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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Trinity Presbyterian’s friend request from Jesus just seems desperate

Ride the streetcar to and from downtown Tucson often enough and the trip starts to become a bit of bore.

Looking out the window at the wonders of early-morning Fourth Avenue is the only means of escaping the tedium and confined spaces of the pre-class commute. 

Any new features thus stick out like a sore thumb, with Trinity Presbyterian’s “You have a friend request … from Jesus,” banners perhaps serving as the sore thumb of the month.

While the institution itself isn’t under fire here, its current advertising campaign leaves something to be desired. These sorts of attempts at combining the Christian message with modern media trends have become fairly common, readily visible across various networking sites and roadside billboards.

The immediate response is to find it all a bit, well, corny. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has decided not only to join Facebook, but also to send out friend requests? Have his followers on Earth really become so bad at spreading the Word that such measures are necessary? Liberal young college students aren’t the only ones to recognize the inherent silliness in these ads.

A local campus church institution director, who wished to remain anonymous, had something to say about this brand of Christian advertising.

“I’m not sure portraying Christ in social mediums is inappropriate, but it feels desperate to me. I know many denominations hold two worship services on Sundays—one for traditional crowds and the other for younger crowds. Pandering to your demographic suggests you don’t believe in your message.”

Belief seems the core of the issue. If a denomination truly respects the concept of Christ, the idea that there is a God and he died to save humanity from its sins, then portraying that savior as just another social media user seems a disservice in the extreme. And yet, the major denominations must do something to improve attendance.

In his June article titled, “Which Religion Is Dying in America?,” Huffington Post Religion columnist and pastor Charles Redfern found that four thousand churches close each year and 3,500 people leave the Church each day. It’s no surprise then that the major denominations are scrambling to find ways to reverse that trend.

A more open-minded perspective when it comes to modernist Christian advertising may be called for. Richard Lewis, elder at the Vineyard Christian Community, points out that perhaps these new forms of proselytizing are actually evidence of sincerely held beliefs.

“The good news of salvation, freedom from sin and death and eternal relationship with God through the person and work of Jesus Christ, is too good to restrict to some narrow road of communication. It should be shared, as Paul said, ‘by all means.’”

Regardless of the sincerity of these advertisements, their efficacy remains in question. Are there any students that find them clever or appealing? And if there are, do these students find themselves attending services regularly as a result?

Ultimately, it may not even be enough to simply get students into a church service; it’s getting them to come back that’s the real trick. The aforementioned anonymous institute director weighed in:

“If gimmicks bring someone to your church and you try gimmicks … to retain them you’re not a church—you’re a social club. Churches must offer something Hollywood and other lifestyles can’t offer: personal peace and fulfillment.”

Follow Greg Castro on Twitter.

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