Monday, August 5, 2013

50 years ago: Jesuit priest advocates public relations techniques for churches

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer (HT: The Watchman's Bagpipes)

We've become so accustomed in recent years to seeing churches using the methods of the church growth movement and the ideas of people such as Peter Drucker to increase attendance and membership that it may come as a surprise to find out that such wasn't always the case. The following story from Associated Press appeared in The Edmonton Journal, July 20, 1963:

New York (AP)--Are public relations techniques suitable for church use?

A 385-page "yes" answer has been written by Rev. Thomas J.M. Burke, director of public relations for Jesuit missions, in a doctoral dissertation, said to be the first one on public relations for religious institutions.

"All religious groups can and should use organized public relations techniques to remove unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding among themselves and between religious groups and society at large," says Father Burke.

In his thesis, Father Burke outlines how all creeds can utilize the elements of planning and continued direction that are essential in a successful public relations campaign.

His view is this:

The basis of public relations is to persuade people. Religious groups aim at persuading people of an ethical truth they think is usable.

So, using techniques highly developed by professional public relations men can enable churches to promote religious and social values in society, communicate better with their own people and further co-operate among denominations.
Yes, all we need are public relations techniques; who needs old-fashioned methods such as relying on the Holy Spirit? While the apostle Paul tried to persuade men (II Corinthians 5:11), he did so while relying on God (II Corinthians 5:7), not on human methods of persuasion.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7:7

1 comment:

  1. II Corinthians 4:1-2 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
    But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

    "Not walking in craftiness." Pretty much covers the bases, doesn't it?

    But this has been standard operating procedure for the Jesuits for centuries.