PR (or public relations) is how companies and organizations portray their brand to the public. It’s not publicizing what happens in the office on a Friday afternoon, it’s not giving away their strategic plans or trade secrets. PR is simply what a company wants you to see, the message they want you to hear. The goal can be to gain even more followers or to simply become known.
On a personal level, it’s kind of like how we use Facebook. We put up our best pictures, word everything perfectly and carefully edit it all before we hit ‘post.’ Why do we scrutinize everything so carefully? Because PR matters and we know it. This past Sunday and every year around the same time for the last fifty years, companies have spent enormous amounts of money to increase or improve their PR by using Super Bowl commercials.. This year’s Super Bowl commercials cost $150,000 per second making a thirty second spot cost approximately 4.5 million dollars! Fortunately for us Facebook is free!
Some companies, like Loctite Glue, spent their entire annual budget for advertising on one Super Bowl commercial; It worked and I don’t mean in sales numbers. In fact, in a news interview, the creator of the advertisement said that was never the point; at least not in the short term. In thirty-seconds, Loctite Glue has gone from a little known local product to being talked about nationwide.
Speaking of Nationwide, they’re also being talked about for their PR attempt. They chose to use their thirty seconds to talk about the dangers of preventable accidents, a factual commercial that awkwardly disrupted the celebratory atmosphere. Nationwide didn’t say anything untrue, just uncomfortable.
Jesus had a similar PR commercial during his ministry.
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 6:53-56)
Whoa, Jesus. Someone needs to get him a new PR rep stat. He can’t possibly know what he’s doing, right? Messages like this didn’t make Jesus popular as much as they did controversial. If His immediate goal was to generate more followers, it would appear that He failed.
“ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve” (John 6:66-67).
But Jesus wasn’t looking for just anyone to follow Him. He was looking for full-time committed disciples willing to lay down their lives for Him. Unlike major companies, PR for the church was never meant to be a front message. The goal is to reach people with life transforming truth, not just whatever they want to hear.
The twelve never did leave Him (sans Judas). Instead, they went forward with what was to be the largest and most successful public relations campaign to date; it still continues to this day! The book of Acts tells us that they added thousands to the church daily and they even stuck with the idea of eating the flesh and blood of Jesus. Somewhere between Jesus’ initial campaign and the book of Acts, the disciples fell in love with what Jesus had to offer. It wasn’t always what they wanted to hear and it didn’t always fit with the mood, but it was life transforming truth. Later on, the ambassador of truth –the Holy Spirit- would come upon them to help them share this truth with others.
For the church, the defining factor between good PR and bad PR is the Holy Spirit.
He is always the defining factor. We can trust that He will be with us to get His message across in the best way possible, again the true message not a front message.
We often idolize the disciples with a special divineness that makes what they did seem out of reach. To be sure the disciples were heroes of the faith and will be rewarded in a distinct way for all they did (Matthew 19:28). At the same time, we must always remember that these were what John MacArthur calls ‘Twelve Ordinary Men.’ In other words, the same spirit is available to us and anyone who chooses to be dependent on Him is indeed a wise person.
Those who work with youth need to especially take note. Teenagers have a special knack for detecting phony, while at the same time having a passion to live for something meaningful. This combination is best fed by a youth ministry that always speaks truth even when it’s hard to hear and gives students opportunities to live out these truths in ways that are just as authentic. This kind of ministry isn’t led by a Youth Pastor, but by the Holy Spirit at the helm.