A pastor friend of mine, Brady Wisehart, wrote a Facebook post a few weeks ago that really touched my heart. His post cut through a world of compromise and challenges each of us to die in order to live. I asked him for permission to share it on Fire School’s blog. The following is what he wrote.
— Rob McCorkle
I was greeted this morning as I sifted through my inbox with an email titled, “We can help your Church’s brand”, sent from a church branding company. I had not solicited help from this company and was about to move the email to the trash folder when I paused, and was captivated by the following thoughts: What is the brand of the church, not just my local church but the Church of Jesus Christ? Is there a difference between the brand of the broader Church of Jesus Christ and my local church? Have we, in western culture, elevated our local church brands above the core brand of Christianity?
My thoughts were not debating denominational distinctions or dumping on marketing or branding as tools. In fact, my thoughts were quite the opposite. I believe denominations are helpful to the body of Christ, and I believe that the greatest news in the world—the gospel—is worthy of our best efforts to communicate as effectively as we can. Marketing consultants, however, tell us that your brand is very important. It’s what tells the story of the core of your message. It’s what you present to the marketplace as who you are, what you are all about, and what you have to offer. For centuries, the brand of the Church of Jesus Christ was embodied by the cross. Atop of a cathedral or a country church the branding was consistent, a cross. For centuries, the image of the cross has been universal; and it’s not limited to one culture but around the world the cross communicates the message of Christianity.
But think about that with me for a moment. The core branding image of Christianity is an execution device. Can you imagine a marketing consultant encouraging your institutional identity to be an electric chair? Welcome to our church, the church of death! Yet this is the message. Paul said, “I did not come to you with persuasive words of wisdom but…I preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2-4). The message of the cross is one of death to sin and life in Christ (see Eph. 2:16; Heb. 12:2; 1Cor. 1:17-18; Gal.511-14; Phil. 3:18).
It is in the death of Christ that we find freedom from sin and life in Him. This brand of the cross is not just a symbol of what Christ did for us. Jesus clarifies the message when He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Jesus calls us to make a choice. When I choose to accept Christ by grace and faith alone, I walk with Him as a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
Paul said, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). He continued, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:20-21).
That’s a lot of death talk for a core brand. I can see how some may be tempted to “refresh” the brand and give a lighter spin on the message. But Paul helps us in Galatians 2:21 see that if righteousness could be gained some other way other than Jesus, then Christ died for nothing. In short, a “refreshed” or “touched up” brand, sanitizing the uncomfortable parts of the message and replacing them with a more “crowd friendly” narrative is not only dangerous but completely undermines the entire gospel; leaving us with a product that is powerless.
I came across a graphic depicting how the apostles died. Suddenly it hit me, they lived the brand. They all gave up their life for Christ. This was not just a testament to their devotion to the brand, but more so; they lived the brand in their deaths. While I’m not suggesting God is calling each of us to be physically martyred for our faith in Christ, I do believe the core brand is clear. Through the cross I find life in Christ. When I am in Christ the old has gone and the new has come. Following Jesus leads us to a dying out to self and sin. To the point: If you are not ready to die, then you are not ready to live.
Are you a Christian? Are you a true follower of Jesus Christ? If yes, then are you living the brand of the cross of Christ or have you drifted into a fixation with your own unique articulation of your preferred idea of Christianity? Has your faith become more focused on your preferences, your interests, and your agenda? Has there been an erosion of the call Christ gives to love Him so much that by comparison it’s like you hate everything else (Luke 14:26)?
I have amazing news for you friend. There is no better way to live than to die. When we allow Christ to save us from our sinful selves, and when we allow the power of His Spirit to lead us to crucify our desires so we can embrace the desires of God, we start truly living. The old has gone and the new has come.
Jesus, I surrender my life completely to you. I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you. I die to live; now live through me every moment, amen.