Southeast Michigan Church Stirs Controversy with Self-Incriminating Ad Campaign

Campaign raises question: Can a church open to imperfect people attract members?

Oct 18, 2010, 13:10 ET from NorthRidge Church

PLYMOUTH, Mich., Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- NorthRidge Church is raising questions and eyebrows throughout southeast Michigan with an outdoor advertising campaign launched last month.  The campaign, titled "NorthRidge is For Liars," features billboards and transit ads that make bold statements about the openness of the church to people who aren't perfect.  The ads direct people to, where visitors can get the story behind the controversial statements and the church.

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(Photo: )

"We've heard from people who've said they couldn't be part of a church that is full of liars, losers and hypocrites," said NorthRidge Senior Pastor Brad Powell, referring to the statements made in the series of three ads: NorthRidge is for Liars, NorthRidge is for Losers, and NorthRidge is for Hypocrites.  

Powell and members of the NorthRidge staff have been responding to the flood of calls and emails, saying this is just the kind of response they expected, even hoped for from the irreverent campaign.

"If people tell me they're put off or embarrassed, the first question I ask them is, 'why?'  The fact that a church is open to flawed individuals is an attractive truth.  It's a truth that allows ALL of us to be part of a church—not because we're perfect or 'better-than-thou'—but simply because we want to follow Christ," explained Powell.

Powell sent an email to all NorthRidge members prior to the launch of the campaign to prepare them for the potential challenges they'd face from friends and colleagues who see the ads.

"We're going to be blitzing our area with a new campaign to get people thinking in new ways about church in general and NorthRidge in particular," the email explained. "We're doing it by communicating the truth about who NorthRidge Church is really for: liars, hypocrites and losers.  The church is supposed to be a place where all can come and find forgiveness, acceptance, and hope in Christ."

While some have found it difficult to explain, many members have contacted Powell to say the campaign has given them a starting point for discussions about the church.

"I saw this billboard today and was touched that we would be this welcoming," wrote one member.  "I had a coworker with me, and I had the honor of explaining the sign.  [I said] that we are all flawed, and God doesn't expect you to get your act together before we come to Him. He will take you just as you are."

But for those who are still uncomfortable with the campaign, Powell has a challenge.

"I'd challenge them to rethink what they're looking for in a church," concludes Powell.  "NorthRidge is for normal, flawed, broken people. It's a place, unlike most think of church, where we don't pretend to be something we're not, where we don't judge other people for who they are by nature.  It's a place where we are all on the same level as we seek to discover and get to know God and His power to use and transform our failures for His glory."

While this is the first major marketing campaign for the church, the approach is not new for NorthRidge or for Powell, who is also the author of Change Your Church for Good.

"We've always presented ourselves in somewhat irreverent ways," explains Powell. "In fact, my book draws on the NorthRidge congregation's experience of shaking up a stagnant body of believers and restoring life and joy to a church that was dying.  You don't do that by playing it safe."

The "NorthRidge is for Liars" campaign will run on billboards, buses, mall displays and online through early November in the Plymouth, Northville, Ann Arbor, Saline, Brighton and Howell areas.  More information about the campaign is available at

NorthRidge Church was founded in 1921 and is a Christian community dedicated to meeting the needs of people where they are in life. Through its congregations in Plymouth/Northville, Ann Arbor/Saline and Brighton/Howell, the church seeks to be a center for discovering, developing in and experiencing Christ.  More information at

SOURCE NorthRidge Church