One of the greatest myths that plague pastors and religious leaders today is that they can control their image, story, and brand. I’ve worked with major pastors and ministry leaders all my life and heard everything: what we can’t shoot or photograph, who gets access, who makes decisions, etc – all in an effort to tightly control their image and brand. But in a digital world, that’s simply impossible. Sure, I’m a branding advocate, and we can certainly INFLUENCE our brand story and I’m a strong believer in doing exactly that. But as I say in my book “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media” a brand isn’t what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is. It’s other people’s perception of you, your church, product, or your organization.
Now, this article from the Harvard Business Review confirms my point. But traditional thinking pastors still hang on to the tired myth. For instance, one thing I’ve seen lately is pastors who highly filter the responses to their blogs. The entire point of a blog is to create discussion, and on the web, that means the potential for disagreement and occasional fireworks. But these pastors don’t get it, and filter out any response that doesn’t confirm their point or their brilliance. The only filtering I do on my blog is the occasional profanity or if someone criticizes another by name. Outside of that, let the criticism begin.
The digital generation understands that once it’s online, you’ve lost control. Discuss, debate, argue. Follow the strongest reasoning. The best ideas win. Of all people, Jesus created controversy. He was provocative. He wasn’t afraid to mix it up. He knew the truth was what mattered.
If you choose to live your life in public – either in a pulpit, on a stage, or online, the truth is, discussion, debate, and yes – criticism is going to happen, whether you can take it or not.