Note: This article is “Strategy 19” from the book Marketing Like Jesus: 25 Strategies to Change the World by Darren Shearer. Used by permission from the author.
Wikipedia’s collaboratively edited, multilingual, and free online encyclopedia is one of the most amazing things ever made. As of the time of this writing, Wikipedia is comprised of 30 million articles in 287 languages and has an estimated 365 million readers.
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, has led this effort to provide free knowledge to the world almost entirely through a labor force of volunteers. From the beginning, Wales has empowered these volunteer writers, researchers, and editors through inspiring them with his vision to change the world through free knowledge. Anyone can create and edit the articles. Yet, Jimmy Wales didn’t help Wikipedia achieve such an astronomical level of success by operating as a dictator within the Wikipedia community. Instead, he empowers the members of the community with a sense of ownership of his vision to provide free knowledge to the world. Because Wikipedia is one of the top-ranked websites in the major search engines, every article the community creates broadens the reach and impact of Wikipedia.
Jesus constantly reinforced his vision in the hearts and minds of his marketing team, which helped them to remain committed. They made Jesus’ vision their own. As they shared their lives together, everything Jesus taught his disciples through his words and actions was an expression of their shared vision. He took responsibility for helping them to stay focused on what they were trying to accomplish together.
When Peter was ready to be restored after betraying and denying Jesus, Jesus immediately reminded him of their shared vision to spread the gospel message by serving people. Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17)
Peter replied three times, “Yes, I love you.”
Jesus responded, “Then, feed my sheep.” Despite Peter’s failure, Jesus empowered him and called forth his destiny to be a world-changer.
Before he was crucified, Jesus affirmed his disciples with these words: “You are those who have stood by me in my trials” (Luke 22:28). They stood with him, in part, because they owned his vision. Yes, they wrestled with doubt, fear, and self-preservation. Yet, Jesus’ followers were committed wholeheartedly to helping him deliver his message to the world. Yes, it was Jesus’ vision. At the same time, his followers made it their own because Jesus inspired them. John Ortberg writes,
Jesus inspired a wealthy cheat named Zacchaeus to give away most of his fortune. He inspired a Samaritan woman to become an evangelist, and she inspired so many townspeople that they had Jesus—a Jewish rabbi—stay in their Samaritan town and teach them for two solid days. He inspired Peter to get out of his boat. He inspired a woman named Joanna, whose husband, Cusa, worked for a man named Herod who killed John the Baptist and kept trying to kill Jesus. Joanna used money they made working for Herod to help finance Jesus’ ministry. He inspired four friends of a paralytic to punch a hole through a roof to get their friend to him. He inspired a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years to fight through a crowd just to touch the hem of his robe.1
For Jesus, marketing was a collaborative process that required a team effort and a shared vision. He compared marketing to fishing, saying, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). These were commercial fishermen—not amateurs. They didn’t use a rod and reel to catch fish by themselves. Instead, they worked together to catch massive amounts of fish with large nets. It wasn’t something that could be done effectively by individuals. He needed each one of them to buy in and take ownership of his vision.
Do the people you’re marketing to feel a sense of ownership for your vision, or are they just consumers? Would they carry forth your vision even if you weren’t around anymore?
1John Ortberg, Who Is This Man: The Unpreditable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 62.
Darren Shearer is the director of the Theology of Business Institute, a global think tank dedicated to the exploration and application of God’s will for business. He has authored three books, including Marketing Like Jesus: 25 Strategies to Change the World and The Marketplace Christian: A Practical Guide to Using Your Spiritual Gifts in Business. He is also the founder and CEO of High Bridge Books & Media, which helps Christ-centered thought leaders craft and publish messages that reveal God’s glory in all spheres of culture. www.HighBridgeBooks.com