Unfortunately but understandably, words like “marketing” and “branding” have become a four-letter words in the minds of many Christians, particularly those like us who are theologically conservative and seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures. However, as we will try to demonstrate here, branding is simply communicating who we are and what we value, while marketing is the attempt to let as many people as possible know that we exist. In that sense, any church with a website or even business cards is engaging in both. More than that, every church wants to engage in both: there isn’t a church of any kind anywhere who doesn’t want people to know what they value and what kind of church they are, and who doesn’t want people to know that they exist.
Since that is the case, the point of compromise for a church is not at the point of branding or marketing. It’s when they commit to unbiblical values and have an unbiblical view of the local church. In other words, it’s not that they’re branding or marketing, but what they’re trying to do with their branding and marketing.
A Brief, Necessary Introduction
A brief introduction is necessary before we continue.
I (the author of this article) am Tony de la Riva, the new associate pastor at Firm Foundation Bible Church. Career-wise, to this point, as I have continued to pursue ministry and theological training, my background has been in design and communications. For the past several years, I have owned and operated my own branding and web development studio, de la Riva Brands. I have thought deeply over the years about things like branding, marketing, design, and communication, the role and function of those things in their regular use, and how they should be understood from a biblical, Christian perspective.
Over the years and for many reasons, I have become increasingly convinced that things like marketing and branding are not only good things in themselves, but things which all biblically-faithful churches should be doing more of, not less of (it goes without saying that they should not be castigating them). This is because more of God’s Word and more faithful churches are exactly what this dark, dying, lost, perverse world needs.
Two of my first orders of duty when I came to Firm Foundation four months ago were, first, developing the FFBC brand, and, second, developing the FFBC website. As all such communications projects must have definite governing objectives in the form of communicative absolutes, these were no different: At Firm Foundation Bible Church, we want to be crystal clear in all our communications about our singular, ultimate commitment to the faithful preaching of God’s authoritative Word in order to feed Christ’s sheep.
In this article, we’ll provide an explanation for our new brand, what our new logo means, and why we believe all of this is important.
“At Firm Foundation Bible Church, we want to be crystal clear in all our communications about our singular, ultimate commitment to the faithful preaching of God’s authoritative Word in order to feed Christ’s sheep.”
The Imago Dei: Humans Have Always Branded
From the beginning of time, human beings have felt the necessity to communicate who they are and what they value—and not just with words, but visually. Babylon had the lion. Rome had the eagle. The ancient Mayans had the jaguar. In our own day, the Japanese have the rising sun, while we in America have the stars and stripes. Communism has the hammer and sickle, Rotarians have the gear symbol.
And it isn’t just communities or groups that do this. Individuals do it. The Roman emperor had a non-functional breastplate made of gold; kings wear crowns; businessmen wear suits; pastors in seeker-friendly churches wear Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. Brides get done up to the nines, while first dates and job interviewees make sure to dress their best.
But why do human beings do this?
Well, for one, the answer is obvious. We do it because we’re trying to say something about who we are and what we value, and we want to elicit in people a particular, definite, appropriate response to that, both internally and externally.
As a job interviewee, for example, I want the interviewer to know and believe certain things about me in order that he or she concludes that I’m the best candidate for the job. As king, I want everyone to know that I’m in-charge and important. If I’m a first date, I want it be clear that I’m a worthy second date and (hopefully) much more. If I’m ancient Rome, I want the world to know that I’m fierce, swift, calculating, powerful, regal, and fearless.
In other words, I’m saying something about myself—who I am and what I value—and I’m doing that visually. And I want people to respond a certain way to that, first internally, and then, accordingly, outwardly.
“We’re trying to say something about who we are and what we value, and we want to elicit in people a particular, definite, appropriate response to that, both internally and externally.”
In fact, this becomes even more clear when we consider, for example, that ancient Rome did not choose the shrew, which was also a common animal in that part of the world at the time. What is it about eagles, as opposed to shrews, that commands fearful respect? The answer is fairly obvious.
So, to answer the question, we communicate visually because want the appropriate observers to understand something about us—but that isn’t quite what we’re asking.
Why do human beings do this? Where does the incurable impulse for this kind of communicative self-expression come from? It comes from God, who himself is a communicator, both verbally and visually.
In other words, we do it because we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), which is why it is as fundamental to humanity as morality, or sociality, or thinking.
God Himself is a Communicator
As God led Israel through the wilderness, he did so in the form of a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21). That sight—particularly of the fire—would have no doubt been terrifyingly awesome. Why did God do this? Is it because his fundamental, ontological essence is cloud, or fire, or even a pillar? Well, seeing as how God is spirit and has no body and is not physical (Jn. 4:24, Ac. 7:48), to say that would be heresy.
Is it not obvious that God was doing something like what Rome was doing when they represented themselves to the world with the eagle? Like Rome, God was saying something about himself in that pillar—things that pertain to his holiness, his power, his eternality, his divinity, etc.—and he wanted Israel to respond to that in a definite and appropriate way.
What God did NOT want—and has never wanted—is for man to come up with his own ideas of who God is and what God values. Not only is that to disregard God for who he himself is as a person (not a human; two different things), but it is the essence of idolatry. At the most fundamental level, to acknowledge God as God is the essence of the will of God for man (Ex. 20:3, Pr. 3:6, Rom. 1:21).
In order to reinforce this and to strengthen man’s idea of who God is, we have in the Bible word pictures and even theophanies (physical manifestations of God) that give us visual representations of who he is—things like the pillars of cloud and fire, or the Lord seated on the throne as his robe fills the temple with glory while awesome angels worship and the smoke-filled temple shakes (Is. 6:1-7). It’s why we see God appearing to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2). It’s why we have Jesus pictured as both a lamb and a lion (Jn. 1:29, Rev. 5:5). To extend this to things beyond God himself, it’s also why we have sin and error characterized as darkness, and righteousness and truth characterized as light (Ac. 26:18, Rom. 13:12, Eph. 5:11).
“God himself communicates things about who he is and what he does over and over again, and he does that visually, not just verbally. And human beings are made in God’s image, so we do it, too.”
God himself communicates things about who he is and what he does over and over again, and he does that visually, not just verbally. And human beings are made in God’s image, so we do it, too. And when that impulse is applied in the sphere of 21st-century American business or organization, we call it “branding”.
In other words, call it whatever you want—branding or whatever else—but we do it because human beings are made in God’s image. That kind of communication matters to us because it matters to God.
Branding is a Fact of Life in Our Society
In 21st-century American society, digital and print communications are a fact of life, period. These are the means of both promoting and learning about organizations in our day and age. And we all know that because we all use them, either to learn about other organizations, or promote our own.
Inherent to those means of communication, necessarily, is a visual and verbal statement about who we are and what we value. In other words, as soon as you have a website, or a business card, or anything else that is designed to “communicate” to people on behalf of the organization—whether you are doing it consistently or not, well or not, whether you like it or not, or even realize it or not—you are “branding” (or, again, whatever it is that you call that self-communicative impulse that is embedded in the image of God in us).
“In 21st-century American society, digital and print communications are a fact of life, period. And inherent to those means of communication, necessarily, is a visual and verbal statement about who we are and what we value.”
If you need any further proof of this at all, consider: the second you have any concern whatsoever about the fonts or colors you’re using, or about whether or not your business card, website, etc., “looks good”, you are branding—that is, you’re attempting to tell people something about you or your organization.
Therefore, in view of the fact that:
- we are necessarily going to be engaging in “branding” as a church in 21st-century America by virtue of the fact of our print and digital communications;
- people are going to be understanding something about us based on those communications whether we like it or not
- I have been helping businesses and organizations grow by providing just these kinds of services for most of the past 10 years (i.e., since we now have an own in-house professional, viz., me)
we felt there was no excuse not to put our best foot forward in the community—not merely by trying to have “a nice logo” or “a pretty website”—but by really endeavoring to communicate to people, with accuracy and excellence, who we are and what we value at Firm Foundation Bible Church. And that, of course, is the authority and the sufficiency of God’s inspired, inerrant Word, which is what we preach.
“We are endeavoring to communicate to people, with accuracy and excellence, who we are and what we value at Firm Foundation Bible Church. And that, of course, is the authority and the sufficiency of God’s inspired, inerrant Word, which is what we preach.”
About the New FFBC Brand
Our elders have worked hard over the last couple of years to really nail down what the Bible teaches about leadership, the church, and the Christian life. As a result, we have identified a handful of core values that not only define us, but that distinguish us from other churches, including those with whom we share similar doctrinal convictions.
Among other things, some of the most important of those values include biblical church leadership, the expository (“verse-by-verse”) preaching of God’s Word, and grace and patience toward all people, especially the flock of God.
When we put these together, what we find at the heart of the kind of church we want to be is a Christ-like, tender-hearted shepherd’s spirit that loves, cares for, and nourishes the people of God by means of the bread of life, which is the Word of God. And the new Firm Foundation brand as a whole—the “face” of which is our new logo—seeks to communicate that in a way that is clear, dignified, excellent, and attractive.
The new Firm Foundation logo is a simple, slightly-stylized open Bible with a shepherd’s staff in the center, which conveys the idea of shepherding Christ’s sheep through the (open) Word of God. The reason our leaders decided to use the logo to represent our values rather than our name (Firm Foundation) was that our name may change—just as it did a couple years ago, and just as it may again within the next few years as we continue to grow—but our core convictions never will.
Our primary brand color is red, which conveys warmth, love, compassion—not only of God toward his sheep, but of how we at Firm Foundation seek to emulate that.
OUR BRAND AESTHETIC
Our brand aesthetic features the Libre Franklin typeface, which is a clean, classy, highly-readable, modern descendant of timeliness fonts such as Helvetica.
On the whole, our brand seeks to be modern and up-to-date, but not trendy or silly. We want our brand to communicate a sense of dignity without being stale or stuffy. Above all, we want our brand to communicate, which is the God-given vehicle of truth.
“Above all, we want the new Firm Foundation brand to communicate, which is the God-given vehicle of truth.”
Wrapping It All Up
At the end of the day, we are simply trying to let the community know who we are in a way that is accurate and attractive. People are going to see us in the community—whether online, or on our building sign, or in our church invitations. And what we don’t want is for people to come to any ol’ conclusion that pops into their mind about us when they look at, for example, our website, or our church invitations. We want them to know exactly what we value—which, ultimately, is a simple, honest, faithful commitment to teaching, understanding, and applying God’s Word—and we want to attract people in whose hearts God is working and has planted a desire for that. Many of them have no idea that desire is even there yet—but they will, we trust, when they see it. “Ah,” they’ll say to themselves, “the verse-by-verse preaching of God’s Word—that’s exactly what I need!”
We hope the new Firm Foundation brand encourages you and helps to reinforce the importance of God’s Word and the local church in your mind. It certainly does for us. We also pray that the Lord blesses our efforts to spread the influence of King Jesus in our community here in the Prescott area, and we ask that you would pray with us to that end.