An SEO (Search Engine Optimization) marketing strategy attempts to increase the likelihood that your website will see greater visibility in search engines, like Google. The thinking is that if you can push your site to the top of Google's search, you will receive more clicks, and your message will gain greater traction.
Since I write this blog, the SEO thought has crossed my mind on occasion. And at every turn, I've resisted its pull. But why?
The entire world of SEO is important for the Christian to consider. It gets at our motives. Why exactly do we want our blog or website to be read? We may think our motives are altruistic, but I constantly wonder if mine are more self-serving than Christ-serving. In large part, because of my self-awareness, I have resisted any and all forms of SEO for this blog.
Jesus and SEO
In John 7:1-13, Jesus is confronted by his family (brothers) who say:
"You ought to leave here (Galilee) and go south to Judea (for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles) so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret [or ignores SEO]. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."
It's unclear if Jesus' brothers are jealous of the attention he's been receiving, but one thing is quite clear: Jesus Refuses to Engage in 1st Century SEO Marketing.
Instead of hiring an Ad agency or an SEO Director, Jesus seems to purposefully keep his ministry on "the down low," out of the limelight, with no self-promotion. Why, especially in light of his goal to save the world?
We've all heard it before, but we display amnesia when the lure of "success" comes knocking at our door. You know the phrase: "The ends don't justify the means." What does that mean? Simply put, noble goals (ends) never excuse ignoble methods (means) of getting to those goals.
For Jesus to self-promote his ministry (as his brothers advised) is not only beneath his character, it is counter-productive to his ends. Self-promotional means are always the enemy of godly ends, regardless of apparent results.
17 Times Jesus Backpedals from the Limelight
Years ago, while studying the Gospel of Mark, I catalogued 17 occasions when Jesus actually ran away from Fame. He backpedaled from the limelight. He basically refused to engage in SEO for his ministry. Here is the list:
- 1:40-45 Jesus tells a blind man (whom He healed) not to tell anyone. Of course, the blind man blabbed, causing Jesus to further backpedal from the limelight by staying outside of towns in lonely places.
- 3:7. Jesus withdraws from the crowds.
- 3:11-12. Jesus tells evil spirits to be quiet, not to 'out him.'
- 3:13. Jesus escapes to a mountainside.
- 5:35-43. He gives strict orders to girl’s parents not to let others know that he’d raised her from the dead! (Don’t let the word get out!)
- 6:30-32. He took disciples away to a solitary place (away from crowds).
- 6:45-49. After the popularity of feeding 4000, he withdrew from crowd to pray, hopped on a boat, and sailed away.
- 7:24. Near city of Tyre, he entered a home and attempted to keep it a secret, so the crowds wouldn’t find him. They found him anyway. (Today, you'd expect a leader to issue a press release with promotional materials).
- 7:31-36. To heal a deaf and mute man, Jesus first took the man away from the crowd, to heal him in private.
- 8:22-26. Again, Jesus took a blind man outside the village in order to heal him. And when healed, he instructed the man not to go back into the village.
- 8:27-30 Jesus told his 12 men not to tell anyone that He is the Christ.
- 9:2-4, 8-9. After transfiguration, Jesus told the 3 not to tell anyone that they’d seen him in his glory, until after he’d risen from the dead.
- 9:20-26. Jesus healed a boy hurriedly, because He noticed a crowd was gathering and didn't want that! Keep the size down.
- 9:30. Jesus took his 12 men to a private place to teach them – it says “he did not want anyone to know where they were...”
- 11:8-11. After triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the anti-climactic exit to secrecy in nearby Bethany. Wow, talk about backpedaling.
- 11:19. Again Jesus leaves the city with its glitz and fervor for privacy.
- 15:3-5. When accused at trial before Pilate, Jesus goes silent instead of declaring his glory and majesty. Amazing.
Now, reread just the bold words from that list, to get a sense of Jesus' desire to backpedal from the limelight.
Perhaps when we think of Jesus, SEO is an entirely different acronym: Search Engine Obscurity. Or, Savior Eschews Ostentation. Take your pick.
** I recommend my previous post (Oct '20), Celebrity or Obscurity, where I ponder this same counterintuitive approach.