Soon after I arrived on the job, Church of God Ministries began to review its logo. Introduced for the first time in 1980 (one hundred years after the Movement’s beginning), the familiar-to-some-but-not-to-others flame art posed a few challenges. Panned when it arrived on the scene as “sectarian,” bearing too much likeness to denominational imprints already then in play (e.g. the United Methodist Church), today it is even more similar to other, newer faith brands (see for instance the Metropolitan Community Church logo—a group with some emphases quite different from our own). The flame logo has never been embraced by the whole church (nor was it necessarily intended to be) and is unknown in many (if not most) of our congregations across the country.
Furthermore, the flame does not communicate abroad what many of us take for granted in the United States and Canada. In western Christian culture historically, fire has been seen as an emblem of the Holy Spirit—and with good reason, found in the Bible (e.g., the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost in the form of visible tongues of fire, famously). In the Orient, though, this symbolism for the Holy Spirit has little traction. Fire can suggest many other themes (in Hindu India, e.g., fire often burns before the idol, inspiring worship) and rarely would lead an unbeliever to think about Jesus. Even in the Occident, traditional Christian emblematic representations are falling out of the common cultural core and do not speak as they once did.
There is one symbol, however, which is recognized universally, in every place Jesus has been preached, as the mark of the Gospel and that is the Cross. If Jesus is the subject—and I believe He is—the beginning and the end, the Word become flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life—then the Cross is His signature.
I listened to the graphic designer engaged in the development of the new logo present a very careful and reasoned case for the how and why of the new look, developed by his hand (after elaborate research and exploration of core ideas and themes, listening to Church of God people) and understood it. But, my assessment of the new look was much simpler and straightforward: (a) the logo places the Cross at the center—in the middle of everything; it makes Jesus the subject (the appearance of the Cross in the logo was strengthened, after initial response and review contended it was too faint), (b) whatever the pieces of my world might be, whatever the challenges, the relationships, the shapes and sizes of life, they all come together at the Cross—Jesus makes everything whole, (c) the circular form of the logo spoke to me clearly of wholeness, unity, holiness: something shattered and disparate coming together, again, drawn together by the Cross. It’s all about Jesus.
Of course, it’s a subjective exercise, discerning messages from art, ink stamps, logos, and the rest. And, like the flame introduced on letterhead in 1980, no church or agency or pastor or school is required to employ the brand. But, in a world of global exposure—when thousands can access our website from every continent every day—when correspondence I send reaches not just to Kokomo but Kolkata, the Cross-in-the-middle, pulling all things together in unity, is an imprint I believe will serve Church of God Ministries well.
Some today have panned the Cross-in-the-middle logo as others did the three-colored flame in an earlier age. Some have readily grabbed it, praised it, and already employed it in their ministry publications and online presence. Whatever imprint our state and local ministries use, let’s focus our message on Jesus. Making Him the subject is our best hope for coming together and changing the world.