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Friday, December 31, 2010

Learning Well: Styles

When you set about the task of learning or teaching it's important to know about learning styles. While everyone in the world begins as an infant using imitation to mimic what they see around them, we all grow older and develop a preference for how we will take in and process information. There are three main types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Basically you like to see it, hear it, or do it to learn it.

Figure out what your learning style is (if you don't already know). You can take a quick assessment online here. Once you know your learning style you can select learning activities that will best suit you. If you are a visual learner, then you probably need to read books and watch videos. If you are an auditory learner then you probably do well listening to podcasts and other recordings. If you are a kinesthetic learner, you need to get your hands dirty working with the lesson.

How do you learn best? What strategies do you employ to cater to your learning style?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Learning Well: Imitation

Yesterday I talked about how being a visual preacher often requires you to be a Jack of all trades. Mastering all of the separate jobs involved in being a visual presenter takes time and effort - both of which seem to be in precious short supply. Because of that I want to focus on how we can learn new things and do it well. If your worst fears are true and it will take hours from your life every week to improve your presenting skills, then, to be honest, something is wrong.

Every human being learns by imitation. We have specialized brain cells called mirror neurons that light up when we see (or hear) someone else doing something. Then when it comes time for us to recreate what we saw, the same neurons fire in the same neural pathway as when we were just observing. Watching and listening to experts will rewire your brain to be able to do new things.

Surround yourself with what you want to know. Observe people who are experts. Imitate and learn.

In the coming year I'm going to put together some tutorials, videos, and screencasts to walk you through visual presenting. I plan to organize my content around these themes:

January – Finding and Selecting High Quality Digital Images
February – Inserting Media into PowerPoint (Music and Movies)
March – Photo Editing Basics
April – Presentation Skills: Speaking Visually
May – Sharing the Gospel with Technology
June – Video Editing Basics
July – PowerPoint Animations and Transitions
August – Theological and Technology
September – Audio Editing Basics
October – Technology and Gear
November – Web Based Tools
December – Putting it all Together

Do you have any suggestions or specific tutorials you'd like to see?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jack of All Trades, Master of None (part 2)

One of the dangers of being a preacher is that you need to be very good at several disparate skills. It can be overwhelming and dissuade people from wanting to do it. I covered a few strategies to deal with this in a previous blog post. Basically you should let the experts be the experts, add new things slowly, and learn from the experts.

Now I want to talk about some learning strategies. Again, this can be overwhelming to consider. Not only do you need to study to prepare your sermon for next Sunday, but not you're supposed to learn a new skill set too. It hardly seems possible. But learning new skills isn't accomplished like a snake eating - we can't unhinge the jaw of our mind and swallow things whole. Our brains work more like a chipmunk that nibbles a bit at a time.

Break the skill you want to learn down into bite-sized chunks and tackle each one of those separately. Now's a good time to look at a New Year's resolution. Maybe by the end of the year you want to be proficient at using PowerPoint. Look at one small part of that next week. For example practice your image searching skills for one hour. Just one hour.

At the end of the year you'll have mastered 52 new skills. How do you plan to learn new things?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wordle Web App

I found the Wordle Web App recently. Basically it allows you to insert any text you want or a link to a blog feed (mine is shown below) then it generate a word mosaic from the information. You have a pretty fine level of control over what words are included since you can right-click a word that you don't want and specifically remove it.

When you're done creating your Wordle there isn't a good save option. I had to click "Open in Window" then maximize that window and use the "PrntScrn" or Print Screen key then copy the image into a photo editor to crop and save it. It's a bit of a hassle, but other than that a dead simple way to create word mosaics.

This might be a good end of the year display for church events. How would you use this tool?

Wordle Image

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cramming for Sunday

Saturday night I sat in a room with four preachers and their families, the glow of Christmas had faded into a warm contentment and the glow of laptop screens had replaced it accompanied by the clackity-clack of keyboards tapping. It struck me that the scene was not unlike that in a college dorm the night before exams. We were cramming for Sunday.

When Christmas is on a Saturday and you have family around all week, I expect the Saturday night special sermons. That's a normal and natural thing. But when it comes to a weekly preaching habit I have to strongly advise against it. Cramming for your sermon every week just isn't healthy. You and I both need time to sit with the text and to reflect on what God is saying through his word. My goal is to have the sermon completely done by Friday and to not even look at it on Saturday. Then I run through it on Sunday morning before preaching.

What practices do you use to keep from cramming for Sunday?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. I'm going to take a break from the blog until after the holiday is over. While I'm gone, enjoy the first Christmas tree my wife and I had (pictured).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Visualizing the Gettysburg Address

I found this video to be fascinating - it applies video effects to the audio of the Gettysburg Address given by Abraham Lincoln. What strikes me is how the words take on a different meaning when the visuals are applied.  Words that seemed to be inclusive of both the Confederate and Union soldiers who had died became a rebuke to the slave-holding practices of the South when the visuals were applied. I also felt that the end of the speech is made cynical by the subtle visual effect employed (can you spot what I did?).

Using images is a powerful way to augment the spoken word. But more than just augment, it adds another layer of meaning that can drastically change your final point. How could you use images to change your message?

Gettysburg Address from Adam Gault on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Video Converter: FreeMake

I came across this crazy-simple video converter: FreeMake. It offers a one-click interface to convert your videos from just about any format to just about any format. This can be very helpful if you receive a video that you want to include in a PowerPoint presentation but it's not in a format that plays nicely with Microsoft products (which, unfortunately, is most of them). Grab the software and point to your source video then click the button on the bottom row that corresponds with the video format you want to output. For PowerPoint the WMV (Windows Media Video) format will be compatible. That's it. You're done. Now you can link to that video in PowerPoint and it should play without a hitch.

Merry Christmas to you.

Freemake Video Converter 2.0 from Freemake on Vimeo.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Internet Consumption Catches up with Television

Slashdot reports that recently the number of hours people spend on the internet has drawn even with the number spent watching TV. This is due, in part, to the rise in dual-use time where people will sit and watch TV while surfing the internet on a laptop, phone, or tablet (e.g. iPad). So TV consumption hasn't really dropped, but internet consumption has skyrocketed.

A couple implications for church and preaching come to mind. First, people are becoming more and more accustomed to consuming multiple channels of information simultaneously - asking them to sit and merely listen is leaving a huge cognitive gap. How will you fill that gap?

Second, people are becoming overwhelmed by information so they may need some training to help them reduce the input and spend time focusing on Bible study and worship. How can we invite people to slow down and pay attention rather than drinking from a fire hose?

Friday, December 17, 2010

God is Not a Man - Gungor

I enjoy this song by Gungor about how God is not defined by our human labels. I also enjoy the visualization that is creative and somewhat literal. What do you think?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Embrace the Mystery

I have to admit that I'm very tempted to explain it all away. I love to know the right answer to the question - any question - and I love to share that answer with anyone who will listen. That's not a big problem when we sit down to play Trivial Pursuit, but it become difficult when it's time to talk about God.

God is bigger than any answer I have to give. I can talk about him, and say true things about him, but my words can never confine God. God is a mystery, not to be solved (by meddling kids or otherwise), but to be embraced and dwelt with.

Sometimes when I preach I'm tempted to offer the right answers to the deepest questions about theology. I want to explain why bad things happen to good people. I want to describe how God created us with free will, yet still predestines us. I want to make sense of the Trinity, heaven, and hell. But I do a disservice to God and to my neighbors when I try to explain a mystery.

How can you encourage dwelling in the mysteries of God?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Order from Chaos

In the Ancient Near East (ANE) mythology the ocean was the source of chaos. The land existed in spite of the chaos of the sea which sought to consume and destroy order. The heroes of the creation myths in the ANE had to fight against the chaos and the sea in order to carve out some order.

So when we see God in Genesis hovering over the water it would sound very familiar to someone in the ANE, a battle is about to be joined where God must thwart the chaos to make a tenuous space for order. The surprise is that God doesn't struggle or fight, he just speaks. His words bring order without struggle. God is not opposed to the chaos, he is above it. He brings order, but does not dismiss the sea altogether, rather he creates a balance between the sea and the land. A balance between order and chaos.

When we preach we speak order into chaos. We share the hope of Jesus and the good news of the Kingdom with people who are lost and hurting; with people living in chaos. But our job isn't to eliminate chaos with our well-ordered words, rather we ought to teach a balance between order and chaos.

How do you bring order to the chaos but still leave room for chaos in the order?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tell a Story with Images

Jan Schultink over at Slides that Stick pointed out that static images don't need to be devoid of movement. In this image the movement comes from the story, the anticipation of what is about to happen. We imagine the drama that will ensue when the man discovers that he's been tricked.

Images don't have to be motionless - by using dramatic tension, and inviting our audience to use their imagination we can provide memorable moments in presentations.

How could you create movement in your next sermon?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Poll Everywhere

My friend Mark Adams pointed me to a product called Poll Everywhere. It allows to create and see the results of a poll in real time. This could be a fantastic way to manage feedback during a sermon or presentation. One of the nice things about this is that you don't need to give out your personal number and manage the incoming information while trying to present. You can simply set up the poll and get the text number and let Poll Everywhere do the rest. On the downside it does cost a decent amount for even a moderately sized audience (250 people for $65 a month). I really like this idea, though.

How could we use this to increase the power of our preaching?

Friday, December 10, 2010

PPT Remote Review (update)

I had reviewed a program called PPT Remote when I was looking at Android phone PowerPoint remote control apps. Since the review several of my questions about the app have been answered. I was unable to get slide previews to show, but the developer has come out with new versions of both the Android app and the server for Windows. Now I'm able to see either grey-scale or color previews of the slides on my phone. Great! Plus that shows me this app is in active development. I had given this app 4/5 stars, but the improvements make this a lot more useful and fun to use so with the new version I give 4.5/5 stars.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Inspiration for Preaching (part 2)

I've blogged about being inspired to preach before. But what happens when you don't feel inspired? What do you do when you have a sermon to preach and you don't feel it?

Inspiration is a tricky thing - it literally means to be filled with the spirit - but we often wait for something to drop on us, some wild jump of thought to give us an idea. But what if we cultivated a full spirit? What if we worked at inspiration? I know it seems counterintuitive to say that we should plan our inspiration, but when our job is to preach on a regular basis we need to do something. The alternative is to offer uninspired sermons to our churches.

Some steps for cultivating inspiration that come to mind:
1. Pray. Spend time cleansing your spirit and making room for God to work and inspire.
2. Perceive. Spend time taking in ideas, music, poetry, art, or whatever inspires you. Fill yourself with things that will inspire.
3. Process. Don't try to automatically kick out great work - all yourself time to work through things before you need the results. Don't look for inspiration for Sunday's sermon on Saturday night.
4. Practice. Have a routine where you write your sermon at the same time in the same place every week. Train your body and mind to know that it's time to produce the inspiration that you've been saving up.

How do you find inspiration when it's hiding from you?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pointed Communication

My friend Matt Dabbs posted about Andy Stanley's practice of preaching recently. Stanley wrote a book called:Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication (affiliate link) where he describes his practice of boiling down his sermons to just one point. Matt says:
This does two things. It defines the focus of the sermon by setting the one thing that everything in the sermon needs to point back to and support. Next, it gives direction by setting up what the sermon must communicate in order to produce the desired result, call, or action on the audience. Let’s face it, change isn’t change unless something happens and pew sitting alone isn’t that something.
And I agree. It's important to communicate well and in order to do that you need to know what you are trying to say. One of the biggest obstacles to good communication is trying to provide too much information in too little time. I first learned this principle when I taught the Junior High class at church - I could make one point with those kids, so I chose it and honed in on it with everything in the class.

My experience with Andy Stanley's preaching, however, is that he takes this principle too far. He doesn't really allow for variation or sub-points within his main point. He just makes the same point repeatedly. For me this had the effect of making me tune out and get bored. It was very similar to a Saturday Night Live sketch where they make one joke in the first 30 seconds and then continue to ride that same joke, ad nauseum for the next five minutes.

What if we make one point, but we make it in different ways and look at it from different angles? What if we use all of the communication tools at our disposal to create mystery, drama, inductive reasoning, empathy, and passion as we communicate our one point?

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Doubt and Faith

Seth Godin is chock full of good words:
Living with doubt

... is almost always more profitable than living with certainty.

People don't like doubt, so they pay money and give up opportunities to avoid it. Entrepreneurship is largely about living with doubt, as is creating just about any sort of art.

If you need reassurance, you're giving up quite a bit to get it.

On the other hand, if you can get in the habit of seeking out uncertainty, you'll have developed a great instinct.
In order to apply this to a Christian context I would say that living with doubt is better for us and for our neighbors. Doubt really is no fun. Constantly questioning and wondering gets tiring after a while, but when we live with doubt we are expressing our faith. See, it's not faith if we are certain - if we have proof we don't need to believe. But if we can learn to live in the awkward, tense space of doubt we can invite others to believe.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Communicating the Gospel with Technology

I've been invited to share with the European Christian Workshop about how to communicate the gospel with technology. Because of that, I'm probably going to be testing out several ideas on this blog over the next eight months.

They asked me to present five sessions, so I'd like some help organizing my thoughts around this topic. I'm going to start brainstorming - would you add your thoughts to the comments?

Social Media and the Gospel
Images and Preaching
Vivid Communication
Text, Tweet, and Tag - Relationship through Technology
Invitation to Conversation
Good News in the 24-hour News Cycle
Viral Gospel
Double-Rainbows for Jesus (there are no bad ideas in brainstorming!)
Preach the Gospel at All Time; If Necessary Use Words
Gospel through Story

Ok, your turn. What should I share?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Do You Suck at PowerPoint?

View more presentations from @JESSEDEE.

This is a great presentation about how to not suck at PowerPoint. In short, prepare yourself, stay focused on your main point, use high quality images, project more images and less information.

We've said all this here before, but it bears repeating.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Use Three Questions to Drive Your Presentations

Lifehacker highlights the 3Q method for creating impactful presentations.
Next time you have to create a presentation, don't go to your computer and open up PowerPoint. Instead, take out a blank sheet of paper and ask yourself "What are the three questions my audience would most likely ask me about this subject?"
When preaching, you might look for the three main questions that your church would ask about a passage of Scripture. What is Jesus saying in this passage? What is does Jesus want us to do? How will this look in our church context?

I think that too often my sermons stay in the theoretical area. I want to show off what I know of the passage, or I want to delve into the theological discussion. But what questions are really on the mind of the church? I wonder if we could ask them. I wonder if we could use our church members to clue us in to what is most important.

What are the questions your church is asking?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Science of Morality, or Why Jesus Might Side with an Atheist Today has an interview with Sam Harris who has written about the science of morality in his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (affiliate link). He states that, "The science of morality is about maximizing psychological and social health. It’s really no more inflammatory than that." So instead of using religion to define a "good" outcome for people, he wants to look at how the data can drive right behavior.

The problem is that religion tends to give people bad reasons to be good. Is it better to alleviate famine in Africa because you think Jesus Christ is watching and deciding whether to reward you with an eternity of happiness after death? Or is it better to do that because you actually care about the suffering of your fellow human beings?

Here's where I think Jesus would agree with this Atheist. Doing good shouldn't come from a feeling of guilt or fear or even from a desire for reward. We ought to love our neighbors as ourselves. We ought to do what is right for people who are suffering because they are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Atheists often critique religion for causing war and pain across the globe and throughout history. They're right. We need to own up to that and stand with them in condemning that history. Because Jesus agrees with Atheists . . . at least on this point.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

De facto Lying, or Why People Don't Trust You

Seth Godin brings up a great point, that often people may distrust what we say, not because we have been dishonest with them, but because someone else has.

The reason that people don't believe you isn't that you're a liar. The reason we don't believe you is that the guy before you (and the woman before him) were unduly optimistic hypesters and we got burned. We believed, we leaned into it and we got stuck.

If you catch yourself making a promise that's been made before, stop. Don't spend a lot of time and effort building credibility with this sort of promising, because it doesn't pay off.
I think that a lot of times we are tempted to make promises in church. We promise that a program will be effective. We promise that people we start coming because we start using PowerPoint or have more contemporary music or a program for children. But then if our program fails, if our hype isn't realized, if we fall short of our expectations, then we look like we're liars.

What if we adopted an attitude of experimentation? What if we made it acceptable to try different things looking for something that will work, knowing that many attempts will fail? What if we didn't have to make promises?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Recovery

There's something about the flow of the holiday season that leads me to be far less productive during this time of year. I really want to be accomplishing things, but the tryptophan from the turkey seems to last until about the third week of the new year.

If the same is true for the members in our churches, should we back off of the preaching during December? Should we give people space to slack off for a month or so? Or should we help to re-focus and re-frame this time of year as not about us and what we want?

I'm not sure, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving! I'm going to take the rest of the week off to spend time with friends and family. I hope you enjoy your holiday.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Pressure to Perform

Preaching can be an exhilarating experience where I get to stand and share the moving, life-giving, transforming words of God to his people for his glory. I love those days where things seem so clear and the message nearly leaps from my mouth. It's good.

Then there are those other days. Those days where I struggle to think of what I should say. Those days where the Scriptures are loathe to give up their mysteries to me. Those days when I feel like I'm performing more than preaching. It's not so good, then.

I don't want my support of using images to feel like an additional pressure piled on already beleaguered preachers. I feel you. I know how it goes. God says: "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." But notice that he doesn't give us a time frame - he doesn't tell us how long the seeking will last. He just tells us to seek.

How do you seek God? How do you deal with the pressure to perform?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Windows at 25 years old.

In late November 1985 Microsoft released a graphical shell to its popular Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) called Windows 1.0. Paul Thurrott offers a great look back at the early years of Windows and how the computer market transformed from a landscape of endless possibilities with several companies driving innovation to the one we have today where Windows is the dominant force in the industry with Apple having a solid minority.

With the shift from a text-based interface to a graphical interface (largely driven by Apple, Amiga, and Atari) computers became more accessible and understandable to the average user.

I've been using Windows machines for about the last 17 years. How long have you been using Windows (or Mac, or Amiga)?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Slideboom and iSpring

I recently learned about which is a website that converts PowerPoint files into flash movies which means they retain audio, video, and animations. This is quite an improvement over which only retains the basic slide layout.

I also learned about iSpring which is a plugin for PowerPoint that allows you to convert to Slideboom right from the PowerPoint software as well as to easily integrate flash elements into your presentation.

What tools do you use to share your presentations?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Emotional Connection over Visual Alacrity

Over at Sticky Slides is a great blog post about the need to connect with people emotionally. The point is that we use images for the purpose of evoking emotions in our audience. His example is the Hemingway six-word story: For sale: baby shoes; never used.

The emotional reaction from those six words is, perhaps, too complex to be conveyed by a simple image.

How can you create an emotional reaction to drive home your point?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leonid Meteor Shower Tonight

I thought I would point you to one of the best visual shows around - a meteor shower. Tonight and tomorrow night just before dawn will be the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower for this year. If you have clear skies and can get away from city lights you can enjoy a fantastic show.

How can nature help to tune us to God's presence?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Do Too Much, You're Not Superman.

Will Mancini blogged about the Tyranny of More. He highlighted six myths that churches buy into regarding what they're doing and how they can be effective in their context.
STRATEGIC MYTHS: Saying Yes to the Wrong Things with Good Intentions
MYTH #1 Since Larger Churches Do More, We Should Do More to Grow Larger
MYTH #2 More Options Will Attract More People
MYTH #3 Designated Funds Alone Justify Something New
PASTORAL MYTHS: Failing to Say No to the Wrong Things with Good Intentions
MYTH #4 Starting New Ministries Honors the Passion and Gifts of my People
MYTH #5 More Programs Will Meet More Needs
MYTH #6 A Good Leader Involves More People in Decision-making
We need to hear this message. Churches don't need to be the clearing house for every activity. Piling on more and more programs won't make us better at reaching lost people with the good news.

This applies to presentations as well. We don't need to add more to the visual aspect of our churches just because we can. We need to add with purpose for a goal.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Location Based Services (e.g. Facebook Places)

Media Salt blogged recently about how churches can use location based services in their ministry. Facebook has their "Places" feature, and there are several other services like Gowalla and Foursquare. The services all have the same basic idea - that you check into the places you go. Many times there is some incentive to check in like a coupon or freebie.

So, how should churches use this technology? It seems like offering coupons (10% off your tithe?) and freebies might be slightly on the consumeristic side of things. One suggestion from the comments of the Media Salt post was to add a tip to the site listing for a nearby hospital with an offer for prayers. No word on if there have been any takers.

The main issue I see with location based services is that they are driven by a consumer model. This is a marketing scheme designed to drive customer traffic. I hope we aren't inviting customers to church to consume.However, I do like the idea of allowing people to share their location and to connect with other people around what they're doing.

What do you think about location based services? What has your experience been with them?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Negative vs. Positve

Psychology Today reports that our brains have a "Negative Bias" that causes us to weight negative experiences more than positive. "Your brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. The bias is so automatic that it can be detected at the earliest stage of the brain's information processing."

What this means is that we need approximately five positive experiences to balance one negative experience. As we preach and teach it can be tempting to be negative, because we get a reaction. Hell-fire and brimstone preaching works . . . to a point. We can push the negative buttons and get a quick response, but it's not sustainable.

We need to balance our preaching and teaching with about five positives to every negative. If you need to confront sin in your church, then do it, but don't forget to call out the good things your church is doing as well. I have to confess, I needed to hear this a long time ago. I'm sorry for my over emphasis on negativity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent. The peace treaty was signed to end the Great War. The War-to-end-all-Wars was over. So for over twenty years we celebrated Armistice Day on this day, at this hour. But then a second world war erupted. Millions more people died in combat and as innocent civilians. The War-to-end-all-Wars hadn't. So now we call it Veterans' Day to celebrate the worthy and honorable sacrifice of the men and women who have fought for our country.

But what if we continue to celebrate Armistice Day? Not as the end of wars, because that hasn't happened . . . yet. We need to celebrate the hope. We hope that conflict will become unnecessary. We hope that the brave men and women who have fought and died for our country will be honored through peace. We hope that wars will cease and peace will reign.

We hope in Jesus.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Less is More (part 3)

Five slides for $10 million. That averages out to $2 million per slide. Tim Young, over the last year, has raised all this money to start three different companies. Most of that time he used just five slides in his presentations.

His rules for presentations:

I always follow a few simple yet critical rules for slides:
1. Faces, faces, faces. It’s all about the faces (a little ode to Dave McClure). In your slide deck, remember to use the faces of your employees. Do not just list a bunch of employee names. Remember that investors are investing primarily in a team of people. Make sure to feature them and reinforce it.
2. Keep it simple and the less text the better. I try not to have more than one point or key message per slide. Anything more and you will see people picking up their Blackberry.
3. Make sure your slide deck communicates a story. Sure, the product and team are great, but you want to share the journey and offer the investors a ride.
4. Never read your slides. The potential investor is trying to understand who you are and how well you can sell your vision. Reading from your slides removes all passion from the presentation.
5. Slides should have supporting data only. Remember what you say is what counts the most; not just what is on your slides.
and most importantly:
6. Slides can’t look into peoples’ eyes. You can. Your eyes help sell your vision, passion, enthusiasm, and most importantly, the journey you want to share with the potential investor.

How can you apply this to preaching with PowerPoint on Sunday?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

God in Architecture has an article about how modern architecture can be used to evoke awe and reverence.
If you’re building something for a god, you’d better build it right: big, audacious, slightly intimidating. The Stonehenge arrangers knew it in 3,000 BC; so did the Pantheon planners, the erectors of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, and Antoni Gaudi, whose sinewy Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is still under construction, more than 100 years after workers first broke ground. When it comes to impressing a supreme being in a bid to get saved, we clearly like to take things to the extreme.
While I'm not so sure about the theory that sacred architecture exists to try to impress God enough for him to save us, I do think it's important to consider the stunning visual spaces that have been used for worship throughout human history.

That is until more recently in human history . . .
College Street Church of Christ, Waxahachie, TX 1964
For some reason, we decided that the appearance of things ceased to matter. The visual element of our sacred experience was removed from the equation with bland buildings and mediocre architecture. I can see the same design used to build a Church of Christ in Vancouver, Washington and in Livermore, California (and likely all across this country). We stopped caring about any aesthetic value to a place of worship.

How can we re-affirm God's creative impulse in us? How can we learn again to appreciate

Monday, November 08, 2010

Becoming a Slave to the Minority

Seth Godin recently blogged about the 2%. You know, that tiny fraction of people that will never by satisfied with what you do.

If you have fans or followers or customers, no matter what you do, you'll annoy or disappoint two percent of them. And you'll probably hear a lot more from the unhappy 2% than from the delighted 98.
It seems as though there are only two ways to deal with this: Stop innovating, just stagnate. Or go ahead and delight the vast majority.

This sounds all too familiar from my experience in ministry. Why is it always the vocal minority that seems to rule a group. It's like a one-ton bull being led around by a few ounces of brass in its nose. I can't help but wonder if this might have been what James meant when he talked about the power of the tongue (in James 3:1-12). What if the evil that he sees in the tongue is, in part, the evil of complaining to no good end? What if the body that is ruled by the tongue is the body of Christ? How can we tame this restless evil?

Seth says: "Sure, you can try to minimize the cost of change, and you might even get the number to 1%. But if you try to delight everyone, all the time, you'll just make yourself crazy. Or become boring."

Is your church a slave to the minority? Are you willing to "alienate the 2%" for the sake of the kingdom and the lost?

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Here I sit in the north park blocks of Portland. I'm surrounded by the noises of the city: construction, shouting, traffic, and leaf blowers. I feel peace here.

Where do you feel peace?
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

How to Use Presenter View to Avoid Boring Slides

This video condenses a lot of what I've been saying into just seven minutes. They use humor with excellent advice about presenting to drive home their point. The short of it is the: if you need all the extra information attached to your presentation (perhaps to turn in a report at the end of the presentation) then put the extra stuff in the "Notes" field so you can keep the slides simple and powerful.

How helpful is a video like this? What would you think if I started producing some videos for this site?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mobile Blogging

This post is coming to you from my mobile phone (a Samsung Epic 4G). I'll make the short point that we need to consider how we can use all means and technology to communicate. I can post a blog from my phone, how can I preach with these tools?
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Monday, November 01, 2010

Resonate a New Book by Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
and renowned presentation expert has recently published a new book: resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. I just picked it up and I'll get you a full review shortly, but I wanted to point out that it's not just about how to make a good PowerPoint presentation, but about how to communicate in a way that is visual, and connects with your audience in a powerful, emotional, impactful way.
Forbes’ Bruce Upbin managed to boil it down to forty-six words: The conclusions are: Don’t be too cerebral. Tell stories. Figure out what the audience cares about. Create common ground with them. Move back and forth between opposing ideas to create energy. Deliver facts but put them in context and make them shocking if possible. Find inspiration anywhere you can.

(Note: book links are affiliate links and earn me a small commission on any purchases).

Friday, October 29, 2010


Having a vision for the future can make a huge difference in everything you do. Right now we are working toward building an intentional community in downtown Vancouver. We're partnering with another family and a single woman to have a home of hospitality and peace in this neighborhood. Our goal is for this to be a place where authentic discipleship can be seen and experienced by the people in this neighborhood. To that end we're wanting to be open to people showing up at any time, connected to the causes and events that unite this community, and transparent about our faith experiences (both the joys and the struggles).

Preaching is an important part of a faith community for encouragement and learning, but continuing to preach to the choir isn't doing much to expand the influence of the kingdom of God into the lives of people. Preaching must partner with outreach and evangelism in order to be effective.

How do you mix your preaching with outreach? What works in your context?

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I guess I'm doing a series on moving to a new place and how that reflects preaching. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I'm just posting about what I'm thinking right now and the affects of moving are a huge part of my mental process.

Change is a process that we alternately seek and resist. When we're young we desire changes like growing, aging, and advancing in school, but we may resist changes like increased responsibility or moving to a new place.When we're older we tend to desire stability more and change less. We are supposed to "settle down" and get to work. Buy a house, a car, and have some kids.

In church we often feel as if we should never change. Ministries and programs should continue on until the end of time. Small groups should have the same people in them until they all die of natural causes. We don't say those things, but we act like it with the way we organize our structures. We don't have rhythms of change built in. We don't take breaks to re-evaluate our ministries. We don't regularly stop our small groups to give the leaders and the members a chance to rest and move on if necessary.

We can preach to change or we can preach to stability. Our words are often the catalyst for one or the other. What do you choose?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Moving is a process of adjustment. Moving in with other people amplifies the need for adjustment. The thing is that we often try to adjust to a new situation by delineating our own space over and against the space of others. We do the same with responsibilities, possessions, money, and food. For all the joy of moving in together with people, we still fight to protect our own independence.

In preaching I often feel like I'm fighting to protect my own independence and to allow others to keep their own as well. It feels wrong or un-American to sacrifice our independence for the sake of others. What if we preach a message of radical interdependence? What if we admit that we need each other? What if my sermon can't exist without the influence and experience of the congregation?

How do you adjust?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Moving is always a bitter-sweet endeavor. It's nice to get to a new place, but it's never much fun to uproot life.

We're moving right now, so posts will be brief and rare.

See you soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Power of Home

Home is a powerful concept. We all have some memory of home, but for some of us it's a fond remembrance while for others it's fear or loathing. Home might be a white, picket-fence or a loft apartment in the city or a farm in the country.

When we use images we need to be aware of their range of emotional meaning.

Also for the first time in 18 months we will be going home. We're going to be moving in with some friends to help them plant a church in Vancouver, Washington. Being homeless for the last year-and-a-half has given us new insight into the meaning and power of home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Journey or Jaunt

Being on a journey is a different thing than just heading out for a quick trip. My wife and I have been on a journey lately. We've been traveling all over the country and the world. From Ireland to Hawaii to Florida to New England to Montana to California and finally to Washington. There's something transformational about being on a journey - we are changed by the act. Heading out to run errands doesn't really change us too much, but we will be forever transformed by living out of suitcases for the last 18 months.

What journey are you on in your preaching? How do you lead people into transformation? Sometimes we need sermons that will take care of business and look more like errand trips. But we also need sermons that call us to a journey and will leave us transformed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prayer and Preaching

My blog is often focused on practical tips and technology that can be used in preaching, but I want to make sure to say that no technology or tip can replace the moving of the Spirit of God. The single most important thing that I do in preaching preparation and delivery is to pray that God speak his words to his people for his glory.

I firmly believe that when Peter says that we should speak as those speaking the words of the Lord (1 Peter 4:11) that he's telling us that God will provide us words to speak, just as he provides us strength to serve. But if I get so caught up in the process and the practice of preaching, I'm tempted to lose the source.

How do you stay connected to God as the source of your sermons?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've been sharing about how I tend to preach without notes. Of course I take notes when I'm studying to prepare for my sermon. I write out a lot of information. Then I'll usually do a run-through of my sermon to get a sense of what I want to say. I may refer back to the notes in this process. Then I'll take and put together my visuals to support and emphasize my message. Then I'll go through the sermon one more time with the visuals in place to make sure everything fits.

For me, running through the sermon as if I'm preaching it to the church is the best way to get a sense for what I want to say and how I want to say it. But preaching without notes leaves room for the Holy Spirit to step in and divert the sermon to a different point or direction than I originally intended.

How do you make room for the Holy Spirit while you preach?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Preaching Notes - part 2

Last week I looked at the two main methods for taking notes when preaching. But I don't use either method. Usually I try to preach without notes. This comes, in part, from my experience with non-church presentation. Look at any great presenter and you'll see that they don't use notes. Watch the TED talks and you'll see that they don't use notes. Learn from Steve Jobs who doesn't use notes.

Professional presenters don't use notes because it provides a better connection with the audience and does a better job of getting their message across. It may be difficult to get away from your notes or your script, but we only grow when we're challenged.

What would it look like for you to preach without notes? Stay tuned and I'll share some more on this process for me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Think Visually

Remember back when you were learning how to add and they would show you a picture of three apples next to two more apples and from that you could see that there were five apples total? We are visual thinkers - words and numbers fill in for complicated concepts, but ultimately our brains default to thinking visually. Wired has an article about using this visual thinking to help process complex decisions.

Sometimes we can share a complicated concept with a few images and it's clear.

How can you use visual thinking to share a complicated concept?