me thinking, though, even when I don’t comment.

      🙂

  2. I’m smiling inside…Jesus is my brand, and yours I see. He is the brand, He is the reason, God is our great affection and what we must have more of. Keep pressing in, dear one. You will be rewarded with your inheritance… the Christ Himself. Mmmm…

  3. Phil of the Future-

    There are definitely churches I’ve known and loved that aren’t brands. The Crossing was my church home for 6 lovely years, and was not at all brandlike 🙂 Also, the church I’m currently attending called Holy Cross and lots and lots of others are filled with honest and un self-conscious worship

    Didn’t mean for this post to seem like I think all churches are brands. There are LOTS and LOTS of good ones out there.

  4. I liked how you addressed the need to look at the CONTEXT surrounding a verse. There are countless instances of churches and groups that feel they can totally justify their actions and theology because of a couple of verses that they pluck out of scripture. Standing alone, some verses can sound totally different than their intended meaning. I’m glad you were able to find that verse and recognize the situation. I need to do that more.

  5. So neat to see people questioning that which is widely accepted among the Christian community. It takes courage and a certain kind of confidence. Not confidence in self, but confidence in Christ. Confidence that He is faithful when all else is lost. Kinda reminds me of that old hymn that goes “You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” A willingness to forsake popularity and comfort to pursue Christ, unpoluted and untainted. “That we may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.” (paraphrase) Keep it up! Go girl!

  6. Thanks Katie. When reading this post, I was filled with some mixed emotions. I was happy for you that you could see the truth and at the same time I was sad that what you wrote about some churches being “brands” is unfortunately the truth. I love your insight into these things.

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