Tag: promoting Jesus

Challenge: Spend 9 minutes a day promoting Jesus online

brand jesus

There was a while when I was tempted to buy into the idea that you should think about yourself as a brand. Who am I kidding – I bought into the idea. Once upon a time I would have read this suggestion to spend a magic nine minutes a day developing my own brand and thought it was dynamite advice for getting ahead in this world. Because it probably is.

I like branding. I like marketing. I like growing a brand. I like people to like me. So it made sense to think about building a tribe of devoted followers who want to hang off my every word, or like my every status, or whatever it is that people who are brands crave. But that’s a dangerous path to making yourself the centre of the universe. And I don’t want to be the centre of my universe – let alone anybody else’s.

You’re not a brand, you’re a human. You don’t have a brand. Cattle have brands. You’re not a cow. I know this because cows can’t read.

Brand Jesus

If you’re a Christian – you’re not out to make your own name, or craft your own image.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29

And you know you’re not the centre of the universe. Jesus is.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” – Colossians 1

Paul, who spent a significant part of his life promoting brand Jesus (and not brand Paul) was also branded by Jesus – the scars he bore for his efforts were scars pointing people to his king.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world… From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. – Galatians 6

So here’s a challenge. If we want to live out our new reality – pointing people to the centre of reality as we become more like him – why not figure out how you can spend nine minutes a day promoting Jesus online.

Nine minutes doesn’t sound like a lot – and it’s not (promoting Jesus is a whole of life thing). But as the people behind the 9 minute personal brand challenge point out – it adds up, and it’s better than nothing.

9 Minutes a day translates into three hours a month. Can you imagine the impact on your career if you focused on the brand called you for three full hours every month?”

So. Nine minutes a day. Can you do it? Will people notice? Who knows. But it will, at the very least, change you – because the way we use the mediums we use changes us as we use them. perhaps it will be part of the process of conforming you into the image of Jesus.

Some ideas

These are like the low hanging fruit. I’m just sort of riffing off (or ripping off) the tips from the Lifehacker post where I saw the 9 minute idea.

1. Write something about following Jesus. Engage with the world you live in. Share it. A blog post, a Facebook status, an email, a message to a friend. Create content that shows you don’t live for your own glory, but to glorify Jesus.

2. Read the Bible. Share it. Not in the weird contextless way that so many people seem to do. Even my eyes glaze over at those posts – and I love the Bible. But show how it hits your heart, not just your head.

3. Pray for people. Your friends. People who need to know Jesus. It’s God who changes people’s hearts, by his Spirit, not your pithy Facebook status. That’s part of realising that your own brand has nothing to do with it…

4. Read some things by other Christians. Curate them. Share them with your friends. Discuss them with others. Be an editor for your friends. Social media, like traditional media, needs deliberate editors. People are increasingly discovering content via social media, so why not supply it?

5. Encourage your friends. Post stuff on Facebook walls. PM people with a note of encouragement – ask how you can pray for them (and do it). Send encouraging emails. Invite people to catch up in real life.

6. Comment on discussions with your friends in a way that points people to Jesus (both in your content and manner), and that adds value to whatever the conversation is (too often Christians run into these forays spouting jargon that just confuses people, mind the gap a bit, explain why you think differently while being humble and loving those you disagree with).

7. Enter the fray in one of the countless discussions about Christianity (or anything) on other media platforms – like the one about the amazing woman who forgave her husband’s killers. Stand up for Jesus.

8. Be, visibly, a Christian online – in all your profiles. Write them so they’re about how amazing Jesus is, not how amazing you are. It’s a bit like sticking a Jesus fish on your car, it keeps you accountable when it comes to what you share, what you say, and how you say it.

9. Show that you appreciate the goodness of God’s creation. Share good stuff. Fun stuff. Not just overtly Christian stuff. Be grateful. Acknowledge the source of the good stuff you’re enjoying and sharing. Not in a super spiritual way, just in a way that cultivates thankfulness in your own mind and demonstrates it to others.

10. Try not to self-promote. We have a massive tendency to try to put ourselves at the centre of the universe, and social media seems designed to facilitate and amplify that tendency.

Will you join me in trying to do this? Nine minutes a day. What are some other ideas?

How to be “on message” and engaging with the message of Jesus

This is turning into a bit of a series, or a saga, on Christianity in the public sphere. I’ve actually got a couple more up my sleeve too. So if you’re enjoying them… stay tuned.

Back in the post about billboards from a couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Islamic “Jesus: prophet of Islam” campaign in Sydney. I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to it in the post because the ACL Rip’n’roll thing was more timely, but it has been interesting to watch the Sydney evangelical juggernaut respond to the billboard challenge with grace and the proclamation of Jesus.

Here’s the Islamic Billboard (and the associated SMH story).

The Centre for Public Christianity put together a really nice interview with the Muslim guy behind the billboard, which you can watch below…

Jesus a prophet of Islam? from CPX on Vimeo.

And right off the bat the Sydney Christians have been on message – starting with Bishop Forsyth who responded by disagreeing with the sentiment of the billboard while welcoming the discussion (unlike the Catholics).

“The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, Rob Forsyth, said it was ”complete nonsense” to say Jesus was a prophet of Islam. ”Jesus was not the prophet of a religion that came into being 600 years later.”
But the billboard was not offensive, he said. ”They’ve got a perfect right to say it, and I would defend their right to say it [but] … you couldn’t run a Christian billboard in Saudi Arabia.”
The bishop said he would pay for billboards to counter those of MyPeace if he could afford it, and ”maybe the atheists should run their billboards as well”.

Turns out that last statement (not the atheist bit) didn’t fall on deaf ears, and some funds were fronted to respond with an appropriate Christian message. And this is it.

This billboard sits on the M4, a highway in Sydney, getting stacks of traffic and, at the very least, making it clear that not all Christians are bigoted idiots. So full points for that. If people do use this as an opportunity to engage in conversation with Muslim friends then this could be a really amazing story where the media give coverage to the question of who Jesus is.

I’ve had a chat to one of the guys behind this slogan tonight and I really appreciate the way they worked to keep grace at the heart of the response in order to avoid being combative or defensive, and they’ve made it all about Jesus. And they’ve made it welcoming. I love the “Aussie Muslims/Aussie Christians” thing and hope that some really good dialogue is born out of this. I’ve written a piece for the aussiechristians.com.au website, no idea when my bit will go live, but head on over and join in any discussion that happens on any of the posts. Just do it with grace, and understanding that the aim of the campaign is to have a friendly, grown up, dialogue about who Jesus actually is. If you don’t want to participate, pray that the outcome of this campaign will be fruitful conversation about Jesus.

Jesus and science

Have you been to promotingjesus.org? Why not. It’s Mitchelton Presbyterian Church’s new evangelistic tool – they’re spending a year encouraging people to promote Jesus. It’s a great resource.

My future brother-in-law, Mitch, put most of it together. He’s done a great job. I am writing a few articles there. There’s one up already and here’s one I’ve just written (that’ll no doubt be edited before going live).

Jesus ignores science

There are many people – both from the scientific and Christian communities – who would take this statement to a further extreme. They would argue that being a follower of Jesus means rejecting science. And certainly, science is ultimately a fallible human product. It is not perfect. To hold what we now think we know to be absolutely true (based on science) is dangerous ground. This is why scientific principles are called theories. Science is always waiting for a better explanation. A more complete picture.

Jesus did not ignore science. Jesus does not contradict science – and in fact you can hold to scientific truth and still be a Christian – providing you are willing to submit to the idea that Jesus, as God, is not bound by the rules that apply to you and I. Our null hypothesis as believers – the point at which all scientific theories begin – is that there is a God who has influence over the way the world works.

The truth of Christianity doesn’t pivot on a great conflict between scientific beliefs like evolution and contrary claims in the Bible. The truth of Christianity hangs on the person of Jesus. Did he exist? Did he perform the miracles the Bible claims he did? Did he die and rise?

There is a scientific element to these questions – but more than any other religion – Christianity submits its claims to the scientific method for observation and testing. Jesus started by posing a hypothesis. He asks us to test his claims that he is the son of God and the saviour of mankind. His ministry was measurable and observable. It occurred in public in front of tens of thousands of witnesses around the regions he travelled. His miracles were repeatable – they were not – based on the accounts of his life – one offs.

Those around Jesus were able to measure and observe – and had his claims been bunkum they would have been able to refute them. But time and time again those in positions most likely to refute his actions – for example his sparring partners the Pharisees – were left having to accept that there was something unique about him.

No other religion subjects its deity to such scientific scrutiny. Jesus was tangible, he was tactile. The resurrection is without doubt the hardest claim for us to accept based on current scientific knowledge. We know people don’t just rise from the dead. This is where the hypothesis that there is a God involved becomes important.

If Christians claim that Jesus rose from the dead – a claim seemingly counter to our scientific principles – then this is where science and Christianity collide. The resurrection of Jesus is a question of history not a question of science. Did it happen? If it did then it must influence our understanding of science. We must accept that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

The scientific method is relatively young. The model we understand and apply when testing truths is the product of the 19th century enlightenment. People were no less skeptical of claims of resurrection prior to the enlightenment. We’ve always had a sense that rising from the dead is an extraordinary occurrence. Even the religious people of Jesus’ day didn’t necessarily believe in the possibility of the resurrection of the dead – Paul uses this division when he’s on trial in Acts chapter 23.

While the scientific method wasn’t around while Jesus was alive, God knows the type of questions people ask. And so we meet Thomas – often called “Doubting Thomas” but perhaps more appropriately “Scientific Thomas”.

Thomas was a disciple. He’d travelled with Jesus for years. He had heard Jesus say (a few times) that he would die and be raised from the dead. It seems he didn’t believe this was possible.

After Jesus had died and been raised he appeared to the other disciples and ate some food. But Thomas wasn’t there – and he didn’t believe the claims his friends (the other disciples) made about their meeting with Jesus.

So when Thomas was confronted by the resurrected Jesus his first thoughts were the same that ours would be if we were confronted by a friend we knew was dead. Thomas had seen Jesus die, he knew he had been buried. So he thought he was hallucinating. He thought, perhaps, he was being confronted with a ghost. He didn’t believe in that sort of stuff so he put it to the test. He conducted an experiment.

This is the story John’s gospel ends with – an account of the scientific testing of the resurrection and the belief of a skeptic… in chapter 20…

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus does not ignore science – though he could be forgiven for doing so because the scientific method wasn’t around when he was – Jesus submits his claims to science, and he triumphs over science. True knowledge and understanding of the world comes from an understanding of the one who created the world – and the one who triumphs over the realities of the world – death and our inability to live meeting God’s standard.

Unbelievable statistics

I’m not sure what to make of these stats from the research on the Jesus All About Life campaign.

Some of these are the same stats I posted the other day – but a report on the research can be found here.

Believer or non-believer, 54% of Australians ranked Jesus as the number one most influential person in history beating Albert Einstein who came in at second place (16%) and Charles Darwin who was ranked third (9%). Research commissioned by www.allaboutlife.com.au revealed Australia is a nation of believers with approximately 5 in 6 (83%) responding that Jesus was a real figure from history.

It’s odd… going by the ongoing discussion over here the one in six people who don’t think Jesus is a real historical figure are gaining a bit of traction while clearly swimming against the tide* of public opinion…

This research gives a great insight into people’s beliefs about Jesus and their faith today. The fact that Jesus is revealed to be the most influential figure in history shows his message is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago and people still look to him as source of inspiration.

To me, this suggests the JAAL campaign was barking up the wrong tree a little. Jesus doesn’t need an image upgrade. He doesn’t need wishy washy feelgood statements posted online… People think he’s alright.

What he really needs is accurate representation. Because people are much less sold on the facts.

“Of these believers 43% believed Jesus had miraculous powers and he was the son of God. Australia still has faith with 2 in 5 Australians stating they actually practice a religion and only 27% not believing in a God or universal power of any sort.”

*Mmm. Delicious cliche.

Rebranding God

The Jesus All About Life campaign is on in earnest – though it’s unlikely it’ll get much attention as far north as Townsville. Steve Kryger from Communicate Jesus had some insightful critiques of the campaign’s methodology. He copped a bit of flack for daring to stick his head up and say what anybody who thinks a bit about marketing (or works in the field) was already thinking.

My problem isn’t so much with the style of the campaign – I’ve got a problem with the substance.

I think we’re creating a generation of apathetic nominal Christians whose only knowledge of the Bible is John 3:16, and whose only knowledge of God is that he is loving. And all they have to do is “believe”.

I believe in lots of things that I don’t really care about, and if I use that understanding of the word and apply it to God, without reading the rest of the Bible then I can comfortably, and apathetically, rest assured that God and me are mates. And God is loving. So he’ll do right by me…

I don’t think there are many people stopping to think about what this loving God wants them to do with him past belief. And I don’t think “thank you Jesus for birds that look like they’re wearing pants” is the way to move people past that nominal point and into active Christian “belief” – that where thought is outworked, and where Jesus’ righteous place as Lord of our lives is realised.

Yes, God is loving. Yes, we do need to believe in him (as he actually is, not just that he is). But we need to move past that in our marketing campaigns – every marketing campaign needs a call to action. The call shouldn’t be “be thankful for…(whatever makes a nice postcard)” it should be something that enhances the understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

In our marketing at work part of what we’re aiming to do is “sell the sizzle, not the sausage” – which is what you do in a crowded marketplace like tourism where every customer already knows they’re looking for a holiday but haven’t necessarily chosen where. You can’t do this with Christianity. People need to better understand what goes in our sausage before we even try selling it.

UPDATE: Steve Kryger has posted some research that led the campaign in the direction it went in. It makes for interesting reading – basically the people behind the campaign found that people have negative thoughts about Christianity (particularly secular humanists) and they wanted to move away from “traditional” advertising…

“At a more fundamental level, non-Christians tend to reject the idea of ‘one truth’ as a divisive concept that is to blame for much of the conflict in the world today, and that clashes with the secular humanist ideal of taking personal responsibility for lifestyle choices and interpersonal values.”

I don’t get it. The gospel is no good because we can’t sell it?

I maintain my hypothesis that the gospel is less effective because we’ve spent so long selling it so badly. And pulling out the important bits in a bid to not be offensive (I guess reacting against the “turn or burn” fire and brimstone preachers of the previous generation) doesn’t seem to be a greatly effective strategy.