Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Purple Cows

The title of one of Seth Godin's books is Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. The premise for his book is this, if you've seen one cow or two cows, you've seen them all. But if you saw a purple cow, that you would remember.

When I think about the church, what is it that people will remember about us. How do we "brand" ourselves? How do we demonstrate community and faith and hospitality?

I enjoyed reading his book. It really made me think more about the metaphor: if you've seen one brown cow you've seen them all. But a purple cow, would catch your attention. One statement in the book has profound implications: "If you aren't remarkable you're invisible."

Every church needs to paint itself purple. I'm not talking about gimmicks. I'm not talking about being different for the sake of being different. I'm talking about making such a remarkable difference in our communities that we are unignorable, unforgettable, and totally visible and necessary for the survival of the community.

Think about this ~

1) the good news should make headline news. Brown churches sit on the sideline and invite the community to come to them. Purple churches are always active, busy, passionate, and compelling. They are making such a big difference that they become a highly visible part of their community. People drive by the brown churches--the churches that are invisible--to go to the purple church.

2) The greatest message deserves the greatest marketing. I know for many in the church, marketing is a dirty word, but does it get anybody else riled up that Madison Avenue is far better at pedaling its worthless trash than the church is at preaching the good news? We have the "Field of Dreams" mentality, 'if you build it they will come.' Well, they ain't coming, so don't complain, become part of the solution. We need to compete with the world for the people who are in the world, to win them to Christ and transform / change their hearts and help them grow more and more into His image. On second thought, we need to do that in the church, as well.

3) The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. After all, God is the Creator of the world. He is super creative, and His people have His gifts to create, so we should be thinking and doing and dreaming outside of the box, not moving to new places within the box. Too many churches look too much alike, because they are afraid to move into the 21st century. How will we help the world around us see and believe that we are relevant to their needs.

So how do we paint ourselves purple? For starters, dare to be different. You might offend some Pharisees, but that isn't who you're trying to reach (they are already lost, and like the ones Jesus spoke to, they could not move off their Pharisaim). Secondly, disrupt the routine. I think it starts with our own routines. Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective. Imagine changing your seat in church (gulp!) You need to get out of your routine so you can have some purple thoughts.

Leaders need to cause and create some discontentment and even confusion. Think about Jesus, he didn't do orientations. He did disorientations. We need to find new ways of saying old things (see the Parables). Consider how we give milk to a baby . . . in a bottle, consider how you drink milk today, in a cup. The milk is the same, but the delivery method changes. In the same way, the Gospel message never changes, but the delivery does and must.

We need to find new wineskins. We need to sing a new song. Neurological studies have found that familiarity stimulates the left-brain. Novelty stimulates the right-brain. We need some Spirit-inspired, right-brained ideas that capture the imagination of the church and the world.

What do you think?!

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