The High Calling of Banner Advertising

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Starting on July 29, 2011, there will be an advertisement right above me here. Perhaps it is telling you about Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Perhaps it is inviting you to join the United States National Guard as a chaplain. It may be offering you 20% of special editions of The Message from NavPress. It may even be suggesting you consider UPS for printing your next business report. These banner ads are new to as part of our partnership with Christianity Today at The CTI ad team will be including us in their advertising package that targets "Active and Involved Christians."

For some reason, I feel awkward explaining these details to our readers.

Advertisers are a bit like lawyers. Americans love to hate them. We hate the interruptions of our favorite sitcom. We hate the video intros on Hulu, and the pop-up ads on Youtube. We hate the bill boards that obstruct our view of the good earth. We hate the product placement in movies and the banner ads at sporting events. We hate the ads in our email and the junkmail in our mail boxes. Even our school busses are becoming advertisements in some communities.

Sometimes the whole world seems like one big advertisement.

In his modern classic novel Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace envisions a near future when every calendar year is underwritten by a corporate sponsor. Readers don’t know precisely when Infinite Jest is supposed take place, only that it is the “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.”

That's fiction. In real life, we see up to 5000 advertisements every day according to a CBS News article that quoted the president of Yankelovich Marketing.

It is enough to make me want to move to a small island. I imagine wearing the same t-shirt and jean shorts every day, living off fruits and nuts, my view of the ocean and the palm trees unhindered by a single advertisement.

We all hate ads… until we need to communicate something ourselves. John Donne knew centuries ago that no man is an island. Like it or not, advertisements have become a necessary and practical part of the human conversation.

Advertisements on

At, we like to share stories of how God is honored in all kinds of work. Some of these stories are standard Biblical stuff. We talk about loving our coworkers as ourselves. We talk about balancing work time and family time. We talk about honoring those in authority above us. Sometimes we even talk about specific professions that honor God in surprising ways.

Teachers and doctors and scientists and architects and geneticists and lawyers and artists and writers and stay at home parents.

And advertisers.

Which got us thinking. If we think the work of advertisers can honor God, why don’t we allow advertising on Sure, it would be difficult and maybe a little messy. Wouldn’t it better for us to struggle through the same advertising issues that other publications struggle through? Could we possibly create an appropriate space for advertising on that did not dishonor God or our community of readers and writers?

Several months ago, we asked readers how they felt about advertisers. A shocking 70% of you thought advertising was a good idea for TheHighCalling. In fact, only 11 people wrote negative comments about the idea. By comparison, over 200 people actually wrote positive comments about the possibility of seeing advertising on This still surprises me when I think about it.

Some of those negative comments are hard to forget, though. Many of the negative comments warned us to avoid “firecracker ads” or flashing ads, an editorial stance we agree with wholeheartedly. Some people felt that ads would “ruin the ambiance” of the site or “destroy focus” for readers or cause them to “question the motive behind an article.” One reader said simply, “I would discontinue receiving”

We never want to alienate our readers and subscribers, but some attrition is inevitable as the site grows and changes. We certainly don’t want to destroy our site or cause people to question our motives. One particular comment still stings. A reader said, “Please, don’t sell out for monetary gain.”

Does Running Ads Mean We Are Selling Out?

That’s a hard question. In American culture, “selling out” is a sin recognized by every faith. When a group’s greed causes them to lose sight of their vision, they have sold out. Often, people who compromise their vision out of practical necessity are accused of having sold out.

Let me reassure you on that point. Advertising can’t possibly pay the bills for We aren’t willing to pursue the kind of aggressive strategy that would take, nor do we believe it would work. I can think of several sites that have collapsed under the weight of excessive and annoying advertising.

However, we must be good stewards of our space here. We are learning to generate revenue through donations, grants, and now limited advertising through our partnership with the Christianity Today advertising team.

We promise our readers that we will not let advertising steer our vision. We have worked hard over the past month to design an advertising space that feels natural and balanced. We hope our efforts honor the advertisements themselves without doing anything to distract from the content which they help support. And we hope the advertisements here will provide additional resources for you, the reader.

What do you think?

Image by Michelle Thompson. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Marcus Goodyear, Senior Editor of