If we are to believe many of today’s top Church Growth experts, Jesus could have used a lot of help when it came to marketing and branding. Instead of capitalizing on His core strengths, successful resume and off-the-chart popularity, He can be seen time-and-again sabotaging His opportunities and alienating potential followers. Here are a few areas where a good marketing coach would have done things differently:
Failure to Expand on Success:
After making a big splash at the wedding in Cana of Galilee by turning water into wine, people couldn’t wait to see what Jesus would do next. Before returning to the town, He should have gotten the word out, “Jesus is coming!”, “Don’t miss it!”, “Miracles, Signs, Wonders for All!” He should have let people know that He was coming back and they could expect even bigger things. Instead, He returned to town without fanfare.
Failure to Capitalize on the Need:
After incidentally hearing about His return, a nobleman sought Jesus to heal his son. A good coach would have told Jesus to treat this guy special, give him what he asked for and leverage the relationship for financial and networking opportunities. I’m sure the man would have been more than happy to “invest” in Jesus’ ministry, as well as open doors with even more important community leaders. The man probably would have considered such an opportunity a great honor.
Instead Jesus was critical of the man’s request, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” (John 4:48 NKJV) Jesus then told the nobleman that his son was healed, and sent him on his way. At this point most coaches would slap their forehead in disbelief. They would tell Jesus that He should have made it appear more challenging, went to the man’s house and built the relationship to the point that the man would be obliged to help “expand the Kingdom”.
Failure to Build Name Recognition:
Later, Jesus healed a man who had been infirmed for thirty-eight years with little hope of ever being well. When the man is later asked who healed him, he didn’t know. Jesus did not hand out His business card, give away any promotional items, or ask the man to tell others. Worse yet, Jesus actually withdrew into seclusion so He wouldn’t be noticed. When the man did finally see Jesus later, Jesus missed an opportunity to tell him all the great things God was going to do in his life, and instead said, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:1-14) Talk about a “buzz-kill!”
Failure to Clearly Communicate
In what might be considered the worst marketing fail of all times, Jesus attempted to metaphorically illustrate to His listeners that He alone could fulfill all their longings. This in and of itself may have been considered by many coaches, marketing genius. Jesus was positioning Himself as the exclusive provider of eternal life – the sole source – a spiritual monopoly! The problem was in the language. It was cumbersome, symbolic, awkward and even distasteful to most of the hearers. He claimed to be the “Bread of Life.”
When some of the leaders protested, Jesus didn’t qualify by saying, “what I am trying to convey is…,” instead He doubled down. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 NKJV) This is the point where most coaches would just throw in the towel. Many of Jesus’ disciples walked away that day never to return.
Even among the closest disciples, there was great distress. The only thing that kept them with Jesus was that they knew they had no other place to go. That no one else had the “words of eternal life.” And they knew that He alone was “Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69 NKJV)
Was Jesus really so horrible at marketing, or did He really mean it when He said, “… the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it?” (Matthew 7:14 NLT) Perhaps He knew that those who only followed Him when they were enjoying: free lunches, encouraging words, and easy to digest messages, would never be able to survive the Heavenly journey.