Tips for Self-Promotion: Reflections on Mark 9:30-37
September 23, 2012
In reading this text, it struck me that the disciples were self-promoters when they should have been promoting Jesus and his message. I Googled "self-promotion" and came upon an article titled, "25 Ways You are Failing at Promoting Yourself, Your Products and Your Work."
The article, by Alex Mathers, is found on the Red Lemon Club, a website devoted to "ideas for fruitful creatives." The article and the site are aimed at freelancers in various fields who have products and skills that require attracting clients and buyers. The underlying assumption is that the products and skills are legal and benefit society. Reading Mathers' article, an insight dawned for me: the disciples of Mark 9:30-37, focused as they were on their own insecurities and fears, were not very good at promoting anything and certainly not Jesus' good news. According to this article, it is because they were violating all the basic rules of sales.
So I cut Mathers' list down to a "top ten" and applied them to the disciples of Mark 9:30-37 as freelance spreaders of the good news. I'm going to send them a memo, which I've entitled "Top Ten Ways You Are Failing at Promoting the Good News." In it, I make it very clear that they need to reverse their attitudes and actions if they want to spread the word about the gift (or in sales terms—the product) Jesus has to offer the world that needs it so badly.
Memo to the Disciples of Mark 9:30-37
Re: Top Ten Ways You Are Failing at Promoting the Good News
1) You do not know your product. What is it that you are selling? You need to be completely clear in your mind as to what you're offering people and how it can benefit them, so you can convey this.
Note to disciples: Work on this. Don't be afraid to ask Jesus for clarification (Mk. 9:32). What are you afraid of?
2) You are thinking only about the short term.
Note to disciples: You are focused on immediate ego gratification and, since Jesus is talking about sacrifices in the present, you stopped listening to him.
3) You look desperate. One of the biggest turn-offs for prospects and potential buyers is when you transmit the message that you lack something.
Note to disciples: Arguing about which of you is the greatest definitely comes across as desperate!
4) You think it's all about you. Keep in mind that self-promotion isn't about the self at all. It's about what you can bring to your audience's life that will serve them and improve their lives.
Note to disciples: You aren't focused on what you can bring to others' lives. You are arguing about who is the greatest and, presumably, who is tallest, best-looking, and Jesus' favorite.
5) You misunderstand the value of word of mouth. The most effective form of promotion is when people tell others how good your product or service is.
Note to disciples: Frequently reminding the other members of your own team how much more awesome you are than they are is the wrong kind of word of mouth! Maybe the reason Jesus keeps telling you not to tell anyone is because you're not ready to talk about who he is and what he has come to do. You're too focused on telling them who you wish he was and what you wish he had come to do.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.