Social Club or Thermostat Church?

July 13, 2005 by

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the position of the church:

“There was a time when the church was very powerful—in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society… . But the judgment of God is upon the church [today] as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century.” (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”)

Are King’s words coming to pass? For me, this is the heartbeat of Church Marketing Sucks. I see two primary problems which have made this site necessary: 1) The church has a hard time communicating its message. 2) The message we do communicate often fails because our authenticity is in jeopardy.

All the postcards and Google ads in the world won’t fix the second problem.


(quote via Mission Safari)

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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5 Responses to “Social Club or Thermostat Church?”

  • Eddie
    July 13, 2005

    that really is a fantastic quote and it speaks volumes to me, thank you for sharing it. unfortunatly, i think for most churches in america, it has already “come to pass.”

    but that’s just my opinion…

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  • M Squared T Blog
    July 13, 2005

    Thermostat or Social Club?

    Dr. King has a number of timeless quotes – or at least ones that, despite 40+ years, are still extremely timely. Here’s one of them:
    There was a time when the church was very powerful-in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed w…

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  • Pudge
    July 14, 2005

    I also think “Mr. King” gave us a clue to “getting back on track” (renewing our authencity if you will).
    Should the church revolve around society?
    Yes and No.
    If we don’t know what society is looking at, experiencing, enjoying, or hating…how can we relate to them to reach them?
    However, if we only look to society we have forgotten the gift we are sharing.
    Should “the church” looking to society ever change?
    Yes and No.
    One day, the church should set the tone of society. That it has been so relevant and engaging that it has regained its authority and sets the tone for what we once studied.
    However, even then we have to know the people in order to reach the people.
    Blanket statements of people, suffocate people.

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  • Todd Ruth
    July 16, 2005

    Not only does the church have a hard time communicating its message, it often communicates the wrong message… the “What we’re against” rather than “What we’re for”.

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  • radio rebellion
    July 18, 2005

    Super Size Me…at last

    Oh, Gads!!! I’m sitting here watching Su

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