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The Difference Between Intention and Perception

One of the biggest criticisms I get at this blog is from people who mistake my criticism of an organization’s program, project, marketing, branding, or perception for my opinion of the organization’s integrity or intentions. The truth is, the two are very different things – although in a perfect world, they should be totally in sync. Many non-profit or religious organizations out there have the best of intentions, a passion to share a great message, and wonderful motivation. But the problem usually
happens somewhere in the execution.

Maybe it’s creating a project that hurts their perception, or hurts the perception of the religious community as a whole. In my recent blog post about Christian organizations using militant images and language, that was a perfect example. I have the greatest respect for Battlecry. What they’re doing is amazing, and I’m 100% in support of their intentions. My question has to do with the public persona – the branding, the marketing, and the perception within the culture.

Ron Luce said something interesting on CNN last night. When reporter Christiane Amanpour asked him about Battlecry having a perception of being divisive, he responded that maybe that’s OK. Maybe it’s good to be divisive once in a while. After all, Christ talked about bringing a sword.

I’ll talk more about that interesting issue in a later post, but for now, understand that when we discuss the marketing or branding or an organizations, the divorce of a high profile religious leader, or the sorry result of a television program or movie – we’re not necessarily questioning motives, intentions, or integrity. We can’t see the heart. But in a media-driven culture, we need to be asking questions about perceptions, and how the culture sees people of faith. From cause marketing to religious broadcasting, if we don’t ask these questions, believe me, the culture is asking them, and if we want our message to have integrity and be heard, we’d better have answers.

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4 Comments

  1. Great word, Phil!

    It's upsetting to see much of the damaging influence of poorly planned, poorly executed presentations of Christ, His message, His power, and His love, and of the church that bears His name. As a former street-outreach worker, I can tell you that the Gospel is already a hard enough sell to the vast majority of humanity without someone's foolishness being broadcast all over the air and confusing the issues.

    Like you, however, I have tried to look at all of the silliness in Christian Media as bad execution of good intentions. I try to judge those who commission these works fairly and I always want to believe that the root of their decisions is to propagate the Gospel in an effective and engaging manner. I have certainly seen those ministries that truly act without integrity, but even then I'd like to believe that they were not always that way – that they became that way over time, forgetting why they went into ministry in the first place.

    Of course, I don't always live up to my intentions, either. I'm about as rough a critic of the church as they come, but I do try.

    I guess I just really wanted to add an Amen to your post. People are not always what they do, just like sin and the sinner are two different things. I am trying to keep my perceptions clear, as clear as I can at least, and I appreciate your word on this.

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