Find us on Google+

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hire a Professional

Just because you have a program that gives you the ability to do it does not mean that you can do it well. It takes professional skills to do a good job of creating logos, fliers, signs, and web sites. I have made my fair share of terrible media and because of my mistakes, I will tell you that it's worth it to hire a professional.

Logo design is probably the one area where a professional can make the most difference. Your logo is the voice of your brand - people will see it and think of you. What images do you want them to have.

For just a little bit of money you can pay a professional to sweat over this for you.

Why would you be willing to pay a professional to help you?

Disclosure: This is a plug for a friend of mine. You should pay him though - he does good work.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Google Docs - A Review

I generally love Google's products. Their search engine is great. Their mail app is fantastic. Their mapping software is life changing.

Their presentation software . . . terrible.

Google offers a Google Docs service that has a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool. The word processor is serviceable and the spreadsheet helps for collaboration, but the presentation tool is a waste of time.

It has no ability to crop photos, no slide transitions, and very little of anything else. I could not recommend anyone use Google Docs Presentations for any presentations ever. It is a crime against presentations everywhere.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death By PowerPoint redux

Yesterday the New York Times ran an article about how PowerPoint is used in the military. The picture here is a slide made famous for its obfuscation of meaning.

This military has PowerPoint as an inescapable reality of their daily life with many military leaders spending the majority of their time creating PowerPoint slides.

The problem isn't the program, but the purpose. If this is just a tool to display bullet points and and means for projecting your handouts, then stop. Stop it.

But if you are using software to display graphic information that adds to your talk and supplements your handouts, then you have the elements for transformational communication. The issue is not with the program, but with the presenters.

Is PowerPoint an inescapable reality in your church?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photos that Changed the World

Jonathan Klein the founder of Getty Images talks about some photos that changed the world. War, peace, poverty, and prosperity have been captured and affected through powerful images. Seeing the tragedies of a girl burned by napalm and running naked down the street in Vietnam or the ineffable joy of the sailor kissing the girl to celebrate the end of the war. Images have the power to capture complex emotions and convey volumes of meaning. Images can change people in ways that words cannot. Hearing about the starving in Sudan is nothing compared to seeing a child that is reduced to a skeleton.

What images have changed your world?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Location, Location, Location

I don't know what it is, but for me, sitting at the ocean while the waves crash on the rocks is a God moment. I can't help but think of Psalm 46 (famous for "be still and know") where is says: "though the waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging, there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the most high dwells."

What locations are particularly meaningful and inspirational to you? How can you evoke those feelings? How can you bring your church to meaningful places while you preach?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Worth the Money

Name brand Q-tips are worth the extra money. So is good jelly. The same thing with good coffee.

Sometimes it's worth it to pay more for higher quality.

What is worth more in your preaching? Your ministry?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I came across this the other day. It's a group publication giving advice to preachers. Some of it is really good stuff. It's worth your time to look through this.

I'm also struck by their dynamic use of high quality images in visually stunning ways. You could learn a lot about images just by looking through this short (34 pages) publication.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Masters of the Universe (and other Algebraic Ideas)

The picture to the right is an asymptote - a line that gets progressively closer to another line without ever touching it. I was reading Drive by Daniel Pink, and in it he talks about how mastery of a skill or set of skills is like an asymptote. We can constantly approach mastery, but never achieve it.

Think of it this way: mastery is 100% ability to do what you want to do (say it's preach with PowerPoint). You practice and learn and you go from 0% ability to 50% ability with PowerPoint in short order. That's a huge accomplishment and your preaching shows marked improvement. Now you practice some more and your ability jumps again from 50% to 75% - you're on a roll! You'll have this done in no time. But the next cycle you only get to 87.5% and then 93.75% and then 96.875. You keep getting so close to 100%, but you can never quite get there.

For some of us, that will be frustrating and cause us to want to give up. But for others, we will be endlessly motivated to keep improving. It's so close, so tangible. We can almost get there. We just want to keep getting better.

Which type of person are you?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Virtual Choir

This stretches the limits of what we thought was possible with the internet. The composer/conductor Eric Whitacer said: "The intimacy of all the faces, the sound of the singing, the obvious poetic symbolism about our shared humanity and our need to connect; all of it completely overwhelmed me."

I too am overwhelmed. This is just a phenomenal accomplishment. Maybe community doesn't have to be face-to face. Maybe this whole internet thing can actually connect us.

So you know the song is only the first 4:45 of the video, the last section is credits.

You can read more about the project here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sabbath Rest

Where did we lose the idea of Sabbath?

I don't know about you, but for me, Sabbath was always talked about as something that went away with the Old Law. When Jesus died on the cross he removed the requirements of the old and freed us to partake of the new.

But why does the Sabbath day fall out along with animal sacrifice and kosher laws? In Mark 2:27 Jesus says: "The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath." Did you catch that? The Sabbath was made for us. For us!

Rejecting the Sabbath is like ignoring all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

How can we reclaim the Sabbath?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Best of You

The Foo Fighters sing a song called: "Best of You" it's the one that starts with - "I’ve got another confession to make
I’m your fool
Everyone’s got their chains to break
Holdin’ you

Would you born to resist or be abused?"

The harsh reality of our world is that people often feel bound and abused. Some are physically abused, some are emotionally abused. Some abuse themselves.

Is someone stealing your heart? Are they stealing your passion? Are they stealing your creativity? Are they stealing your soul?


Don't let them take what's best in you.

Does your church abuse you? You don't have to say, I know it happens. I know people are stifled and abused by their churches all the time. Their best is ripped away from them and destroyed.

It doesn't have to be that way. You can be creative and soulful and passionate. Resist. Take your best and give it to God, he knows what to do with it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Proud Mary

"I left a good job in the city, workin' for the man every night and day." Proud Mary starts as an anthem to following your dream. Working for the weekend is no way to live, no way to thrive. The thing is, people will think you're crazy if you follow your dreams.

Normal people go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, retire, and die. That's the story arc that the American dream has become. Churches aren't too different, they are supposed to buy a building, grow up, but they aren't allowed to die.

I'm not knocking normal. We need normal. We need people who feel called to raise families and we need churches that feel called to be stable influences in their community. But we need to empower the crazy people who feel called to drop it all and ride on a river boat; we need to empower the churches that are crazy and want to not own a building, churches that choose to die well, churches that feel called to be different.

The key here is calling. Just because I don't feel called to settle down and have kids in a nice neighborhood doesn't make that a bad thing. It's a very good thing, but it would drive me crazy to go against my calling. What is your calling? What is the calling of your church?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

Remember that old Loverboy song: "Everybody's Working for the Weekend" that played in the 80's? I still don't know if it was an every-man anthem or some sort of critique of modern life. What do you think?

I thought of this song because the wife and I are working mindless temp jobs right now. Our weeks are a mindless trudge that only get better when the weekend comes. A part of what makes it very difficult is that there's no change, no challenge, no variety in our jobs. We show up, do the same thing for eight hours, and then leave. We have no trajectory to our work, no projects that we can be proud of, no way to improve or motivate ourselves.

What happens when church looks like this? When Sunday morning has no trajectory, no improvement or motivation? I've seen it happen, have you? What would you do if your church life was tedious and draining? How could you change it?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Amish Paradise

Another response to culture (that also made me think of a song) is to reject it altogether. I couldn't help but think of Weird Al Yankovic's parody of "Gangsta's Paradise" called "Amish Paradise" when pondering this topic.

The Amish are famous for rejecting the trappings of culture and living a simple, pastoral life. They farm and herd and go to church - and that's about it. They don't use electricity or modern technology and they generally stay away from the world - except to buy and sell things.

If we do this as a church then we abrogate our responsibility to be in the world by trying so hard to be not of the world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Karma Chameleon

Do you remember that song: "Karma Chameleon" by Boy George? I did forget how shocking Boy George is to see - I pulled up that picture and hesitated for a moment before posting it. Look what the 80's did to people!

This song came to mind when I was thinking about responses to culture. One response to culture is to just roll with it - to become a chameleon that shifts with each passing fad. People do this, but so do churches. There is always the church in town that is the hippest at any given time. They're playing the right music in the right way. Their preacher is saying the right things. They are cool - for now.

This is a problematic response to culture though. In the end you either get left in some ridiculous trendy backwater ala Boy George, or you end up with no sense of identity at all because you just keep changing and don't know how to stop.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Culture: Good or Bad?

Culture informs who we are and how we think, but should we embrace our culture or reject it? Is culture good or bad?

The word culture got me to thinking about bacteria - they grow in a group called a culture. If you don't have a good bacteria culture in your gut, you'll get sick. But if you have too much bacteria, you'll get sick. If you have the wrong kind of bacteria, you'll get sick. If you don't have enough of the right kind of bacteria, guess what . . . you'll get sick.

I think that the culture in which we live is similar in that there is good and bad culture out there. We can choose which we will engage. There is also a need for us to limit our engagement to culture. If we over-engage in culture it's just as bad as if we under-engage in culture.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Call and Response

In the gospel music tradition they used call and response to sing. The leader would sing out the first line and the congregation would repeat it back. The leader would sing the second line and the congregation would sing it back. In this way they could learn new songs quickly without the words or music in print. The tradition adapted to absorb the limitations of life and eventually to make call and response music a culturally distinctive icon of gospel music.

How do we deal with our limitations? In what ways have our limitations prescribed the way we do things? What limitation-responses have become, for us, embedded in our culture?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Learning German - When to Change

Right now we are learning German for our time in Vienna, Austria. We will be helping a mission team in Vienna for about two years.

I'm listening to a recording of a lesson that involves a lot of quiz and response, so I'm constantly trying to think of the word or phrase. After an hour, I'm exhausted. It takes a lot of energy for a brain to lay down new neural pathway. But, the next time I listen to the recording, it's easier - and the next is even easier.

When you look for purposeful, vision-driven ways to change, make sure that you implement the changes a little bit at a time. Getting people to create some new neural pathways will take some effort. Let them get comfortable with that change before you move one to the next one.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Change for the Sake of Change

Yesterday I said that staying the same is tantamount to being ignored. So that means that I'm obviously an advocate for change all the time, right? Hold on there, Sparky!

Change for the sake of change has the same net effect as staying the same for the sake of staying the same. You end up overwhelming people's ability to connect with what you are saying and doing. If everything is different every Sunday people will walk in and need to re-orient themselves to the situation.

Change needs to be purposeful. If we know why we're changing things, then others will know too and be more comfortable with the change. For example, changing the seating in a church is a scary thing, but having people sit facing each other to show the power of community in a service focused on community is a change with purpose.

Change needs to be visionary. This is different from being purposeful in that a vision carries one into the future on a trajectory. You can have a purpose for one Sunday, but a vision is where you see the church being in five years and that informs your purpose for what you need to be doing now. So, if you want to move the chairs so they face each other, that's great, but where is this taking your church? What's the vision?

Monday, April 05, 2010

The iPad Effect

Ok, I might be mentioning the iPad just because it's big news right now. But why is it big news right now? Partly because it's from Apple and they do a great job of generating a lot of buzz around their products. But a huge reason that the iPad is so noteworthy right now is because it's different.

Our brains are designed to ignore the familiar. This is a defense mechanism that allows us to spot the tiger in the grass and avoid being eaten and to spot the crack our door-frame and avoid being attacked by burglars in our house. If we had to process every piece of information that comes through our senses we would be overwhelmed with data. So, our brain offloads things that are too familiar - the sound of the florescent lights, the smell of the paper mill, the billboards on the way to work - they all fade into the background noise so you can survive.

What happens when church becomes so much background noise? We do the same thing every week. We have the same order (two songs and a prayer anyone?), the same tone, the same people. Sure, the sermon is different and some of the songs are different, but so much is the same.

Is your church just background noise?

Friday, April 02, 2010

April Fools (was yesterday)

In case you didn't catch it, my post yesterday about preaching being outlawed in California was a joke. Preaching is still as legal as ever in the US.

To tie this in to preaching a bit, preachers need to have more fun. There, I said it. Preachers have gotten this reputation for being boring, stuffy, and self-righteous. Think of Reverend Lovejoy from "The Simpsons" he's all of those things and more.

Preaching doesn't have to be the domain of the boring scholar. We can have fun and connect with people through humor while maintaining our scholarship and focus on the Word. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Preaching Outlawed in California

According to a recent California Supreme Court Decision (found here), preaching the gospel is unconstitutional. The first amendment protects free speech, but it also protects the separation of church and state. The court found that anyone registered as a member of a politically party is an extension of the state's government and therefore cannot be compelled to listen to preaching in any form.

This will surely be appealed to the US Supreme Court. Stay tuned for more.