This is Marketing: A Commentary

“The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear. We need to be generous enough to share that story, so they can take action that they’ll be proud of.” – Page 19, Seth Godin, This is Marketing

This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See by [Godin, Seth]

When I first became a writer, intending to build a reputation so I can sell books, the words, “self-promotion” made me and every Christian writer cringe. Our beliefs call us to serve others, and early on, I worked at using the online world in that manner. Now, I am a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, and see marketing differently (which is why I was impressed with this book). This is Marketing by Seth Godin touches on the meaning of discipleship, even if his worldview isn’t like ours.

Skillfully, he uses the words we understand touching each sphere of need from non-profit to for profit. Marketing is about what the customer wants and what our product will do for them. “They want the way it will make them feel.” More than once, he hits on telling stories. “Stories that resonate and hold up over time. Stories that are true, because we made them true with our actions and our products and our services. We make connections. Humans are lonely, and they want to be seen and known. People want to be part of something. It’s safer that way, and often more fun. We create experiences.” An organization works for and with the marketer.

My take-ways:

  • Use your online life to influence others—make their lives better, listen to their stories, and help them find a different path through the visual story of your faith.
  • Think about the hopes and dreams of the people who follow you.
  • If you are a missionary raising funds, invite your people on your journey with you.
  • To influence, start small. Don’t aim too big. When one area is influenced, move on to another area, and another, and care.
  • People pay for interaction. Churches and missionary organizations should train their people to intentionally engage for free.
  • “The people you seek to serve—what do they believe? What do they want?”
  • Good stories connect us to our purpose and vision. Good stories help us celebrate our strengths as we recall where we came from and look ahead to where we are going.
  • What I am trying to say, Seth Godin said it better, “I see a better alternative; come with me.”
  • Emotional labor. Do it.
  • “Map and understand the worldview of the culture we seek to change.”
  • It talks about how to build trust.
  • Create tension in a respectful and generous way to usher in change.

This is not a Christian book (that will become apparent), but he brings the humanity into marketing.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

Let’s serve online.

Where Are The Good Followers? #SocialMedia #Christian

Image result for letters to the church francis chan

According to “Cairnway,” 1,246 paperback books with leadership in the title were published in 2017. “Counting all formats, Amazon offers 57,136 books with the word leadership in the title.” In a Google search, I found only a few articles or books on being good followers. Most of the time, leadership takes precedent. It’s what you hear in church. Based on a 4-day devotional from the Youversion app on Francis Chan’s “Letters to The Church,” I bought the book, hungry for being in awe of my position as a member of the Body of Christ. And this chapter set me down on my knees.

In fact, I posted on my Facebook, “I love this book, but I am not reading it from a spirit of trying to find someone else to blame; I am learning to be in awe of being a member of the body of Christ and to help bring about a spirit of unity by supporting, leading, and doing away with my own sense of ego, pride, and competition.” Too often, we hit the share button because we want someone else to see it. The lesson is for them, not for us. I want to learn Jesus’ version of leadership. (John 13:1-17).

Francis Chan says,

“Imagine how difficult it would be to coach a team where each player refuses to follow because he or she has a better plan than the coach. Welcome to the American Church in the twenty-first century. Let’s exercise some humility.”

My biggest struggle is getting rid of my sense of competition, especially when you are raising support to only have to work one full-time job. I’ve encountered people who believe they are the only ones doing it right. That attitude is in the name of their ministries, their words, and even in their defensiveness. To maintain a sense of unity, I seek to work with what is established and help others succeed in their ministry goals. In some situations, I become a leader; in others, I become a follower. Once upon a time, I hated how teachers would force me into group work. Now, I see value in collaboration, but don’t hold too tightly to your ideas as a leader. God is such a creative God. He dreams bigger than we do.

A good follower of Christ and a good leader is aware that people are always watching. With social media, this is acutely true. The more notoriety you get (like Francis Chan), the more critical and the more encouraging the comments. Chan struggled with so much criticism and flattery. As a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, I can understand that pressure, but not to his level. On an individual level, a person must show their faith and life online and treat their social media as an extension of their face-to-face life. They should be one and the same. You can, with social media, be both a leader and a follower. The church needs good followers.

It became quickly clear to me in 2014 how social media will play a big role in missions, but only if we can mobilize the congregation to follow. Francis Chan pastored a megachurch before God took him out of the country. In this first chapter, he talked about wanting people to live holy lives. Too many people had no interest in applying the Bible to their lives at his megachurch. They would come to church every week and go home without appearing to show the fruit of belief in their lives. He wanted his church to become groups of people who challenged each other to action (and they did!).

In 2014, I saw more than half of the church on social media platforms like Facebook, and I asked God, “What if we trained those people to reach unbelievers, the unreached, and to learn another culture, even a language, to become digital workers? What if each church had a digital team that grew every year that supported the mission and vision of their church and likewise, supported missionary organizations? Missionary organizations that also help to provide training material to support a church’s mission goals and their own?” I also saw over-worked pastors and missionaries and communications staff that didn’t just do communications, but a hundred other jobs. Most churches and missionary organizations do not have the budget to support someone trained in communications. Sometimes, churches and missionary organizations only see their social media as a marketing tool, rather than a tool that can be used for digital discipleship. Francis Chan said, “Another issue we saw was how everything had grown to be very dependent on one person.”

Right now, I am training a non-profit on social media and digital discipleship. A ministry is only as good as the heart and drive of its people. If all leadership has to do is provide relevant content and lead, the digital teams become a powerful tool to saturate the world with the Gospel. This alleviates the pressure of having to do everything. Lastly, Francis Chan says this,

“After giving a very strong rebuke to the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm, Jesus simply asked them to open the door. Before you get overwhelmed by all tht is wrong with the Church, rememeber that He is not placing an insurmountable burden on your shoulders. He is asking you to fellowship with Him and join Him in what He is doing. We should be filled with faith and anticipation…”

You are the church.

You are also online.

New Book: Digital Diasporas

Reading: Digital Diasporas by Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff

“Conventional wisdom holds that IT (information technologies), especially as it is applied transnationally, poses a threat to nation-states, sovereignty and capacity to govern. IT has “exposed the porosity of geographic and political borders and limited extent of any national jurisdiction” (Montgomery 2002, 26), Wilson’s (1998) literature review found a significant degree of agreement that state sovereignty–and, arguably, capacity–eroded by IT, as a result of state’s increasing inability to control information both within their borders, as well as at the supranational level. (pg. 5-6)” 

Social media is like its own nation-state, populated by multiple diasporas and cultures. The internet is a threat, but only because it is a free state allowing for the exchange of cultures and ideas. Depending upon how a person uses this tool, it can bring either peace or conflict. I pulled this quote from The Atlantic when I wrote “How Facebook’s Big Announcement Can Help Missions“:

“… [O]n a pure population count [Facebook is] bigger than many countries, including the U.S. (323.1 million people as of 2016) Also like a country… [M]any web-watchers do detect country-like features in Facebook. “[It] is a device that allows people to get together and control their own destiny, much like a nation-state,” says David Post, a law professor at Temple University. If that sounds like a flattering description of Facebook’s “groups” (often rallying people with whimsical fads and aversions), then it is worth recalling a classic definition of the modern nation-state. As Benedict Anderson, a political scientist, put it, such polities are “imagined communities” in which each person feels a bond with millions of anonymous fellow-citizens. In centuries past, people looked up to kings or bishops; but in an age of mass literacy and printing in vernacular languages, so Mr Anderson argued, horizontal ties matter more.” From Here

Likewise, we will need people who understand language demographics, provide training to local churches on cross-cultural communication, people in the church willing to use their social media to reach across social media borders, and technology people to help those that struggle with it to grasp simple concepts. This means it will take all of us to work together to accomplish the Great Commission from the church level to the mission organization level.

**Learn more about what I do with WorldVenture by clicking here**

 

Book Review: Hope of Nations

Hope of Nations by John S. Dickerson is a strong call to the church to awake from their bed of apathy and rise up with a newly focused call to missions. It describes the hostile land in which we live, the stark reality of our Post-Christian, Post-Truth society. The book also shares the hope we have for the future with a caveat that the responsibility for that future lies in how we move forward. Will we continue unchanged or move with the fervor and boldness of missionaries past?

Several points I have already blogged about here and here. Here are some more thoughts from my reading:

  • “Following World War II, some 93 percent of Americans identified as Christian—either Protestant or Catholic. That was only seven decades ago. On today’s trajectory, it is almost certain that fewer than half of Americans will identify as Christian by 2048 (that figure includes very nominal and casual Christians). In a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity compared to historical averages, one of the most Christianized nations in history has steadily turned away from its faith. (pg. 140)” Coincidentally, an increase in mental health diagnoses has occurred. Violence has increased. Addictions are on the rise. Suicides appear up. Mental health is a 203.6 billion dollar industry.
  • “Enjoying the fruits while neglecting the roots. (Pg. 161)” A lack of historical knowledge of our country’s Christian roots and institutions and a lack of knowledge of history, in general, is hurting our nation. Hope of Nations talks about Germany and how Nazism began. The book reminds us to care for the country our grandparents and ancestors worked to maintain so that we might enjoy its prosperity.
  • Hope of Nations goes over several probable endings for America. All are terrifying. One particular scenario will only continue this sense of apathy in the church while others may bring about revival as we lose the possessions and comforts we presently value over God’s desire for our obedience.
  • The growth of the unchurched. It is mostly the older generation that gives to missions and its causes. The unchurched didn’t grow up steeped in church tradition and may be unfamiliar with the Great Commission and how to exercise their faith. In fact, when a church begins a series on stewardship, I often hear people refer to it as the church asking for more money. Without a theological understanding of stewardship, America may not long enjoy having the richest churches around the globe.
  • Manifesto gives us guidelines on how to navigate this new world. Hope of Nations calls all of us to recognize that we need to learn from our missionaries how to act and share our faith in an increasingly hostile culture.

Let me remind you of the stats cementing why it is important for churches and individuals to support what I am doing with WorldVenture:

  • 1 missionary for every 200,000 to 400,000 people (depending on whom you ask).
  • 1 pastor for an average 300-person church. Or a staff for a 4,000 person church that is often over-worked.

We expect a level of sacrifice from our missionaries and pastors, but not from ourselves. Hope of Nations reaffirms for me the importance of my calling in social media to mobilize the church and strategically design partnerships for a global revival. Hope of Nations prepares us for moving into a future as people with purpose and a hope. Let’s put to the cross our fears, our prejudices, our politics, and our offenses and realize that we are all image-bearers of God. Let’s share that gift of hope with others through good works, compassion, and truth.

**Book given by publisher to review**

In Light of Two Deaths

Anthony Bordain’s suicide came as a shock to me. My blogging friend, Lori expressed her dismay over Kate Spade’s death. Suicide appears to offer itself as the only solution. Both deaths reminded me of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham struggled over the God question. In two books, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James McPherson and Lincoln’s Battle With God by Stephen Mansfield, you get a picture of Abraham’s life. Abraham was put on suicide watch a few times. His childhood wasn’t a picture of Sunday dinner on Blue Bloods. His father viewed his reading habits as lazy and was a harsh man. Lincoln struggled all his life. During the Civil War, he dealt with dysfunctional generals. His wife was into the occult.

I could meander further, but I encourage you to read both books. Here’s where my heart rests…

Posting the suicide phone numbers for various countries on social media are wonderful. Let’s take it a step further.

Get to know your followers.

  • Who are your friends or followers online?
  • What do they struggle with?
  • Are you weighing your words before you speak online?
  • Are you speaking truth compassionately in their lives, or have you earned that right yet?
  • How are you fostering good relationships online?

It’s not about being a “nice Christian” as some accuse. A person must trust us before we can speak frankly into their lives; before we can hold them accountable, to love and empower them to live their lives fully, even if some of them struggle with mental illness. You can’t take back saying the wrong words, and even saying the right words aren’t always welcome. Conflict is inevitable even in the best of relationships. To foster good relationships online, changing how we use social media is important.

Someone once said that Facebook is like a person’s own paparazzi. People honestly do act like that as if we are individual celebrities in our own lives. What if we put others as more important? What if we changed the inner narrative from playing online to serving online? When that inner narrative changes, our heart changes and pursues more godly desires. We begin to hold ourselves accountable to better standards. Because if the change doesn’t happen in our own hearts first, we cannot serve the world. Social media is a tool, but not the answer.

For some, social media doesn’t offer a relief to the loneliness they feel. For the majority of the time, it feels like Christians are really good at sharing things from other sites without adding a personal touch. It’s generational or fear-based. Maybe they are thinking, “If I keep them at a distance, they can’t hurt or disappoint me.”

In today’s culture, people need to hear our stories. Even the dirty laundry can be helpful if it is God’s lessons being applied and not with the intent to discredit, slander, or put down another person in a passive-aggressive way.  My home church has a mission: #TransformChino. You can’t transform Chino if you aren’t risking disappointment, hurt, or even your life. People are messy, even dangerous. But back to Abraham Lincoln…

Abraham Lincoln struggled with mental illness, was on suicide watch, and did not give up on the God question. Because he didn’t choose to end his life, he was part of changing our nation. Anthony Bordain and Kate Spade were famous, influential people. Each of us who have a social media presence is also influential. We can be a positive change in a person’s life if we focus on our own relationship with God first.

Today, risk a new friendship. Risk sharing your heart online. Let others walk with you through your difficulties. God will put together your shattered heart time and time again if you get hurt. Tears will flow, but you are not alone. Have faith in the Unseen.

And don’t forget to read your Bible this morning. 

Book Discussion: The Downfall of American Christianity

The first police cruiser pulled up in front of the park, followed by another police officer striding across the lawn. Two men lay beneath a tree, curled around their belongings, on top or near their own human excrement. I sat on the park bench across the way with the book, Hope of Nations opened in front of me, distracted by the scene unfolding. At the encouragement of both police officers, the two men eventually stumbled off in two different directions. It’s not exactly Mayberry here.

Every day there are real-life illustrations of Hope of Nations’ sentence on page 24, “A post-truth society is the only logical end of a post-Christian society.” Some of the points he brought up so far:

  • American college professors prefer not to hire Christians.
  • Journalists are not reporting news through the lens of ideologies.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans are struggling in a “truth-based war of ideologies” within their own parties.
  • Experts say America is 70% Christian. His sources indicate there are actually only 7-20% of meaningfully active Christians in America.
  • Most people don’t know the history of Christianity.

But, it was his chapter of 1938 Germany that struck me the most. On November 9, 1938, the Night of Crystal exploded in Germany. Formerly peace-loving Germans burned 260 synagogues, destroyed 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses, and mobs of architects, professors, brick-layers, etc murdered dozens of individual Jews. Wilhelm, Corrie Ten Boom’s brother saw Nazi Germany coming because he understood the power of ideas. Christians need to understand the power of ideas and see what they read through the lens of ideologies. 

At this moment in time, the power of ideas stream through your social media, manipulated by people schooled in marketing and communication. All have an agenda, even the groups we agree with politically. However, Christians can take back that power by making the Christian ideology more important than their own agendas through online sharing of the hope we have in Christ with people who don’t have a relationship with Him.

But first, are we someone people can trust? Are we discerning in what we post? Do we exercise self-control in how we respond or react online? Are we researching what we post before we post? Don’t take this lightly. If we always post or send information that later becomes disproven by other websites, how can people trust what we say when we talk about Bible verses and Christ? This went through my mind as I sat in the park, reading this book.

Watching the second man stumble away from the tree, a slave to his next high or his next drink, I wondered what decisions and circumstances brought him there? If Hope of Nations says only 7-20% of Christians are measurably active in their faith, and growth of Christian ideology in the future will be the result of births, not conversions, it’s urgent the Church body step up in this age of social media and technology. Thom Rainer said it on his blog that real church growth happens when a church is focused on evangelism. Otherwise, he said, it’s just a recirculation of the saints going from church to church.

Let’s change this. 

Learn more about what I do and how you can support a missionary organization: www.worldventure.com/nhahn. Book given by the publisher to review. 

Book Discussion: Hope of Nations by @JohnSDickerson

“They (Oxford Dictionary) noted that our society now defines truth by feelings rather than by facts.” John S. Dickerson “Hope of Nations”

Reading books on culture and being in culture helps a person serve online. I rarely read introductions in a book, but this one is necessary. When Dickerson spoke about a parent bringing his child to a bondage sex fair in California and how morality has shifted, becoming skewed, I see that every day online (in Facebook groups most notably). The past solid Christians are aging out of influence. Dickerson’s generation will see a rise in brutality and violence.  What can we do now?

  • Read the Bible. Seek to understand and apply it both to your online and face-to-face world.
  • Explore why you feel a lack of urgency for your community and the world to know Christ.
  • Audit your social media. Is it an accurate depiction of you and your faith walk? Are you having real conversations with people online? Or are you hitting the share button more than the comment button? Are you reflecting Christ in your responses or reactions to others? Are you expecting unbelievers to live as believers? Are you thinking like a missionary?
  • Living out your faith is being different than your culture. Are you allowing sin in your life? Are you understanding who God is and seeking His face?
  • It’s the little things, too, that make a difference. Unbelievers do acts of kindness. You could say it’s a trend. What makes our acts of service and kindness different than others? What makes us different?
  • Serve online. God has given us this great tool to further love others. The church is still grappling with social media and feels a love/hate relationship with it. Add to this the marketing tactics used by Christians to sell a product, like cloaking a number to make it look like a local one, is not a good testimony. Jesus doesn’t need marketing help. He needs us to live in obedience to His calling in our lives. Reflecting this online is powerful.
  • Make time for people you don’t know on and offline.

I stopped reading this book for now because you can’t read a book like this without a highlighter. More blogs on this book later! 

*Book given by publisher to review. 

 

 

Book Review: A Song Unheard

Reviewing books is a great way to begin conversations and build relationships. While I’ve cut back on my book reviewing, I am still registered with a few sites to review books to refill my creative tank. 

A Song Unheard by Roxanne White is part of a series called Shadows Over England. It begins with an unlikely heroine, Willa Forsythe–a thief with an innate ability to hear music and play by memory.

The era is World War I. A mysterious man only known as V pays her to give him information. Until near the end of the book, no one knows if V is with England or Germany. For Wila, it’s another dangerous job that pays well so she can survive on the streets, cashing in on her abilities as the best thief in England. She justifies lying and thievery because she doesn’t steal from children or those in need; only from those with enough money to spare. She’s not as bad as other thieves, or so she keeps telling herself.

When she meets her mark, a refugee Belgium violinist named Lukas, to steal his fathers cypher, she encounters other interested parties; namely, a German spy who threatens her life and a man whose loyalties can be bought. Things aren’t black and white anymore. Complicating things is how her heart begins to soften towards Lukas as he shares himself with her and brings out a better version of herself. Discovery of the cypher will challenge Willa’s morality and strip away everything she thought was right.

A Song Unheard is an excellent story.

*Book given by publisher to review. 

Re-Thinking Social Media

When you’re so sure you’re right that you’re willing to burn things down, it turns out that everyone is standing in a burning building sooner or later.Seth Godin (emphasis mine)

 

I am reminded every day that businesses, missionary organizations, churches, church plants, advocates for adoption and foster kids, and those against human trafficking need people like me who understand social media and make it work for them. In the spirit of collaboration and partnership, I am always checking my motivations and words. The Gospel is too important for it to be all about me or my ministry. That’s why I love Facebook groups that encourage this kind of collaboration, like Church Communications, AR/VR, etc. That’s why I began a group to encourage a change of narrative.

For the Christian, Social Media is about serving online.

Change the inner narrative, you change a person’s whole perspective:

“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart…” Matthew 15:18a

 

The Struggle of Self-Promotion

Self-promotion was the biggest emotional struggle within the minds of Christian writer friends in 2007. Publishers required (and still do) writers to promote their work online. At that time, blogging was more about being real and creating community. Having to self-promote felt cold and against our worldview. When I attended writers groups, I encountered a lot of self-promotion. I recalled this when I read this week’s chapter of Called to Create by Jordan Raynor:

As we saw in the previous chapter, following God’s call to create replaces our motivation to make a name for ourselves with motivation to create in order to reveal God’s character and love others.

We wrote to glorify God. Our heart was to connect, to pray for each other, and cross-network through guest blogging. Most of us made peace with self-promotion because we made it about Jesus. Our blogs bloomed into mini-ministries. It was about the books we read and how what we read impacted our daily lives. We weren’t shy about sharing our emotions. But, as the glory days of blogging faded, and marketing took over with content written to get noticed on Google, some writers lost their way.

There’s a danger of becoming too focused on creating a work around making a name for ourselves.  I loved how Called to Create spoke about famous people who built their careers to make monuments around their name. They worked to glorify themselves. In this culture of negativity, can we find ways to #RedeemSocialMedia and use the web strategically and authentically, making sharing the Gospel a priority?

“Generally speaking, entrepreneurs attempt to figure out where the world is going, and leverage those trends to considerable financial gain,” Blanchard said. “Could our aim [as Christian entrepreneurs] be for more? Disrupting negative cultural trends and encouraging positive emerging trends with innovative, transformative, gospel-minded ventures?”