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Friday, July 30, 2010

Bearing Fruit

I like the effect of the background being out of focus. I think it adds emphasis and drama to a still shot.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Go Toward the Light

This images is a powerful communicator all on its own. What sermon would you preach based on this image? 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Axe Cop; or How Visuals can Affect your Presentation

Recently I heard about Axe Cop from a friend on Facebook. It's the story of a cop with an axe who fights bad guys. The great thing about this story is that it's told by five year old Malachi and illustrated by his 29 year old brother Ethan.

What would have been a silly story told by a child is transformed by the visuals into an internet sensation. Over Christmas break between 2009 and 2010 Ethan and Malachi were playing and the story for Axe Cop came out. Ethan drew it and put it online and since then things have exploded. They now have a publishing contract with Dark Horse Comics and will be making some real money - from a kid's made up story.

That, my friends, is the power of visuals paired with words.

Monday, July 26, 2010

iPad Presentations in the Real World


I haven't bought an iPad, but I've heard a lot of buzz around it and there are quite a few preachers that want to know if this will be their next presentation tool. Jan Schultnik over at Slides that Stick recently did a field test with his iPad. How did his experience of presenting with Apple's new device work out? Read on.

First, this was a one-on-one presentation, not like preaching to a large church. He reported problems getting his presentation onto the device - the Keynote app on the iPad wouldn't do what he needed, PowerPoint couldn't transfer, and ultimately he had to use a PDF that had been created on his Mac version of PowerPoint which was imported from his PC version of PowerPoint. Not smooth at all. The presentation was outside, so the screen was difficult to see, and the sensitive touch screen on the iPad made for some miscues in transitions and zooming.

According to Jan: "So, not a perfect experience, but I am learning."

Friday, July 23, 2010

One Year Later


One year ago today I rebooted my blog with a new purpose. Since then I've been doing my best to advocate for better preaching through good use of images. I don't know if I've helped anyone else, but this has been a great time of growth for me.

The discipline of writing five posts a week has kept me thinking and working. I haven't been able to preach at times, but I'm always thinking about how to be a better preacher.

I don't know what the future holds for me or this blog, but this year has been a good one. I look forward to more chances to share with you in the future.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Virtual Preaching

It's becoming more and more common for churches to have multiple sites with one preacher who is broadcast to all the locations. CNN recently had an article on the phenomenon.

Preachers who don't think they need to be physically present in their church should ask how they would feel if they were forced to preach to high-def images of their congregation every Sunday morning, said Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching at Emory University.
"There's something about embodiment -- that the person who delivers the sermon is actually there -- that's important," Long said

Long has a valid critique, but the response is equally valid.

Young said Biblical church leaders like the Apostle Paul wrote letters that were then distributed to churches across the Roman Empire. The church leaders weren't physically present when those letters -- some of which were later included in the New Testament -- were read aloud, but that didn't make the message any less profound, he said.
"All we're doing is putting high definition, cool technology behind something that's as old as the New Testament," said Young,

So, who is right? Is it a theological issue whether or not the preacher is in the same room with the congregation?

For me, I prefer to be with people when I preach. When I preach I see people's faces and get their reactions. I wouldn't want to preach via video, but for those who preach from a script, it may be a valid way to use their time more wisely.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Succeed

Success is an odd thing. Often we strive to find it, but when we reach the point for which we were striving we don't feel successful. That's the constant lure of success - it is alway just out of reach.

In some ways this is a good thing - we keep striving to be better and to do more. We keep working hard throughout a career rather than resting on our laurels. But it can be a bad thing if we are under the illusion that success is something that we can grasp.

The truth is that you won't ever be successful. You won't be the best at your job. You won't completely master your field. It's the journey that's the thing. Strive, every day. Work hard all the time. Enjoy the process and let success worry about itself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Should You Buy PowerPoint 2010

I haven't had the chance to play with Office 2010 yet, so I don't have an opinion right now. But over at Slides that Stick they have a quick review of some of the helpful new features in PowerPoint 2010.

Specifically highlighted are the ability to subtract portions of images (seen in the picture), so that you can be more creative and specific with the images you create. Also the ability to remove a background color from an image has gotten a lot better in the new version. In 2007 it could only remove the background if it were one solid color that did not appear in the foreground as well.

In conclusion they say: "Should 2003 users upgrade: definitely, 2007 users, probably only the heavy users."

So, are you a heavy user of PowerPoint? Are you planning on upgrading?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The iPhone 4 Antenna Debacle and Preaching


I've been having a great conversation with a friend of mine about the iPhone 4 antenna issues. If you don't know what's been going on (or you don't want to click on that handy link I put there just for you), I'll fill you in.

Apple came out with a new phone - the iPhone 4, and one of the big changes was to the antenna design so that it would get better reception and not drop as many calls as the 3GS and previous version. Well, the new antenna has a slight flaw such that when you hold it as shown in the picture, the antenna is shorted out by your hand and it drops calls.

Oops!

Back to my conversation. My friend loves Apple and their products and he was defending them through all of this against the sensationalist bloggers that have been blowing this whole mess out of proportion. My response was to say that the bloggers may be sensationalists just trying to cash in, but the reason they can do this is because Apple, as a company, has a reputation for making flawless products. For them to make this kind of mistake is news because they so rarely make mistakes. Actually it's a compliment to a company that does great work with few mistakes.

As a preacher is your reputation so high that any mistake is instantly noticeable because it is so far out of the norm? As a church do you shine so brightly that people are willing to point out the tiniest flaw? I think it should be a compliment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Routine v. Novelty


Routines help us to know what to expect. They give us a sense of stability and normalcy.

Novelty is the unexpected, it gives us a sense of change and progress.

Neither novelty nor routine are good in themselves. Both have value and meaning for a church. Without routine there would be chaos, but without novelty there is boredom.

The key is finding balance between novelty and routine so that there is a sense of stability with progress, change with normalcy.

How do you find balance?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Castles


Recently we went out to see the local castle - Castle Bernard. When we were asking for directions, our host said: "It's not that great." To which we responded: " We don't have any castles in America."

Any castle is pretty cool to an American whose country is not as old as most of the buildings in Europe. Castle Bernard was built in the 17th century and was inhabited until the 1920's. Most of Europe exists in the shadow of a castle.

This makes it difficult for Americans to understand what Jesus meant when he preached about the kingdom of God. We don't have kings, we don't have castles, we don't belong to kingdoms.

How can we translate the concept of kingdom into the American culture?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wireless Presenter Security Flaw


Engadget reports that there is a huge security flaw in wireless presenters, you know, those things you can plug into the computer so you can click the slides forward on your PowerPoint for yourself. Apparently, there is no encryption, no security and the computer sees them as a full mouse and keyboard. A hacker could send all sorts of disruptive commands to your computer while you are presenting, not the least of which would be interrupting your presentation.

So, if you see anyone with a rig like the one in the picture, you might want to have the ushers "deal" with them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's the Point

Seth Godin asks: "What's the Point?"

An idea turns into a meeting and then it turns into a project. People get brought along, there's free donuts, there's a whiteboard and even a conference call.
It feels like you're doing the work, but at some point, hopefully, someone asks, "what's the point of this?"
Is it worth doing?
Compared to everything else we could be investing (don't say 'spending') our time on, is this the scariest, most likely to pay off, most important or the best long-term endeavor?
Or are we just doing it because no one had the guts along the way to say STOP.
Are you doing work worth doing, or are you just doing your job? 

Do you ever go through this process? What systems do you have in place that allow someone to ask: "What's the point?"

Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup or How Perspective Matters

In the video below you get to see two different perspectives on soccer. One sees the game as, well, boring. The other sees the game as thrilling. Watching the same game produces vastly different reactions.

When we preach, especially with images, we need to be aware of perspectives. Some images will evoke the reaction you hoped for, but they might produce a completely different reaction. For example, a picture of a father with a child should evoke feelings of love and family, but to someone who was abused by their father the feelings are very different.

Don't avoid using images that might evoke a negative reaction, just know that it might happen and be prepared for it. Mention in your sermon that not everyone has a good father image, and move on.

How do you deal with differing perspectives?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Church Unplugged

Summer can be a hectic time in the life of the church. People are traveling, camps are happening, life is anything but normal. It takes a lot of effort and energy to put on a full church service. Maybe the summertime would be a good chance to rest a little. Do a session or two of church unplugged. Don't worry about having your sermon or the songs up on PowerPoint. Don't worry about dressing up. Just relax together and enjoy it.

It would be good to set the stage for this ahead of time. You don't want to surprise people, they don't like that. Build up to it for about a month to let people know what's going to happen.

When I've done this in the past it's been focused on table fellowship. We set up tables and gathered around them. We had some singing and a few words from the preacher, but most of the time was spent sharing an extended and expanded communion meal. Lots of bread and juice were available along with all sorts of other breakfast foods. We got to talk and laugh and share together and it was our church experience. Too often, I think, we separate out fellowship from official church-time, but fellowship is worship and it is empowering to demonstrate that.

How would you do church unplugged?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Lie to Me


Recently we started watching "Lie to Me" because a friend recommended it to us. We never watched it in the beginning because it came out at the same time as a reality show where someone would be hooked up to a polygraph and asked questions in front of their family and friends and we thought it was the same show. No wonder assumptions have such a bad reputation.

If you haven't seen it, "Lie to Me" is about a scientist who has studied human expression and can tell with great accuracy both when someone is lying and what they're feeling. We can't control our faces as well as we think we can. Micro-expressions register in about 1/5th of a second on our faces and show the truth of what we're saying even when our words don't.

Learning about this can make you a better preacher and a better minister. First, don't lie to your church. You may think that you have a good poker face and you can smile through it to convince them, but you can't hide your micro-expressions. I've seen preachers speak in support of a building program that I knew they didn't support, because of their face and their tone.

Also, look at the faces of your church. If you understand what facial expressions mean, you can understand how your words are affecting your church. Are they surprised, happy, bored, angry, disgusted, interested, or engaged? Their faces can tell you, if you know what to look for. Click around here and see what you can discover.

How do you read your congregation? How do you think they read you?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Inspiration for Preaching

Sometimes and image can be a powerful inspiration. I saw this sad sight outside the farmers' market a few weeks ago. I had to get a picture because of the power of this simple scene. Lament is a dropped ice cream cone. A future never realized. A dream dashed on the concrete.

From this image I might preach about Judas. So much was given to him through the course of his time with Jesus, and so much was lost when he would not seek forgiveness after betraying Jesus.

Or I might preach about Paul, who would not take John Mark out for a second missionary journey after he failed on the first attempt. Barnabas saw that there was hope still left and took Mark with him. Later in life, Paul asked for John Mark to come to him as a trusted friend. Despite appearances, redemption is always available. There's always another ice cream cone.

What images inspire you?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

iPhone Apps for Religious Debate

The New York Times reports that there are a growing number of smart phone apps to help Christians debate Atheists and vice versa.
In a dozen new phone applications, whether faith-based or faith-bashing, the prospective debater is given a primer on the basic rules of engagement — how to parry the circular argument, the false dichotomy, the ad hominem attack, the straw man — and then coached on all the likely flashpoints of contention. Why Darwinism is scientifically sound, or not. The differences between intelligent design and creationism, and whether either theory has any merit. The proof that America was, or was not, founded on Christian principles.

I guess it's the inevitable trajectory of our society to reduce such conversations to quips loaded into our phones. But is this really an effective method of debate (or is debate effective at all)? I've debated many atheists, and while most of the time we come away with respect for each other, it has never changed anyone's mind on the topic. I appreciate their perspective because I take the time to listen to their frustration with faith and Christianity.

The problem with these apps is the problem with debate in our society. It has become little more than an exercise in offering pithy sound-bites. The Presidential debates were not, in any classic sense, debates, but rather opportunities for the candidates to restate their rigid point of view. The same is true of these apps, they give everyone the chance to sound smart, but no one has to actually think about what they're saying or why.

What do you think?

Monday, July 05, 2010

How Many Slides Per Sermon

I was reading Seth Godin's blog (again) and he proposed a radical idea: give a presentation with 200 slides. He says,
You're used to putting three or four bullet points on a slide. That's at least four distinct ideas, but more often, each of those ideas has three or four sub ideas to it. In other words, you're cramming 32 ideas on a slide, and you're sitting on that slide as you drone on and on. Perhaps you spice it up with some reveals or animated bullets, but it's still 32 ideas going stale before our eyes.

So, what does that mean for preaching? I've tended to go another direction, I like to have about 5 slides (one to open, one to close, and one each for the major moves in the sermon). Each slide is an image and a word or short phrase describing the point I'm making.

I don't use bullet points (anymore, I've repented in sackcloth and ashes), but I don't think that the answer is necessarily using bunches of slides. I still break down each point with one slide, but I try to make fewer points and to make them well.

What do you think? Would you give a sermon with 200 slides?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Independence Day

Sunday is the day that Americans celebrate Independence day. This year we are in Ireland - I know they don't have a great love for the English and they have fought for their own independence. However, this is a particularly American holiday.

Sometimes our culture makes us see the world a different way. As Christians we view the world through our own lenses. Sometimes it's good to step back and realize that not everyone thinks like we do. What would your sermon look like on Sunday if you were preaching to a group of non-Christians? What about a group of people that had never seen a bible?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Teaching Like Jesus

Yesterday I asked if Jesus would use PowerPoint. Since then, I found an article over at Rev.org on a similar topic. Alan Nelson says:
Jesus used a variety of teaching styles. He used mentoring, small group instruction, parables, visual aids, strategic questions, and other forms of active learning. When you think about it, Jesus’ primary discipleship method was a three-year experiential model in which the disciples experienced life with him, resulting in history’s most effective transformation of a small group.
Going on to point out that most churches today don't teach like Jesus at all. He says that Jesus accomplished his teaching by engaging people in experience. Yet, most sermons are lectures with no experience.

How can sermons engage people in experiential learning? One way is to get people engaged in conversation. One option is to use classic artwork, which is available for most bible stories, to evoke conversation.

What would you do to teach via experience?