When addressing groups I often ask people to “turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself with the words you most often use.” What if I said, “After your name, use only four words”? Could you find four words to express the heart of who you are? Could these words invite more conversation, engage the hearer’s interest and provide lasting reference points?
|The ELCA's brand mark and tag line. Read more about using the brand mark and tag line.|
What four words would you use to describe the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America? We live in a culture where we will miss the opportunity to tell our story if we do not creatively and consistently “brand” ourselves. The purpose and challenge of the ELCA’s tag line “God’s work, our hands” is not to replace Scripture and the confessions, the constitutional statement of purpose or churchwide mission statement—but to open a door to conversation that gives you the opportunity to witness to your faith and tell the story of how you live in service for the life of the world.
Let me offer a way of using “God’s work, our hands” to share more about our faith, hope and mission with the kind of fluency in the first language of faith that we seek as a Book of Faith church.
God. The most important message we have is not about ourselves, but about what God is doing. God is at work, and Jesus embodies what God is working on—the new creation. The Holy Spirit, who moved over the waters at creation’s beginning, now uses the stuff of creation—water, bread, wine, words—to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify a people who live in Jesus Christ. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
God’s work. God is at work. In a time when some see God as a distant and detached observer or master planner, we witness the God who was, is and will be actively working “for us and our salvation.” The heart of this witness is the cross of Jesus, where God’s work of reconciliation for the life of the world is most truly known.
For this reason the tag line is designed not to stand alone, but as part of a larger brand mark that includes the ELCA’s name and emblem. The emblem is built around a cross constructed of black, rough-edged lines that convey the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ cross was not an abstract idea, but a harsh reality suffered by the one who gave his life for all of us. The empty spaces in the four quadrants of the globe each form a cross, so that the emblem is like the traditional Jerusalem cross. It shows that God’s mission to the four corners of the world and to people of every language and color is always the message of the cross—“foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Our hands. In a culture that has reduced matters of faith to a private consumer choice that leaves people isolated in self-serving lives, we have a liberating message that is incarnational and vocational. God joins you in Jesus to a community, the body of Christ. In the life of that body God is working both in us and through us and our hands. In us God’s Holy Spirit is accomplishing what nothing else, not even God’s law, could accomplish—a life freed from serving sin and death, a life where our hands are generous and loving. Living in us, God entrusts to us the ministry of reconciliation, to be done through us. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
God’s work. Our hands. We do God’s work, not because God needs us to do so, but because our neighbor does. We do God’s work in Christ’s name for the life of the world.
How would you describe the ELCA? Please join me in using the tag line and brand mark as tools to witness to our common life and work.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers