PCUSA SEALLast Friday there was a nice synchronicity between two of the blogs I read on a daily basis. Seth Godin mused about logos and branding:

The original reason for brands was to let the buyer know the source of the goods. “We made this,” says the organization we trust when we buy something.

Over time, though, brands have evolved into something we want other people to see, not just us. “I bought this,” says the person who wears or drinks or drives something with status.

The essence of a brand with social juice, of one that matters as a label, isn’t how big the logo is. No, what matters is that the buyer thinks the brand is important, and that the logo is a signifier that they’re paying for.

So no one complains that the logo on the wine bottle is not in tiny 18 point type, or that the BMW convertible has 8 or 9 or 14 logos on it, or that we can tell it’s a Harley just from the sound it makes driving down the street.

If you are angling to make your logo bigger but your customers don’t care (or resist), if your customers aren’t eager to say, “I bought this,” then you’re doing the wrong angling. The work that needs to be done is to create a product and a story that makes your customers want you to make the logo more prominent.

Seth’s post got me thinking about the Presbyterian Church (USA) brand. In our post-denominational (not to mention post-Christendom) religious environment, does anyone care about denominational branding? Does the PC(USA) logo on the front of a church (or a rainbowed version on social media) communicate anything significant or meaningful? Should we be angling to make our members and adherents proud of our brand?

Later that day, Jan Edmiston asked, “What if the Thing You Thought Would Crush the PCUSA Actually Leads People to Jesus?” She notes that many predicted that two notable actions of the 221st General Assembly (divestment and same-gender marriage) would prompt congregations to leave the denomination (drop our brand) and strain or break our relationships with ecumenical and interfaith partners. Yet Jan reports that she is already witnessing signs that instead of (or in addition to) driving people away, these actions are drawing people in. Here are the examples she provides:

  • Three racial-ethnic pastors have approached me about becoming part of the PCUSA because of recent GA actions
  • Two pastors ordained in a conservative branch of the Presbyterian family have approached me about becoming PCUSA
  • My twenty-something children contacted me after the GA actions to share that their friends want to learn more about the PCUSA because of the recent votes of the General Assembly

So what do you think? What’s the status of the PC(USA) brand? Does anyone care? Should we care?

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit johnvest.com.

Reader Interactions


  1. Visiting in Utah, where both politics and churches are fairly to very conservative , I would need more than the PCUSA logo to assure me that the church would welcome my progressive views. The Unitariam-Universalist church would be more certain.

  2. “The original reason for brands was to let the buyer know the source of the goods.” The original reason was to reach different markets, gain greater returns on investment in product (and service) development ? That’s at least what some business school courses have taught.

    Regardless of that relatively minor point, the idea of “brands” of a religion is intriguing, and thanks for meeting it head-on.

  3. Thanks for the thoughts.
    For me it does make a difference. But I am an aging hippie from the sixties. I remember when the Presbyterian Church divested from the military industrial complex during the Vietnam war. It was a stand against war. I know the PCUSA stands for the great ends of the church, which at least makes a statement about being a “social witness”. More than likely the ministry of women is going to be held up and nurtured. The right of conscience will make discussions interesting. And I can usually rely that the church will be a community of the “frozen chosen”. When I travel and look for churches I look for the brand to worship at. If not PCUSA then UCC. So for me it does make a difference. I imagine with younger people it does not. But I am old and dreaming of utopia yet.

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