Many jokes have been made about Ivory™ soap’s being (only) 99.44% pure, but I think that’s probably a better stat than that of most other soaps, my wife’s homemade Little Goat’s Natural Soaps excepted. (Ahem. That was a cue for a few of you readers who’ve used her soap to say, “Yeah, Karly’s soaps are great.”)
I have been an Ivory soap user for as long as I can remember. Once in a while, I try another soap but always return to Ivory. I used Irish Spring as a teenager, and that use might have contributed to a few more zits than I would have had otherwise. Coast, Lifebuoy, Dial, Safeguard . . . I’ve tried those and more, but my staple bar of soap has always been Ivory.
For all Ivory’s merits, I absolutely hate the packaging. The wrapping is horribly hard to handle. About 49 of 50 times, unwrapping the bar takes at least a solid minute and results in something like this:I didn’t even mention the outer, clear plastic layer that wraps the whole 8-bar pack. That in itself can require a knife or a set of fingernail clippers or at least a key to remove. But the damp, white-paper inner wrapping comes off only with greater effort, and a lot of mess, pretty much every time. You’d think that a soap that’s been around for 125 years could do better than that with its wrapping. But I keep coming back to it, because what’s inside is what I’m after.
I have been a Christian since I was 9. (The definition of “Christian” is significant but is beside my point here.) And I’ve been an active participant with a number of churches. What I have inside and what the churches have inside can be as difficult to get to as Ivory soap is, given the packaging! Since it’s less comfortable to talk about my individual heart than the “inside” of church groups, I’ll opt to spend a few words on the latter.
The packaging or wrapping of a church might include, but not be limited to, these elements:
- Condition of the parking lot and ease of driving in and out
- Attractiveness, condition, and cleanliness of the building (if there is one)
- Manner of activities in the assembly (including perceived “style”)
- Denominational overlay (whether acknowledged or not)
I prefer my parking lots to be paved, but that’s not too big a deal. I do actually reject some churches as potential “homes” based on such surface-level elements as signage.
A recognized denominational name on the sign? Although I try to be un-denominational, some signs can lead me instantly to reject a church as a possibility for me.
A narrow-minded message? If a sign advertises “fundamental” or “KJV only” (or some such), I can know I wouldn’t be accepted there and would end up either being miserable or causing disunity.
I can leave some churches on the shelf, as it were, never needing to “purchase” or unwrap the “product,” although others might find value in what they’re selling. It takes a little more time and effort to unwrap some other churches. One church we’ve visited twice has a kind of packaging that we think might end up being deceptive, not revealing all that’s inside. (If I’m fair, I suppose that’s true about most groups.) We’re still not sure, but when you tear a couple corners off, the product doesn’t seem to be worth the money, so to speak.
Another church seems to have less wrapping that obscures the product. (I wonder if “truth in advertising” laws could apply to churches? Not really.) This one has some nicely conceived outer packaging but also some inner wrapping that might present some problems for me. (Oh, how I hate finally getting that first layer off the product, only to find that I have to struggle with yet another layer of wrapping.)
Yet another church, visited once recently on a special occasion, is from a brand I have “trusted” (to an extent) for many years. I suppose that, if I’m honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I keep returning to this brand in some way because I know its history—but the Ivory isn’t always as pure as the wrapping claims, if you know what I mean. And then, come to find out, even the best bars of this particular brand were only about 77% pure to start with. At any rate, the packaging of this one local church included some noticeably outdated communication styles—think veggie burger in a 1950s McDonald’s wrapper or maybe hip-hop on an audio cassette. More important than the wrapping: the product found inside was lacking, to my eyes and ears and soul.
We’ll see how the process goes. Maybe, just maybe, the traditional wrapping in terms of church building cosmetics will ultimately reveal a pure, purposeful, viable church group “product.”