Who you are is your personal brand, and it’s not what you project to the world. Your personal brand is how you are perceived by others and what they say about you in your absence. Branding is important in business. In the last few years marketing experts have come to realize that a brand is not just a logo and a slogan, but the customer experience with a company. And, as a Christian, God’s “brand” depends on what others think of you and what they say about you when you’re not there. Most often you don’t know what others are saying, but it’s your brand. And by proxy, it’s God’s brand because you are His ambassador on earth.
Business is a good example of what comprises a brand. For the sake of this blog, let’s assume first that you’re starting a one-person business. You are the chief cook and bottle washer, so to speak, because you don’t have any employees. Your business either succeeds or fails on whether others like and trust you and your product. Trust in your product depends upon whether or not they trust you. People need to have to have a clear idea of what and who you are and what service or product you offer. Success in your business will depend on several things: specialization; leadership; your personality; distinctiveness; visibility; consistency; and goodwill.
Prospective customers have to have a clear idea of what your business sells or does. Customer clarity in the view they have of you depends on specialization. A person looking for a portrait photographer clicks on your website and sees portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, product photography and so on. Then the potential customer goes to a site that is all portraits. There are no other types of photography on the site. The photography may not be as good as yours, but the person will probably choose that photographer because she has a clear idea of what she can expect from that business, and she is confused as to what you actually have to offer her.
Leadership is important to being really successful in your business. Think about the local businesses in your area that come readily to mind. Many of them will be influential because they lead charity drives or standout in promoting one thing or another in your community. Those are the most successful businesses because people remember and like them more than they do other businesses even though they do the same things.
My favorite restaurant in Albuquerque is the Frontier. The food is good, service is fast, the prices are reasonable and the employees are friendly. It’s not the fanciest place in town, nor does it have the best-tasting food, but it’s my favorite, and it’s the favorite of hundreds of other people as well. The distinctiveness of the Frontier is in its fast service. It has five or six order stations operating at peak rush times, so if the line is long, you will still get your order taken within two or three minutes. It’s located across the street from the University of New Mexico. Students, faculty and staff know they can walk across the street for lunch and not be late getting back. Students are notoriously broke most of the time. The Frontier’s prices are lower than those of other area restaurants and tipping is nonexistent, so students save money.
The distinctiveness, or niche, of the Frontier, then, is good food fast at reasonable prices. That’s what makes them stand out from other restaurants in the area. And, it consistently delivers the same customer experience. Customers trust the restaurant to deliver that experience every time. That is the Frontier’s implied promise to its customers that t keeps people coming back. And as a disclaimer, the Frontier doesn’t know I’m using them as an example. Truthfully, I didn’t know I would until I started writing.
Continuing with the one-person portrait business, what you’re selling isn’t just a picture of a person. You’re selling a dream, and you’re selling memories. The portraits have to be honest representations, but they’re biased to the good side of your clients. They look their best in the photos. That builds the client’s self-esteem and sense of value and worth. Good portraits help build their confidence in themselves. And, that is as much what you’re selling as are the photographs.
Your brand, then, is a promise you make to your customers and you keep that promise. It’s where the objective reality inherent in your personal integrity meets the subjective expectations of your clients. They have emotional reasons for having a portrait made as much or more than they have practical reasons. They come to you based on their feelings about you and the quality of your work. The feeling is based somewhat on the image you project, but it is based more on what others say about you.
So then, your brand is a matter of authenticity. The phrase you are what you eat applies here. Your health depends on your eating foods that provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Likewise, your brand is what you really are as a person, not what you’d like others to think you are. Your business reputation is dependent on your reputation. You are your brand.
Now, let’s assume your business grows and you hire a receptionist and an assistant. Your brand-your reputation- now depends on your employees’ reputations and personal integrity. To a large extent, your reputation is dependent on what people think about your employees. They have to have the same level of honesty, integrity, and friendliness that you have or else your reputation and that of your business’s brand will suffer.
The Christian context is that you are God’s volunteer employee on earth. Jesus isn’t here anymore, so the only way people can relate to God is through relating to His ambassadors. And, you are one of His representatives, or ambassadors. How the unsaved relate to God depends on how they view you. This is a tremendous responsibility because it’s the unsaved peoples’ salvation you’re partially responsible for. Whether a person spends eternity with God in heaven or with the devil in hell may very well depend on their relationship with you. You are what you eat applies here too. Athletes don’t subsist on junk food. And Christians don’t live on worldly values. Do as I say and not as I do doesn’t work with the unsaved any more than it does with children.
Jesus said that you can not serve two masters. You will hate either one or the other (Matthew 6:24), and Christians can serve only God (Matthew 4:10). He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). He is the light of the world, and by Him living in you and you in Him you are the light of the world, because He shines out through you (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14-16; 6:22). You represent God’s brand to others. That is, others’ subjective expectations of who and what God is and their hope in Him is dependent on their feelings of who and what you are. You have a lot to overcome because there are a lot of false Christians in the world that undermine and pervert God’s brand, His reputation. It’s your job to set the record straight.
You’re not expected to be perfect. Even Paul admitted that the good he would do he didn’t, and the bad he didn’t want to do he did. You, me, and everyone else are imperfect beings. We make mistakes and act inappropriately at times. Transparency is important in Christians. It’s important to admit that you’re not perfect. But you are forgiven. Jesus paid the penalty for your past, present, and future foul-ups. That’s not an excuse to go on living in the world. It’s the assurance that God forgives your transgressions.
“But”, you say, ” I’ve lived a terrible life in the past. I’ve been a real jerk for most of my life. And everyone I’ve ever met knows that”. True, but the radical change from the worldly life to your life in Christ is the most powerful testimony you can have. When another says you have no idea what their problems are, you can respond that yes, you do: Been there, done that. And, here I am today. If you can do it so can they. They can do all things in Christ who will strengthen them if they will allow Him to do so. But a 100 percent commitment to Christ is a prerequisite. That is, they have to be willing to give up their old worldly life and work toward a life in Christ. A mustard seed grows into a huge plant, but not instantly. It falls to the ground, is buried, and is reborn as a little sprig that develops into a huge plant over time.
Changing other peoples’ minds about Christ seems like an insurmountable task. You not only have to overcome the inherent negative bias others have toward God, but the negative influence false disciples have spread as well. One well-known Christian writer said a waitress told him that if other Christians were more like him, she’d become a Christian. The answer is to not pay attention to others. They can’t save her. She should pay attention to Christ and what He expects from her.
You may not feel that you’re up to the task of witnessing to others, that you can’t make a difference. Moses thought the same thing. What he was incapable of doing God did for him. And, God will do the same thing for you if you allow Him to do so. Allow Him to lead you to the people He wants you to influence. Remember that it’s not your job to convert everyone you meet. That will not happen, not even for God. It’s your goal to find those persons who will like you for who you are, and through you to like Christ.
In witnessing as in business, it’s not about you. It’s all about others’ expectations, hope, and dreams. Your job is to be of service to them, to facilitate their understanding that what they long for is really Jesus. He came to earth not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:26-28; 25:24). That’s mind-boggling when you think about it. God Himself, the Creator of the universe, came to earth to serve you. (John 1:1-3;14). And, He expects you to serve others in His name as His ambassador. As one homeless black evangelist in the deep South once told an upper-middle-class white man, “I’m just a nobody tryin’ to tell everybody about Somebody who can save anybody”.
I have a knack for starting conversations with complete strangers. And you can develop the same knack. Conversations will come around to some point from which you can start introducing Christ into the conversation. Don’t preach, but rather say something about how you got through a similar problem, or work around the issue with suggestions until the subject of Christ and salvation can be introduced. Christ gave us the Great Commission to go into all the world and teach the gospel. All the world starts just outside your door. And the best witnessing you can do is being God’s brand, because His brand is your brand. If the unsaved can see a way to realize their hopes and dreams in you, then they will want what you have. Visibility is an important element in branding. Christ said that a light on a hilltop can’t be hidden, so let His light shine out through you to everyone.
Witnessing, like sales, is a numbers game. If three or for people out of a hundred respond and accept Christ, you’re ahead of the statistical average. Also, there are those who will not make a commitment right then, but who will come to Christ later in life. They may remember some little thing you sid or did for them years later, and that one little act of service will be the trigger that causes them to accept Christ as their Savior. So to start witnessing to others, start with yourself.
However insecure you feel, start today. Be honest about your struggles with being a Christian. Others will respect that and admire you for being “real” and honest. They will respect your integrity and therefore they will trust what you have to tell them. Something you say to someone today may mean the difference in where he or she spends eternity, and there is nothing in this world that is more important to a person than that decision. So start practicing the Great Commission today.