Branding 101 for the remnant church

One of the greatest statements I heard from Steve Jobs was, “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them” (Steve Jobs, Business Week, May 25 1998). The Bible says in Luke 16:8, “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (NASB).

Growing up a Seventh-day Adventist, I have seen the church go from knowing where it was going to appearing to be groping in the dark looking for light. I guess the picture of Jesus in Revelation 3:20 knocking on the door wanting someone to let him in is more applicable than I realized.

Seventh-day Adventists more than perhaps any organization in history have some big milestones that set them apart and put them on a special mission. The church believes the three messages of Revelation 14: 6-10 are the mission statement of the church. The church believes it is to complete the mission that the Protestant Reformation began. The church is the last bastion of hope in Protestantism that still protests all of the evils of the Roman church.

So that being said, this is a church with a mission statement to reveal to the world the character of God in the time of Judgment (1st angel’s message). This is a church to call people out of the confusion of the false religions, confused denominations, and false hope of the rat race that the world offers (2nd angel’s message). This is a church to tell people that the greatest conspiracy in the history of the war between good and evil is about to take place when all humanity will wage war against those who desire to trust in the Invisible rather than the proposed reality of earthly peace (3rd Angel’s Message).

A church with those mandates, you would think, stands out like a sore thumb with its brand. When we think of Apple, we think of a clean store with top notch products that are easy to understand. We think of products that just make sense and work like one would intuitively think they would.

As I look at the “remnant” of Revelation 12:17, I see a church with a major branding dilemma on its hands. First, I have a problem with the change of the logo of the church. We had for many years a logo that revealed our mission statement: three angels flying in the sky with trumpets to declare those three vital messages. Today we have a flame that some argue looks just like every other denomination and is in essence a watering down of our distinctiveness. I am not going to debate the behind-the-scenes of the change, but what I will say is with the brand, our mark seems to signal a change in mission.

Today, we find few men willing to boldly declare that we are just as opposed to Catholicism and the errors that have crept into modern Christianity in North America as were the reformers of the Reformation or the pioneers of Adventism. We used to be a people known for being deep Bible students. Today, in most churches you won’t find many members with a Bible.

I recently offered on two different occasions to two different groups of Adventist high school students an offer of $100 to anyone who would get up right then and sufficiently defend just one of any of the 28 stated fundamental beliefs of the Adventist church. Not one on either occasion for $100 was bold enough to even attempt it. I would have been lenient.

As with any good business, it is branding 101 to know what your mission is and to use that in all your marketing and programming and planning. I look back to the past few months and even as this article is being written, we saw one of our premier institutions, Oakwood University, inviting a preacher that vehemently preaches against the Sabbath to come and teach preachers about good leadership. Would Martin Luther have invited some of the Jesuits to come and teach his Protestant students about the errors of Protestantism? How about the latest issue with the Andrews Seminary inviting a man that is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the greatest leaders in the ecumenical movement to come share a lecture on “The Ecumenical Movement and Why You Should Be Involved”?

It is time we as a movement get back to the roots of what this movement is all about. If we no longer believe these three messages are for us, then let’s throw them out and join Rome. I think God has something better in store for us than that plan. For that reason, I love my church and will stay in it until Christ comes to take us home forever.