As a Christian I’ve always found it remarkable to discover how the marketing and communication principles I learned and practiced could be applied to churches as well.

Last year I joined Appcelerator as Developer Evangelist, after having been active in their community for some years already. Comparing my role to my personal experience with Christian Evangelism at Athletes in Action gave me a better understanding of how both could be more effective.

Evangelism !== Sales

Developers are impossible to market too. They won’t buy into sales pitches, but judge your solution by the (source) code, documentation and by simply putting it to the test. It’s a Developer Evangelist’s job to get the word out and assist developers as they try and adopt their solutions, not to convince them.

Unfortunately this is a lesson Religious Evangelists often must be reminded of as well. Testify of your personal experience, but don’t try to convert people into your religion. That’s up to them and was never part of you mission in the first place:

[..] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts of the Apostles 1:7-8

Evangelism !== Engineering

Though I believe Developer Evangelists need a technical background, you need to know how to use it more than how or why it works. After all, you’re there to help developers use your solution, not to fix bugs or add features for them. That said, because of your interaction with end-users you will prove to be valuable source of feedback for engineering on what to work on next.

The same goes for Religious Evangelists if you ask me. Some churches require preachers to have a master in Theology. But who would you rather take advise from? Someone who knows the Book inside-out or one who actually walked the talk?

[..] Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?” But they said nothing. Jesus took hold of the sick man, cured him, and then let him go. Luke 14:1-4

Evangelism should be a part time job

Though my official title is Developer Evangelist I’m glad to be involved in a broad range of Developer Relations related activities including Product Management, Developer Onboarding & Experience etc. I also probably write as much sample apps and blog posts than I do talks. I’m fine with that as I feel I wouldn’t have much to talk about if I would do so full-time for a year or so. I strongly believe Developer Evangelists should personally use their solution on a weekly basis. Build samples, work on private projects that might never make it to the App Stores.. eat your own dog food as they say.

As churches in the Netherlands continue to shrink, more and more preachers are forced to take on another, regular job. I don’t think that is bad thing at all. Much like I don’t think evangelists should bury themselves in theology, their lives should be about more than church alone as well. I’d think the same principle goes for politicians and probably other professions. When you lose touch of the world of those you serve, it will become increasingly hard to stay relevant to them.

[..] Because they practiced the same trade, he stayed and worked with them. They all worked with leather. Acts of the Apostles 18:1-3

Evangelism !== Support

As you’re helping developers to try and adopt your solution it is easy to get caught up in delivering support. It will always be a grey area, but one thing I try to do is focus on issues I think could have been prevented. As I try to help the user I also feed back to product management and engineering with suggestion to improve the product and its documentation, and work with marketing to improve the onboarding experience. Also make sure people find their way to the support team next time ;)

Some churches expect leaders to be an all-in-one: great evangelists, teachers and chaplains (care takers) as well. Although I’ve seen evangelists that lost their credibility by simply ignoring people in need, they too should try to get caught up in care. Make sure you have dedicated and gifted people in place to forward people to and use what you see coming through to plan your sermon topics. You’ll help more people that way!

[..] “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables. [..] Act of the Apostles 6:1-4

What do you think?

I’m sure there are more principles that religious and developer evangelists share. I’d love to hear from you!