“What’s the difference between promotion and self-promotion? How do we promote ourselves/our books so that we honor God, respect others, and use common sense?”
The constant tension between marketing and ministry has plagued the Christian author, speaker, bookseller, and publisher forever. Why? Because Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Because we are commanded to die to self and to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord….
And yet, our society…our culture insists, even demands, that we market and promote our message.
Hanging on my office wall is the following saying from Ignatius Loyola:
Work as if everything depends on you.
Pray as if everything depends on God.
And another one is from James 5:16:
“…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Maybe that is the beginning of the balance. People in business, not just publishing, must work hard and make every effort to excel in their field of expertise. We never question a bank needing to market their wares, but if a Christian bank were to do so the critics would surge with vitriol. The principles of a successful business come into play with regard to our profession. We are in the business of communicating the message of redemption to a world that doesn’t read. Thus we are called to excellence in our craft for we have a message that can change lives. If we do not make every effort to be an evangelist (see marketer) of that message, the message will likely not be read or heard, and thus ministry would rarely occur. As one writer told me boldly, “Marketing, in essence, IS my ministry.”
Even the Mother Teresas, Thomas Mertons, Richard Fosters, John Eldreges, and Henri Nouwens of the world were out there in the public eye. They had a message of change that they were called to deliver. Thus they took the speaking engagements, they worked with their publishers in publicity, and they wrote absolutely stellar books that nearly sold themselves. Our challenge is to avoid the Publican attitudes of I, Me, and My. Instead we should strive to incorporate the Us, Our, and We.
How do you keep your balance?
Is this a real tension or are we thinking too hard about the topic?
[a previous version, now updated and edited, was published in February 2011.]