Two recent events have got me thinking about the way we advertise our Christian activities. Firstly, I was in the market for a new computer, having faced a blank screen a few too many times. Secondly, I was working on a brochure for the work I’m involved in here in Latin America (www.moclam.org). The brochure was for prospective students, interested enquirers and possible supporters.
Regarding the new computer: I went off, specifications and budget in hand, and quickly discovered that computer sellers want to convince you as quickly and as schmickly as possible that their machine is the best thing since the invention of the silicon chip, and that if you buy it, all your IT problems will be solved and your family will love you forever.
I wondered whether to follow this approach when designing my brochure. Sure, I can pull back on the promises of a healthy and successful life upon completion of the course, but how ‘hard’ can I go in selling myself and my course? How many trumpets can I blow? How many convincing anecdotes and testimonies should I include? How many ‘gold stars’ can I give myself? How do I ‘sell’ my product without being ungodly and conceited?
It’s a tricky question—particularly as often the answer may have something to do with the culture in which the ‘product’ is being promoted. In general, readers in the USA will tolerate a higher level of self-promotion than those in Australia, who might conclude rather too quickly that this bloke has tickets on himself (i.e.—for non-Australian readers—is really conceited)!
Then another event entered the mix: some great talks on 1 Thessalonians—especially chapter 2. Having thanked God for the faith, love and hope of the Thessalonians in chapter 1, Paul then spends a number of verses promoting himself and his work. It would appear that his ‘promotion’ may be more of a defence against attackers than ‘promotional literature’, but it raised for me a few reflections as I contemplated my advertising:
- Paul reminds his hears regularly of what they already know about him (1 Thess 2:1, 2, 5, 9-11). The relationship and ‘history’ that Paul has with these people counts for a great deal. Therefore, we need to ‘begin’ with people the way we intend to continue with them. It’s no good being cold and uncaring at first, and only begin to show an interest in them when they warm to us. No; our ‘product’—whether it be our church, our particular ministry or ourselves—needs to be genuine from the start.
- Paul is not afraid to speak about the reality of his activities. In verse 9, for example, he makes the difficulty of his labour clear. What is the place for us saying, “Yes, it was hard work, preparing that sermon, but it was worth it!“ rather than an off-the-cuff “It was no trouble”? Might it encourage our hearers and potential hearers if they knew that we are working hard for them? Might it encourage their commitment if they knew that we are committed to them?
- Paul is not afraid to speak about the depth of his feeling for them. In verses 7-8 and 11-12, the images he uses are of deep relationship and love. When we communicate our ‘product’, might we also talk about the care and love that we rightly feel for people in our ministry?
- As well as saying what he is and does, Paul says what he isn’t and doesn’t do (vv. 3-6). My business studies teacher told me that in marketing, you should never say anything bad about the opposition. I’m not sure that’s what Paul is doing here. Rather than saying “Product X will break after two weeks; mine is much better”, he is using negatives to clarify his motives, actions and purpose. Often people come to the ministries we are involved in with all sorts of requests and queries. Perhaps stating what we are not about might be a useful technique to achieve clarity.
I bought a new computer and I designed the brochure. I am hoping that both will have a long lifespan—as will, I think, my musings about promotion.