The Remonstrant Church in the Netherlands is a small Protestant denomination that owes it its origin to the 17th century controversy over the doctrine of predestination versus man’s free will. Some time ago it launched a significant poster campaign to promote itself. Shortly, it will now start with a series of 20-second radiospots that are also intended to draw people to the Remonstrant Church. In these spots a pastors of this denomination will very briefly announce what he will preach about the coming Sunday.
Does this form of religious promotion have any tangible results? The Remonstrants are convinced it does. In recent years their membership slowly but consistently decreased. But last years over 300 new names could be added to their membership lists. This is a remarkable growth, considering the fact that de church has only about 5.000 members.
The announcement that these spots will soon begin airing, made me wonder whether the time may have come that my church in my country should also seek more publicity. Fact is that the Remonstrant Church is much better known than the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Why would hat be? Is it perhaps our somewhat cumbersome name? That, I think, does not fully explain it. There are more denominations with uncommon names. Take e.g. Restored Apostolic Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Liberated Reformed (a literal translation of ‘Vrijgemaakt Gereformeerden’). Other unusual names could be added. And let’s face it: the name ‘Remonstrant would not be immediately clear either to people who hear it for the first time.
It is certainly not the size of its membership base that explains that the Remonstrant Church is relatively well-known and respected. The Adventist Church in the Netherlands has more members than the Remonstrant Church. Also, Adventism is found everywhere in the world, while the Remonstrant denomination is an exclusively Dutch phenomenon. The percentage of Remonstrant people who regularly attend church is so problematic that in several places they have decided to worship together with small groups of ‘Doopsgezinden’ (a small denomination with Mennonite roots). On Saturday you will find many more Adventists in their churches that you will find at any Sunday in the Remonstrant pews.
Do the Remonstrants owe last year’s membership increase to a very attractive theology? This may explain it, but only to some extent. Remonstrants are very liberal in their theology and utterly tolerant. Members may write their own confession of faith! This apparentlyappeals to some people, who experienced a lack of space and freedom in their previous spiritual home. But it does not seem to provide a full explanation. Extensive research (also in western countries) has shown that those churches that are still growing tend to be denominations that require quite a lot from their members.
Back to the question: Would advertising be useful for our church? In any case, it would make more people aware of our existence and could help in positively influencing the image of our church. Yes, maybe Seventh-day Adventists in the Netherlands should seriously think about launching a series of public messages that make people think.
Unfortunately most Dutch people know nothing or very little about Adventists. And most of those who have heard the name do not have the foggiest idea what Adventiss stand for. And, regretfully, those who know something about Adventism, often have a rather negative picture. The sad reality is that we are often better known for what we do not (‘are not allowed to’) do, that for what we do and for the values we promote and try to live bn.
Of course, our collective reputation is to a large degree dependent on how each individual members, in his/her own sphere, in words and actions, communicates his/her faith. Most of us should do better in making people curious to know more about our insights and views on God, and on society and the world. And this applies certainly also to myself.
However, I believe it is time to see some collective action. I hope my church will decide to let people more clearly know that we exist and to convince them that we have really something worthwhile to tell them!