I am a Christian

June 15, 2009 by

The various “I am/We are [fill in your denomination]” ad campaigns that we mentioned last week (Southern Baptist, Foursquare, Episcopal) got me thinking: Who cares?

I understand denominations needing to differentiate themselves and explain who they are. Our own Brad Abare is the communications director for Foursquare and we can blame him for “We Are Foursquare.”

Maybe it’s the denominational hopscotch I’ve played throughout my life, but a denomination doesn’t define my identity. I’m a Christian, first and foremost. The denominational distinctives are a secondary (or tertiary) concern. Frankly, I think an emphasis on our doctrinal differences only serves to divide us when we should instead find reasons to be united.

It reminds me of the days back in high school when I traveled around to churches in the metro Detroit area putting on yo-yo shows with a good friend of mine (Yes, yo-yo shows. Want photographic proof?). After the shows people would often ask what we were–Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran? A bit confused at first, we always responded that we were Christians. Only grudgingly did we reveal that we attended a Baptist church, not out of embarrassment for the Baptist roots, but because we didn’t identify as Baptists. Being Baptist didn’t matter. We were Christians.

Maybe these “I am/We are” campaigns help. But I’m not so sure. I want to see people become Christians, not Episcopalians, Baptists, Catholics or whatever you call members of the Foursquare Church (Foursquaries? Foursquarites? Foursquares?).

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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13 Responses to “I am a Christian”

  • Eric Granata
    June 15, 2009

    Good point, Kevin. I find that most often when I am asked what denomination church I go to it is asked by another Christian. While I feel the same way that you do, when it comes from another Christian I take it as casual curiosity.
    Yo-Yos are awesome. I wish I was good enough for a performance ministry.
    Foursquare members = squares? Just kidding. You guys are great.

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  • Derek
    June 15, 2009


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  • Rick Wilson
    June 15, 2009

    Good stuff! It is so important to know about what “brand Jesus” really is. It’s all about reflecting Him and not us and certainly not our group.
    As a former Baptist (not to pick them inordinately) – I can remember seeing my role as God’s “watchman on the wall,” making sure that everyone agreed to my intensely fundamentalist theology. I now find that I can have very rich fellowship and friendship with those that do not believe as I do. Much easier and much more fun!

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  • Emilio Silvas
    June 15, 2009

    Kevin, I agree wholeheartedly. This is the larger point I was trying to make, perhaps with limited/no success in my response to your earlier post. Being Christian is what matters. The particular tradition is where we are most comfortable. Unfortunately, we end up slinging mud at one another over the particulars of each tradition.

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  • Carol Kirshner
    June 15, 2009

    Kevin, I hear you loud and clear. I find many of your points very salient, especially for Christians who are sufficiently churched. However, to play the advocate here I do think there is a place for these type of campaigns.
    I am a member of a new Episcopal Church plant (I know… I know… Yes, the Episcopal church does that). We are finding that we have a fair number of newcomers who have never really gone to church or are coming from other denominations. We are finding that most of them have done their homework and are coming already armed with information and questions. As such, I think these type of campaigns are helpful.
    But, Yes, in the end we are all Christians and we share the same call. However, we must also understand that seekers also want to have their questions answered.

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  • Pam
    June 15, 2009

    Four Squarists.
    I belong to a phenomenal Seventh-day Adventist church, which focuses on making disciples for Christ, but I know many other Adventist churches baptize “Adventists.”

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  • Chon Torres
    June 16, 2009

    There is a difference between internal and external marketing.
    It can be good to rally the tribe around our common history and beliefs and practices – those of general Christianity and those specific to our tribe.
    I agree that outside of the church most people do not care and if the Church wars against itself through slogans then it looks idiotic. However I see no problem with tribal distinctions, assuming everyone understands we are part of the larger Body.

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  • Stephen Kiers
    June 19, 2009

    I have to, respectfully, disagree with you. I attend a ‘non-denominational’ church and pretty much have my whole life and have been trained at a PAOC/AOG College here in Canada.

    I do not believe in dividing on denominational lines, nor do I believe any other (Christian) denominations are ‘going to hell’ or anything, but knowing someones denomination can help you discover a lot about them. Well at least if they grew up in that denomination.

    Maybe it is my education, maybe it is something else, but I do notice the subtle differences between the different denominations and can often tell how someone will react to different things based on their upbringing. Differences in teachings in your church as you grew up (Eschatology, Ecclesiology, Calvinism vs Armianism, Missiology, Sanctification, etc) effect the way you think now.

    Plus I don’t think that denominations are as evil as most people do. I will describe myself as ‘pentecostal’ even though I have never gone to their church, and our church has many different subtle differences.

    So yeah, that is my 2 cents!

    Blessings, Steve

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  • Allison
    June 30, 2009

    My first recollection of an I Am/We Are campaign was after the Columbine High School shootings.
    Since then, countless banks, hospitals, universities, even the military has employed it.
    How about “I Am Sickofit.”

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  • Ted
    July 1, 2009

    A church with a denomination sign on the front lawn only spells out where they stopped, not where they’re going.
    And yes, denom. marketing described above simply STINKS.

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  • I have found it hard to fit into any denominational church. It is also hard to fit into a non-denominational one as well since they seem to have their own thing going.
    I believe every denomination could learn from each other and grow from it.

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  • Brradley
    January 6, 2010

    Pam, I definitely agree with you. There are fundamental differences between many denominations and because of that, I simply can not sit under the teaching of some church leaders.
    Theology is what defines who we are and what we believe about God. Without it, we would be a bunch of shallow minded believers who live good lives and believe in a God but don’t know why. Which sadly, is the direction the church is headed today. How many times in the last year did your pastor teach how to have a good marriage, how to manage your kids or your finances instead of doing the unpopular thing, preaching only the Word(I love a good expository sermon)?
    Besides all of that, how I feel or how you feel, it really comes down to what the Bible says and sadly, there are many churches/denominations who have unbiblical teachings. That my friends is where we can draw denominational lines.

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  • Eric D
    January 12, 2010

    I agree completely with this article. One of the main reasons atheists have told me they don’t believe is due to the division amongst Christians. We must put Christ before our denominations dogma and be unified like Jesus asked us to in John 17. I agree with you Brradley that when with other Christians we should lovingly explain why we believe differently for matters that are salvation issues, but when it comes to our identity – how you identify yourself which this article pertains to it should be Christ alone like Paul tells us.
    The trouble some people get into is when they are so passionate for their interpretation of specific gray area non-salvation issues that they lose sight of big picture issues such as actually living boldly for God and and loving others as Jesus did.
    Brradley, in regards to your comments about what preachers talk about – how to handle your finances (money) was the most talked about issue in the Bible because it’s a heart issue. Marriage is talked about throughout the New Testament regarding how we treat people – its covered under His 2nd commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. We as Christians are failing in our marriages, greed is overtaking our lives. Matters of the heart are what we need to hear because we are failing here – our divorce rate is higher than non-believers. Matters that transform our lives, our childrens lives and the lives of those around us to live more like Jesus are what we need to hear.

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