Now that Lent is upon us, it is a good time for us catechists to renew our efforts at effectively proclaiming God’s Word and creating new disciples of Christ. With that in mind, I am happy to announce a Lenten series of posts that I will be writing right here at Catechist’s Journey titled “How to Be a More Evangelizing Catechist.”
I’d like to begin by introducing you to Claude C. Hopkins, an advertising pioneer and the reason you brushed your teeth this morning! To make a long story short, Hopkins made brushing one’s teeth popular in the early 20th century, when few felt the need to do so. He accomplished this by adding an ingredient to Pepsodent toothpaste that made one’s tongue tingle and provided a minty fresh taste. The ingredient did nothing to prevent cavities, but it did create a trigger: it provided people with a sensation that something was happening when they brushed their teeth: they could feel, taste, and smell a tangible result and, in essence, experience a “reward” for brushing their teeth. Experts in marketing know that consumers appreciate (and, in fact, demand) “some kind of signal that a product is working.” (Tracy Sinclair)
Jesus was a marketing genius. He understood this concept 2,000 years ago, when he insisted that “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” (Luke 11:33) Jesus performed signs for people to see. When John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was “the one,” Jesus replied, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4–5)
The Apostles understood this as well. The reason that 3,000 people joined their ranks on Pentecost was because those people saw the profound effect that the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit had on the Apostles, who should have been afraid but were not, who should have been sad but were not. Their words, actions, and attitudes were a “trigger” for those searching for a God who could transform hearts.
The Apostles’ strategy for proclaiming the Gospel for the first time to people who did not yet know Jesus Christ is referred to as the kerygma (a Greek word that means “preaching”). The kerygma is a simple, basic, bold, and inspiring proclamation of a Person—the Risen Christ—designed to transform hearts and minds. Where can we see this strategy being used effectively? Thanks to Claude C. Hopkins, in the marketing world! Think about any “as seen on TV” ad; it is “kerygmatic.”
Before you go ahead and order one of these “amazing products,” let me point out to you nine strategies that can be found in a formulaic TV ad. They point out that:
- Your current reality is broken or unsatisfactory, and the seller has just the thing to remedy that.
- The manufacturer and seller are trusted sources.
- This product does amazing things.
- This product does things that even defy logic.
- The story gets even better. (But wait, there’s more!)
- You are invited to improve your life with this product.
- You will need to embrace your need for change.
- Your life will never be the same once you make this commitment.
- You’ll be so satisfied, you won’t be able to help but tell others.
The reason that so many people pick up the phone or go online and order such products after viewing a commercial is because, like the kerygma, they are effective: simple, basic, bold, inspiring proclamations of a product (instead of a Person), designed to convert hearts and minds.
During Lent, as we seek to convert hearts and minds, we’ll explore nine strategies we learn from the kerygma—the first proclamation of the Gospel by the Apostles to people who had not yet encountered Christ—that we can use in our faith formation to be more evangelizing catechists! Just as “consumers need some kind of signal that a product is working,” those we teach need some kind of a signal that following Jesus makes a real difference!
Download a flyer of the nine strategies. Go deeper with these ideas by reading my book, Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ.