By Rev. Ezekiel Jako
The Great Commission as restated in the gospels and the book of Acts is a statement of the branding of Christianity. Making disciples is the process of that branding. In it we get the main purpose and the reason for the existence of Christianity. A disciple is the brand of a Christ-like Christian who obeys, emulates, and follows in the footsteps of the Master, Jesus Christ.
We all agree that Jesus is the most influential personal brand, and the Bible is the most read, historical, and contextual Scriptures that has passed cultural and contextual tests. If you like it, ‘Biblical Christianity’ as I call it, is the most branded religious lifestyle. But its branding is not by man, nor for man’s glory. It is God who has branded it throughout the ages through Christ-like people. Unfortunately, today, many would like to brand Christianity based on their own selfish motive of wanting to be ‘famous’ and to attract large numbers to follow us. And so, if we brand our ‘Christianity’ for self-promotion and personal gain, the result will be pride. It is advisable therefore, to brand our denominations and churches based on Jesus’ life and ministry.
“Branded Christianity has been the focus of denominations and their affiliated educational institutions. In some parts of the world, denominations are growing. In others, networks are rising and taking their place. What distinguishes a branded Christian institution is the insistence that all related churches and any churches they start adhering to a particular and peculiar perspective and associated practices related to the Bible, as well as their group history”. (Contagious Disciple Making: 459)
There is nothing wrong with branding Christianity through our denominations or affiliations. But we should be careful that such branding is not for our own personal gain or selfish motive. We should brand it with no desire of self-promotion or personal gain. Our motive should be to share the love of God unconditionally. “Famous pastors with mega churches are becoming a huge thing in Christian personal brands. They use their position in a big church to get noticed… the problem with this is Christians start to idolize the pastors…for what they do instead of God. With all, it is all about the motive and your heart. When sharing the message of God through our personal brand, we must make sure that we have our hearts in check and not posting for personal gain.” [Article by Madison Murphy, Christianity and Personal Brands; Published February 6, 2023].
Of a major concern for me is the use of social media in branding our denominations and church affiliations. Not that social media itself is a bad idea, but how we use it and the motivation behind using it. Lauren is much concerned at the rate Christian groups are branding themselves on social media. In her article about this, she asks these penitent questions, which I believe we need to ask ourselves and answer them:
“What is branded Christianity, and why do we have to brand Christianity, is this worldly concept we have adopted to our lifestyle as a follower of Christ and disciple-makers? Inviting people to come through advertisement and posts? Where do we place ourselves in this techy world. How did this start? Marketing Christianity? Before social media? More so social media?” [Article from The Gospel Coalition on social media, from Lauren, EMS Digital Technology, Obselence [sic] and reversals. Tristan Harris, Social Dilemma].
We should understand that Christianity supersedes all cultures and seasons. It started off as a band of 12 apostles in Palestine, spread to Asia and Africa, became a strong during the Roman empire, then spread to Europe and became a white man’s religion, then on to the Americas and now it is from everywhere to everywhere. And in every culture or season, God makes something beautiful out of it. Today, we live at a season of social media which seem to be shaping our culture, and as I have alluded to this above, there is nothing wrong with branding our churches or denominations (Christianity) through social media. Only that we need to make sure that we keep our hearts in checks and balance. So, branding your Church or denomination through social media is a great gift from God which should be used only for His glory and for the purpose of extending His Kingdom. It is God who has given you the strength and talent in social media personal branding. It is therefore important to use it in a way to glorify Him (make Him known) and not for your own personal gain or fame. It mst be said that, where culture (social media culture) conflicts with Christianity, culture must bow.
It is my prayer and plea that we shall emulate Jesus’ way of personal brand because His main purpose was to glorify the father. As true disciples and disciple-makers, our attitude should be to glory the Master, be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to please Him who has called us. Remember a disciple tells the master: (1) What you (Jesus) command, I obey. (2) Who You are, I become. (3) Where You go, I go.
Overall, our branding of Christianity should be scriptural. So as Christ’s followers on social media, we should “Let [our] your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glory your Father which is in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16). Our main goal should be to glorify the Father through Jesus Christ: “Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8); “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1 Cor. 1:29). We must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He gave a parable in Luke 6:35-49. This was immediately after choosing the twelve disciples. He gave a parable and in Luke 6:44, He made a very important statement: “…For every tree is known by its fruits…”. You can paraphrase this by saying a good tree advertises itself by the kind of fruits it produces.
How did Godly men advertise themselves in the Old Testament? Let us look at two examples: Joseph and Daniel. There are many more other examples in the Old Testament, but these two young men, won the hearts of heathen kings because of their character and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
For Joseph, it was Pharaoh who recognized the talents and gifts in him. This is what Pharoah said: “And Pharoah said unto his servants, can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharoah said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you.” (Genesis 41: 38-39).
And in the case of Daniel, the Persian/Medes king placed him over all the administrators and presidents because an excellent spirit was in him, and of course this was seen through his own character among the others. “This Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” (Daniel 6:3). My point: The people of the world will acknowledge when the spirit of God is at work in us.
Branding Christianity on social media is not bad, but the motive and end results should be to glorify God and to extend His Kingdom. We can still brand or advertise our own churches and denominations on social media. But we must make sure that our hearts are right… we are men and women of character and are sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We can do this without prejudice or exaggeration. It should not be done out of comparison or competition with others. It should not be for our own selfish profession and gain. But must be handled with a lot of caution and wisdom. Let the people of the world acknowledge that God is speaking and working through us.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all in the Name of the LORD…” (Colossians 3:17).