July 6, 2016

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In my newfound management position at work, I’m blessed to have a very invested and thoughtful mentor, and, by extension, his extensive “Leadership Library.” My current reading assignment is the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. While his insight is incredibly valuable in changing how businesses relate to their customers, it holds some equally valuable kernels of spiritual truth, so much so that, during missionary training, we watched a lecture (link HERE) of Sinek’s that presented the Cliff Notes version of his book, and afterwards discussed its application to campus ministry. At the risk of sounding like his junior marketing coordinator, I’m going to break down some of his theory and tie it to evangelization.

The entirety of Sinek’s book is based around two core principles.

1) The Golden Circle

The circle describes how messages are communicated between businesses (or evangelists) and their audience. The outer layer describes the WHAT: This is the product that is being advertised (i.e. an iPhone), the content of the message. The middle layer is the HOW: The process of creating the product, how it is distributed, the organizational structure which makes a product possible (i.e. Apple having Apple Stores that sell and service all Apple products. There’s no guesswork as to where you can find the product and where you take it to have your broken screen replaced for the thousandth time). Finally, the inner layer is the WHY: This layer represents the core belief behind the organization, the purpose (i.e. Apple’s obsession with challenging the status quo, hence their tagline: Think Different.)

2) The order in which the information from the Golden Circle is presented to the audience.

Sinek argues that most organizations have it backwards. They hawk their products based on the WHAT: the newest features, the best materials, how easy they are to use. Sure, these are metrics that allow for rational comparison, but are they really what change people’s hearts? Do they really breed loyalty? For example, take a look at this marketing pitch:

  • We make great computers
  • Our products are beautifully designed, inexpensive, and easy to use
  • Want to buy one?

Many organizations can’t even accurately define their WHY, as seen above. They start with the WHAT, then the HOW, and then…say pretty please?

 

Instead, read this pitch and note your gut reaction:

  • We believe in challenging the status quo
  • We do this by making our products simple, beautiful, and easy to use.
  • We just happen to make great computers
  • Want to buy one?

Which of these rang more authentic for you? 

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The gospel this week has really been hammering home how important it is to evangelize to our neighbors:

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” “Go…to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" So let’s take all of this marketing information, and translate it to our evangelization of others, using these quotes from Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Paul VI, respectively, as our guide:

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a definitive direction” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est)

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi)

When we want share the good news of Jesus Christ’s victory over the grave, or of God the Father’s infinitely loving provision, do we begin first with our WHY, or do you lay into the WHAT and HOW: the list of Frassati events that your friend can attend, the websites you love, the blogs you read, the importance of participating in the sacraments frequently. Now none of those things are bad or wrong, of course, but none of them speak directly to the true human desire for belonging. It is rare that a religious tract or list of grievances makes me want to unite my purpose, my WHY to the communicator. 

As Pope Paul VI states, people respond to witnesses, not teachers, due of their inherent authenticity. After all, the times when Jesus Christ stepped into my life and changed my heart are the parts of the Catholic faith I know best. Once in adoration, while working in campus ministry in Florida, the phrase “This is where souls are saved!” popped fully-formed into my mind. That story is far more convincing (and accurate) than any way I could try and describe the Holy Trinity.

Can we even clearly articulate our WHY? Why do you believe in Jesus Christ, and why do you live every day of your life in service of his kingdom? I challenge you to actually take 5 minutes and write it out.

Here’s mine:

“I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord because He gives me hope. A redeemer is the only thing that makes sense when I am faced day-in and day-out with my own glaring imperfection. I do not have to rely on myself. And, when I look at the world around me, its beauty of humanity and nature, my only reactions are hope that there is a divine Person who wants the good of all and gratitude that I have met Him.”

Praised be Jesus Christ, my savior and strength.

Frassati NY