I am a fan of many of the Apple products. I like their simplicity in design and elegance in appearance. Maybe I am too attached to the "cult of Apple," but I do count it as a victory that I have yet to obtain an iPhone! With every Apple purchase I have made, I have received in the packaging, several white Apple decals. You've probably seen these on the rear windows of Hondas or bumpers of your friend's Camry. In this practice, Apple is not very different from most companies. It's good business to get others to advertise for you.
Kids will pay extra to have a t-shirt that says "Hollister" or a purse with the Coach symbol all over it, and these companies love it. Think about it: you are paying them to advertise their product! In many cases, even the product itself is the advertisement, and the mere fact that it is seen generates interest in it.
I have been wondering how that can apply to our faith and what we do as a Church. Now, I am always wary of comparisons of the Church to business models; however, as a vocations director, much of my job is publicity and "marketing." Perhaps my youth minister and evangelization friends feel the same way at times. The question is: "How can we attract more people to this thing we love so much?" "This thing" is our faith and the Church that teaches it.
Sure, cute stickers, gimmicky advertisement and engaging videos certainly draw attention; but once we have that attention, why should people stay or come back? What captivates them?
The product is the advertisement.
We are talking about the credibility of what we do as a Church - what we do as ministers. Where does that come from? Why would an interested young man decide to follow his perceived call to priesthood? Why would a group of kids take their Sunday nights to hang out with others and share their faith? Why would a family new to an area regularly attend the local Catholic Church? What is our "product?"
A kind letter to new people in an area; a short, fun video by your youth peer ministers; a witness talk by a sincere seminarian: all of these can grab attention. But what keeps people in - what captivates them - is not the exterior bells and whistles (or even "smells and bells"). What captivates them is our credibility as a place where God is encountered and where He reveals meaning in my life. Credibility does not come from a well-ordered argument; credibility comes from a well-ordered life.
The world needs witnesses - examples of a way of life that is better, that brings meaning, that brings life. That is the power of the saints - that is the value of witness. In a world where we must be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves," our lives speak.
Madison Avenue has their tricks. Advertising can transform people's entire worldview. I can't put the letter "i" in front of anything now without conjuring an image of a balding man in a black turtleneck holding the latest cool gadget. Evangelization is like that too. Certainly, we are not selling anything - but the "product" is worth it. What does out witness advertise? What sort of message does our way of life convey?
What will we do today to captivate others - for God?