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Friday, January 24, 2014


I recently wrote an article about my experience writing Like Mind, my first novel. The whole idea of the article was about the collaboration of storytelling that exists between authors and their audience.
We readers and writers must work together. It’s our art form, not just the writers’ alone. Together you and I make something that neither of us could make on our own. Together we tell stories.
That same dynamic is at work in all public speaking, especially in preaching. You don't simply speak words into the void and have them fall on unsuspecting ears. Rather you work together with a community of God's people to discern God's word and work in his world.

If I, as a preacher, am not listening to the church and the word, I've failed at my task.

That's a bold statement, so bold that I'm not sure I'm willing to apply it to anyone but myself. But it fully applies to me. I cannot, in good conscience, speak to God's people without listening to them.

I've preached at churches as a guest speaker before. That's been fun, and a good experience, but I'm still trying to discern what it is that the community is saying and what they need to hear.

I suppose I see my role as a translator. I listen to both God and his people and I try to mediate the conversation while at the same time getting out of the way. I can't help either side of the dialog if I don't listen attentively.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why to (Not) Trust Authority

One thing about preaching -- and presenting in general -- that is tending to put people off more and more is the idea that the preacher is in the position of power and the whole audience must listen to this person in authority. Most young people aren't huge fans of positional authority figures. Those are the people that have authority because of their position: the principal or the boss or the preacher.

I live in this weird space between the millennial distrust of authority and earlier generations' inherent trust in authority. I like being able to bridge the gap, but I don't fully understand either side.

The trust of authority is a trust in the system that gave that authority. Essentially it says that the system that made someone a boss or a teacher or a preacher must have sufficient checks and balances to prevent bad or unqualified people from getting into authority and promoting good and qualified people into the best positions for them. While there are exceptions to the rule, in general, that rule tends to hold (or so authority-trusters think).

The distrust of authority is the distrust of the system. The exceptions that litter the landscape prove that the checks and balances are not working and that the organization has failed to promote the right people into positions of authority. At its furthest extent, this distrust of authority assumes that if a person has been put into authority by the broken system then they are deserving of distrust until proven otherwise.

So what options exist? How can those who distrust positional authority and those who trust positional authority come together on anything?

At this point it's incumbent on the person in authority to show that the position isn't the source of their authority -- to both those that offer and withhold trust. One can't simply take the position of teacher or boss or even preacher and assume that everyone will accept that authority. Established or relational authority requires both submission and connection.

First the person in authority needs to demonstrate that they are submissive to an authority that is other than themselves. That is to say that they need to align with those under their authority as one who is also under authority. The boss is responsible to corporate just like her employees are. The teacher is responsible to the principal, just like his students are. The preacher is responsible to a higher authority as well.

Preachers must submit to scripture and to the community. Everyone in the church is in it together. They all must be obedient to the bible, they all must learn to be disciples and they all must make disciples. If the preacher -- or any other member in the church -- decides that they aren't under that authority, then they lose all credibility.

Second the person in authority needs to show a connection to those who are supposed to follow. The distrust of positional authority is rooted in the idea that organizations will abuse people to achieve their own ends. The only way to overcome this mistrust is through personal relationship, personal connection, and over time.

Are you in a position of authority? How do you facilitate connection and submission?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Google Image Search by License

I'm a fan of using Google Image Search to find pictures for my PowerPoint presentations. But there are legal limits to what I can use -- defined by the license on the photo -- so I need to be careful. For a long time Google just slapped a generic warning on the search results that alerted you to copyright issues. Caveat Emptor, or something like that.

Bing -- Microsoft's most recent search engine attempt to dethrone Google -- has had the ability to search images and filter the results by license since December, but now you can do the same thing in Google.

When you do an image search in Google you can filter the results by clicking on the "Search Tools" button above the results. From there you can filter by image size, color, type, time and now license type.

If you aren't getting paid for the use of the image you can use the least restrictive license type: Labeled for Reuse. From there the restrictions add up, you can have something labeled for reuse with modification, for commercial reuse or for commercial reuse with modification.

So if you want to edit a photo to use in selling your next book, you'll need the images licensed for commercial reuse with modification, but if you're giving a presentation at a non-profit and you don't plan to edit the picture you can use the images licensed for reuse.

Here are some other presentation resources that might be helpful.