Tips for Self-Promotion: Reflections on Mark 9:30-37

Lectionary Reflections
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.

6) You don't have a mentor.

Note to disciples: You have one. You just aren't listening to him.

7) You don't truly love your craft or product.

Note to disciples: You were attracted to Jesus and his message. But you are afraid. And if we had left everything to follow him and he started talking about suffering and death, we would be too. Mark 9:34 tells us that you didn't understand Jesus' words and "you (they) were afraid to ask him." You were probably afraid he would explain that his suffering would also become yours. Your ambivalence about Jesus' message will haunt and hamper you the whole way through this gospel. You don't love Jesus and his message enough to suffer for it—yet.

8) You spend all your time talking, not listening.

Note to disciples: Instead of promoting the long-term benefits of your product and services (as emissaries of Jesus), you are babbling about yourself. You need to be listening, engaging with people, and adding to the value of other people's lives (conversation).

9) You are not demonstrating credibility.

Note to disciples: You are not a walking advertisement for Jesus' good news. You lack credibility, because there is a gap between what you say and how you live. You consistently show lack of faith in your leader and his vision at the same time that you wrangle about how to get in good with him. This is a big waste of energy and doesn't make a good impression on the world around you.