Chances are your church is known for something by the people in your city and without understanding a few key things you may never effectively reach people beyond your four walls.

I have been a pastor at 3 churches in my 14 (going on 15) years of ministry and the crazy thing is, I’m just now realizing one of the key things every leader needs to know in order to be effective—IDENTITY MATTERS.

Identity can be defined as the publics general perception about who you are, what you do and what you have to offer. And the truth of the matter is, your identity will make or break you

Unfortunately, no one tells you about this sort of thing in Seminary.


Think with me, for a moment, about a few well know companies and see if you can’t answer the following questions:

  • What are they known for?
  • Who are the faces/people associated with that company?
  • What is their primary demographic, in terms of consumers?
  • How easy is it to identify their product?
  • Could you describe the company in 5 words or less?
  • Do they have a specific message? What is it?

It’s a fun little game. Just see if you can answer these questions for the following companies:


— NIKE — 





How did you do?

Was it challenging?

Chances are, if you’re living, these are pretty simple companies to identify and these are relatively easy questions to answer. These would be my quick answers (you can skip to the next section if you don’t care):

APPLE is known for technology. The people associated with apple are young and trendy. Apple’s primary demographic is primarily youth, but really anyone under the age of 50 (they ain’t trying to get your grandma to use their newest iPhone). There products are simple to identify and people are not ashamed to show it off. Apple in 5 words – Relevant, Status Symbol, Fun, Trendy. Apple’s message… if you don’t use Apple products you aren’t awesome.

NIKE is known for sports. A few faces associated with Nike: Jordan, LeBron, Woods, JZ, etc. Nike’s demographic – youth and athletes of all ages. How easy is it to identify their product? One word: Swoosh! Nike in 5 words – Sports, Reliable, Just Do It. Last, Nike’s message…. you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

DORITOS is known for chips. The only faces I associate with Doritos are those that are covered in their chip dust. The primary demographic for Doritos would have to be 18-30 year old men (watch the commercials). Most Doritos products are simple to identify, but the company does more than just chips. 5 words I would use to describe Doritos – Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch, Crunchy. Finally, Doritos’ message… life is too short, die fat and happy.

STARBUCKS is known for coffee. The people that I associate with the company are soccer moms, yuppies, hipster wannabes, highschool girls and tired people. Starbucks demographic is urban young people. The little green mermaid is hard to miss, so there pretty easy to identify. I would describe Starbucks with the following 5 words – Status Symbol, Strong, Snobbish (but in a good way), Social. And Starbucks message would be… changing the world one cup of Hot, Half Caff, Ristretto, Venti, 4-Pump, Sugar Free, Cinnamon, Dolce Soy Skinny Latte at a time.

WINDOWS is known for computers (I’m a MAC guy so this is going to get sarcastic… just FYI). The faces I associate with Windows are boring business men. Windows primary demographic is, boring business men. Windows is easy to identify, just look for any technology that’s not working properly. Windows in 5 words – Boring, Business, Not A MAC. And last but not least, Windows message (in my opinion) would have to be… hey world, we’re cool too, and trust us, this time our new product will work [sly winky-face emoticon].


The five companies will spend millions of dollars every year trying to shape their identity in the eyes of the consumer. They know that people’s perception of who they are matters greatly. If people only looked at Doritos as a preservative laden, heart-attack inducing, money wasting way to look fat in a bathing suit, Doritos knows that they won’t sell a whole lot of chips.

The same is true for the church.

While we are not a business and while we are hopefully we are not trying to sell them religion, there are people that will never even consider listen to our message unless we change their perception of who we are.

How do we go about doing that? It’s a process. Here are five quick steps to get you started:

  1. Discover what your current identity is. You’ll accomplish this by talking to a wide range of people from the community. Come up with a plan on how to approach people and know exactly what you’ll ask them (write it down)
  2. Process the data. Gather all the information and put the responses into categories. Categories may include: Age, Relevance, Purpose, etc.
  3. Involve your present church people. Run the same question about your identity to the people who regularly attend your church and follow step 2. You will likely be surprised at both the similarities and the differences you get from both groups.
  4. Write down what your desired identity is. If you can’t articulate who you are (or who you want to be) and how you would like to be perceived in your community then you probably won’t ever be effective in reaching your community.— AND THIS NEXT STEP IS KEY —
  5. Pick a date (that’s reasonable) for actually having that identity in your community. That sounds like a last step, but the truth is that this is where you need to begin. It’s fun to plan our goals for someday, but as you know, someday doesn’t really exist. It’s make-believe. If you really want to accomplish something, you have to decide WHEN you are going to accomplish it.

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