Jesus’ way of gaining followers was so radically opposed to that of today’s marketing strategies that compared to how things are done today, it may seem more like He discouraged people to follow Him than He was interested in gaining followers.
First of all, He laid all the facts plainly on the table from the word go. He was straight and to the point. From the outset He gave those who expressed a desire to follow Him an accurate picture of what to expect. He did not revert to smooth-talk and flattery to gain the allegiance of people. That’s the way religion operates. With sweet-sounding words and flattery they draw people into their net, and once they have their claws in their victims, they oppress their prisoners with oppressive “do and do…rule on rule…” (Isaiah 28:10a). Jesus did the exact opposite of what religion did, in more ways than one. As He said Himself, “I have spoken openly to the world.” (John 18:20a). He did nothing in secret.
Looking at Jesus’ way of ‘marketing’ Himself, we will find astounding differences to what we would term marketing. Here’s how He went about the business of His Father:
- Following Him may mean giving up even the very basic material comforts we are used to such as a comfortable bed to sleep in (Matthew 8:19-20). Are we prepared to follow Him if we have to give up the many physical comforts we cling to so diligently and invest so much time in getting? Are we still prepared to follow Him if we have to give up material prosperity? Or worse still, if we have to lose everything dear to us as Job did? Can we then still say we will follow Him?
- Someone said he’ll follow Jesus but he would first like to bury his father. Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, my deepest sympathy. Please go ahead and when you’re ready, you may come follow me.” No, He instead replies with a jaw-dropper: “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22). Gasp! On the surface it appears as if Jesus was unsympathetic towards the loss of this person. But seen in the context of the other events recorded in the Gospels we know that is not the case. He wept when He saw the heartbreak of those close to Lazarus. He also reached out with compassion towards the widow who lost her only son, “When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, ‘Don’t cry.’” (Luke 7:13). So, He was certainly not being indifferent to this person’s suffering. His aim was to show that in following Him, the focus is on preaching the Good News to the living. The dead is God’s business. Jesus never commanded His disciples to take care of the dead. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.” (Matthew 8:22 MSG).
- In deciding to follow our Lord, are we prepared for the possibility that we might have to distance ourselves from the people very dear to us? (Luke 9:61-62; Luke 14:26). Clinging to family who may reject our commitment to the Lord, Jesus calls “looking back” while attempting to do His work. There is quite a contrast between this person who wanted to first say his goodbye’s to his family before He followed the Lord and the disciples of Jesus who, “At once they left their nets and followed Him…and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:20, 22). Are we prepared to leave everything behind for the sake of Christ if He should call us to do so? Please note this is not what Jesus expected of everyone who believed in Him: “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with Him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you. So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:18-20). It is clear that following Jesus does not of necessity mean leaving behind your family, but sometimes it may. Are we prepared to follow Him if that is what He should require of us?
To bring home His point Jesus uses an analogy of a builder who embarks on a building project without determining the cost beforehand. In the event that he runs out of funds, the building remains incomplete and becomes an eyesore in the community. Not only that, the builder will face the ridicule of his neighbours because he didn’t take the time beforehand to determine what it will cost him to erect his building. With this Jesus is inviting us to ensure that we know what it is we are letting ourselves in for when we declare that we will follow Him “wherever He may lead us”. In following our Lord, compromise is not tolerated. Salt that loses it saltiness is useless (Luke 14:34).
It is quite obvious that Jesus was being open towards those who wanted to follow Him. From the outset He made sure they understood what following Him may require of them. He didn’t revert to underhanded ways of gaining followers. If Jesus’ way of gaining followers had to be compared to the marketing tactics of today (worldly ways that have even been imported into the church), it would certainly appear as if He was attempting to discourage people from following Him. But our Lord Jesus set forth the truth plainly. He never used deception. There is no fine print in our Covenant with God. From the very beginning He made the cost of following Him very clear. In this way, those who did choose to follow Him after all was said and done, were the ones who did so because they loved Him above all else. When we revert to deceptive ways to gain followers for Christ, or our denomination or ministry, we are in fact insulting Jesus Christ and that which He represents, which is Truth.
When the Holy Spirit draws a person it does not matter how unappealing the Lord Jesus may appear on the surface. Nothing will keep such a person away from the Lord. The Syro-Phoenician women’s interaction with the Lord Jesus is an excellent example of this. At first our Lord’s approach towards her appeared indifferent to say the least but because it was God who was drawing her, none of His apparent coldness could stop her and she received what she believed for. By not reverting to the ways of the world to gain followers, our Lord ensured that it can be plainly seen that those who did come to Him were drawn by the power of God and not by human wisdom, cleverly devised speeches or flattery.
Following Jesus’ example, Paul took this way of bringing the Good News very seriously. He did not rely on the latest public speaking techniques sold on the market, as we learn from the following passages:
- When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith may not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power (1Corinthians 2:1-5).
- We reject all shameful means and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the Word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, had blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ (2Corinthians 4:2-7 NLT).
So, for those who have been well-informed of all that it may cost them to follow Jesus and still desire to follow Him, He says the following: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me…You know the way to the place where I am going…I AM the Way…” John 14:1, 4,6a)
- Means (joelhansen.wordpress.com)