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16 April 2014

Brand Christianity? An Easter message from Steve Clifford

Brand Christianity? An Easter message from Steve Clifford

We live in a world obsessed with brands: I am what I wear, I am the music that I listen to, the team I support, the paper I read - even, God forgive us, the church I attend.

Billions are spent by organisations and corporations in coming up with a brand that tells their story well; that paints an aspirational picture which ultimately gets people to spend money on whichever product it is they are trying to sell.

In Naomi Klein's iconic book No Logo, the author tracks the changing face of advertising, and writes of the realisation in the early 20th century that "

With Easter week now upon us, we are surrounded by those familiar images of Easter eggs, Easter bunnies; and are of course hit with Easter promotions at all our favourite retailing outlets.

In some ways it's great that this – the most important festival in the Christian calendar – is marked by our nation. But I sometimes wonder what would happen if I walked up and down the street in which I live and asked people whether they knew the story behind this time of year.

If we were to show the average person an image of the cross, would they be able to tell us the Easter story, or would they simply think it is our logo; an image that represents Brand Christianity? And if we were to ask them to describe the corporate identity of our faith, would they use words such as hope, peace, victory and goodness? Do others identify us as the good news people? Or have we become known as an exclusive club – a brand for the whole, but not for the broken?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, makes his gospel very clear: "If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Not the most popular message at the time, let alone now.

To the Jews, the meaning behind Paul's message spells out his conviction that Jesus is God (the Lord) while to the Roman gentiles, it makes the dangerous claim that Caesar isn't God. 

But Paul also makes clear that: "God raised him from the dead."

At the heart of the Christian faith is not a logo of a man dead on a cross, but it is instead a rolled back stone, an empty tomb, grave clothes with no body in them. I'm not quite sure how 21st century designers would brand this but the message is simple: without the resurrection, the Easter narrative – however moving and sacrificial – has no power. It did not end on the cross. It is the empty tomb that declares death is defeated, it is the empty tomb that is the watershed of history, it's the empty tomb which shouts out that nothing will ever be the same again. 

So let's be known as the good news people, let's rejoice in the empty tomb; and let our hope be found in the risen saviour alone. 

Happy Easter. 

Steve Clifford, general director, Evangelical Alliance