Despite frequent ecclesiastical groups’ disapproval of using an advertisement and marketing in the Church, we must remember about the missionary duty: ‘Go and teach all nations’ (see Mt. 28.19). All nations and everybody, not only the elected, so, also those who do not come to church, who do not read catholic weeklies or not listen to catholic radio stations. ‘Proclaim the Gospel to the whole world’ – this a command of Christ means using all means of communication – including an advertisement – to proclaim the Good News.

Jesus in everyday life

Jesus used colourful parables, stories, used to refer to everyday life. He used mud to heal, used to speak about a cooking vessel, a needle, salt, multiplied bread and fish. He used to meet his listeners where they lived. He used to teach from a boat so that his voice would be carried on the water and well heard, he used to go up a mountain when he was speaking, so that people could hear him well. He cared about being heard well so that his teaching would reach to many people. He sometimes even agreed to ‘wasting’ expensive oils, like in the case of Mary Magdalene when she was anointing His feet…Jesus did not calculate anything into money, or he did not ask constantly what fruit would be out of something, he did not reject any way of communication with another man.

What advertisement and for whom?

A religious advertisement must be professional so that it would go through among many other messages, so that it would be effective – it must be moving, suggestive, sometimes shocking. Only then can it move imagination, change the social attitude and be noticed in the noise of everyday life. Faithful Catholics, sometimes being surprised by such advertisements, are similar to the Apostles during the Transfiguration – they were asking about arrangement of tents, wanting to bring the order into the world with their categories. Fervent Catholics even protest against it and do not like this kind of communication. But this is not a message for them! Religious advertisement spots are supposed to reach to those who are indifferent, in a hurry, secularized unbelievers. Therefore a religious advertisement must use their language and refer to their way of thinking and their world.

St. Augustine about an advertisement

Soon after IV century A.D. St. Augustine noted a possibility of using various tools of passing over a message - for example – rethoric – to proclaim good messages. He defined somebody who thinks differently as a man who lost his mind. At that time, similarly as today, it was also possible to meet opponents to using ways of passing over a message by laymen in service to the Church. Like others bishops, nearly since the beginning of Christianity, Augustine had been countering those with whom he had to have disputes; persuade, make others accept an idea and a message. So, persuasion is known and used from the beginning in the ecclesial practice.

An advertisement to bring good

An author of ‘De doctrina christiana’ emphasized: ‘If the art of articulation (…) has such great power of persuasion both about something bad and something good, so would honest people not do their best to achieve this art in order to take advantage of it in their serving to the truth (…)? In his work Augustine definitely opposed to the attitude of fear and closing verbalizing in various ways. Why not to use rethoric used in preaching the Gospel, that is, use rules of beautiful verbalizing, professional argumentation, a choice of words, constructing sentences? In his discourse St. Augustine emphasized a necessity to use the newest methods of passing over faith, as the previous ones turned out to be too exhausting and complicated. Bishop of Hippona decided to speak briefly, lively, persuasively and substantively. He incited senses, referring to feelings and persuasion. Briefly speaking – he spoke in an attractive way.

Teaching, bringing pleasure, emotions

An important statement in the teaching of St. Augustine in his work 'About Christian teaching', there is also an issue of pleasure. He based his teaching on assumptions of the ancient orator Ciceron. He emphasized that persuasion should be in such suitable proportions, so that it can teach, bring pleasure, as well as bring emotions. He considered the first of these tasks as a duty, the second one as a delight, and the last one as a victory. Nowadays, an advertisement is sometimes accused of referring to a pleasure, feelings and emotions in order to sell something, as well as using the modern knowledge of human psychology. So, it turns out that the current ways of persuasive communication are similar to old principles – with maintaining the aforementioned proportions and respect to the both parties of a dialogue.

A good advertisement

According to Augustine, the subject of persuasive speech were good and righteous things. 'A speaker must be liked by a listener in such a way, so that he can keep him attentive, and moved him so as to incite him to act. A listener will be moved when he loves what somebody promises to him, he will get scared of what somebody will threaten him with, he will hate, what somebody will scold him for, he will accept what somebody will recommend to him'. The similar opinion was expressed by the Papal Council for Mass Media in the document 'Ethics in an advertisement' from 1997. It quotes, among the others, words of pope Paul VI on an advertisement. He expressed his wish that Catholic institutions 'should be careful observers of the development of modern technics of an advertisement and be able to use them suitably to spread the message of Gospel, in a way which responds to expectations of the contemporary man'. Knowledge of these methods would help in preparing a religious advertisement.

Good examples

Have ecclesiastical groups used religious advertisements yet? Yes, they have! In 2001, over a hundred of Christian churches in Singapore were preparing a professional campaign advertising God and repositioning His stereotypical image in the thought of the idea 'God is everywhere', resulting with reaching to the awareness of people in 100 per cent. After pedophile scandals in the USA, the American Episcopate prepared a developed campaign 'Catholics come home', with a 2-minute advertisement spot promoting it. In response to the fall of vocations, the Episcopate of Spain made a simple but a valuable advertisement spot with testimonies of priests. In 2011 the Church in Costarica used an advertisement to fight against in vitro method. Also in Poland seminaries prepare professional films on YouTube - the second search engine on Internet in popularity. There are many such examples...

A chance

Short advertisement spots, including the ones about religious issues, would be a chance for a change of social mentality in reference to important and current issues. Advertisements being created even from a small budget or voluntarism, are professional in their quite strong influence. So, it is worth clean an advertisement from its magics – it can also become a tool of communication in issues connected with religion and ethics. Nothing but only to pull up one's sleeves! Like in the issue of napro-technology...


„Niedziela” 38/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: