Sermon styles: the synonym preacher

There’s lots of communication tools one can use while preaching; illustrations are the most well known.  Another method of communicating an idea is to keep using different synonyms.  

It’s where you take one idea from the verse you’re looking at and explain it by defining it again and again. 

E.g. (From yesterday’s post) Jesus is the King; the ruler, the sovereign, the all powerful, the master of the universe, the final judge of all things, the most excellent, most praiseworthy, most important, most wonderful and fearsome human who ever lived, and the one you will have to give an account to at the end of time. 

Does it work? Yes and no. 

It’s probably not a great explanatory tool… Every synonym needs its own explaination. But it is a very good focusing tool. It helps our hearers feel the weight of one idea in the verse. It’s like a big sign saying “watch out! Big idea here!”

Therefore, it’s a communication tool to use sparingly. 

A different form of Church AGM

We had our Church’s 2014 AGM recently and we decided to try a new thing…

Every year we try to a new way of communicating a holistic perspective of church (helping people realise that church is more than their personal experience of it) – here’s one from last year. This year we tried to go really simple and didn’t include heaps of structures and aspects of church in the design (See the full design here).

But the big difference we did this year was two-fold; seating people at tables, and making it a prayer-night.

We setup the room like a cafe; paper on square tables, cups and water, candles, a plate of finger food.

Our Senior Pastor opened the Bible and encouraged us from Philippians 1 that it’s so appropriate that Christians give thanks for God’s work in us and through us. We prayed.

We opened the AGM with apologies, and a couple of people confirmed the minutes from last year. We heard a 2 min report from the Committee (Elders/Board), asked some questions and prayed. We got a finance summary of 2014, asked questions and gave thanks. We closed the formal meeting, but opened up to further prayer.

We walked though the significant ministries at our church; the Mission activities… and we prayed. The Membership and Maturity activities and groups… and we prayed. The Magnification and Ministry activities… and we prayed.

Along the way we didn’t sing, but we got some of our musos to perform a couple of songs they’d just finish writing. We enjoyed their talent and gave thanks.

It might not have been what people were expecting – it was a bit different to what I was expecting, and I organised it – but by the end of the night it felt like a night well spent. And that’s as good AGM in my book.

Repost: Abstract and Concrete Ideas in Church

We came across this idea a few years ago… that most churches (ours included) were generally pretty good at communicating two sorts of things… Abstract Theology, and Concrete Details about Church. (Abstract means concepts and ideas, whereas Concrete means times, dates, locations, what to bring, etc.)

So we were good at explaining ideas like Justification, and at the same time, telling people when the next event would be on and where it would be.

But that left two areas of communication largely vacant; Concrete Theology (Behaviours, Habits, Actions) and Abstract Details about Church (Why church exists, what type of church we want to be, How we think about our programs and why we do some things and not others).

How do you see your ministry going at communicating in all 4 of these areas?

Out of the box church marketing

“Out of the box” can mean being creative in weird ways, but it can also mean doing things in a stock standard way. 

It’s worth churches thinking through how they market themselves by looking at how other “similar” industries go about reaching their market. 

How could a church leverage these aspects of their nature…

  • Similar to a “debt alleviation” company?
  • Similar to a “life insurance” company?
  • Similar to a “self-help / recovery group”?
  • Similar to an “Adult education” provider?
  • Similar to an “Historical society”

It seems that a church could market itself like any of these… Because a church can be all of these. 

But there lies the issue… If you only market one aspect of yourself, you run the risk of under-communicating, which is just another word for mis-communicating. 

What place does design have in gospel ministry?

I went through uni with a great student group called FEVA (Fellowship for Evangelism to the Visual Arts) and this was a constant topic for designers and artists. They loved Jesus and they loved good design and making beautiful things. So students were always wrestling with the question, “Can we glorify Jesus and do mission to the world with art?”
This was always answered carefully and well. And it’s been something I’ve had to think through again recently.

The gospel is a spoken message. You can’t proclaim Jesus without words. No matter how beautiful something is, people are blind to the glory of Jesus without the Holy Spirit helping them hear/read human words as the very words of God (1Thess 2).
What’s more, you don’t design to make the gospel attractive, because the gospel is attractive already. Trying to make the content of the gospel more attractive will only result in diminishing the glory of the gospel.
But the gospel is a communicated thing. It’s meant to be communicated. And all communication is designed. That’s a key idea; all communication is designed. Communication is the clothes which adorn a message and make paying attention to it attractive. We design to adorn our communication of the gospel. We don’t want to make the gospel more attractive, but rather, we want to make our communication of it as attractive as possible.

Reblog – Let people finish your…

sentences.

Whether you’re leading a growth group, preaching a sermon or just a one on one… don’t just say everything and rely on people’s hearing and memory. If they are listening to you, they’ll be able to finish your sentence.

What’s more; people remember what they say 1000% more than they remember what others say. You ask someone what they learned in your GrowthGroup last night, and they’ll rattle off WHAT THEY SAID – regardless of what the passage/study was about.

Also, getting people to finish your sentences forces them to do serious thinking; it requires listening, understanding, integration, creativity, boldness and humility. Don’t deny them that.

Lastly, if you let people finish your sentences, there’s even a chance they’ll find a word that picks up everything you want, but communicates it even… ?

Be sad, but not surprised, when people lie

Even though you’ve read the bible with them, prayed with them, and cried with them… people will still lie to your face.
They’ll lie about their sin, they’ll lie about their feelings towards you, they’ll lie about what they are going to do.
Don’t expect it, don’t assume it, don’t get angry about it, and don’t pre-emptively act on it, but at the same time, don’t be surprised.
Be sad, mourn sin, but know the extent of the fallen world we live in enough that you’re not shocked by it.

The difference between accusing and rebuking is…

Intended outcome. The difference between accusing and rebuking is the desired outcome.
A rebuke is a form of love. It’s really an appeal. It’s an appeal to stop, repent and renew ones commitment. Sometimes it’s an appeal to have a soft heart and admit wrong-doing in the first place. But in all those scenarios, a rebuke is aimed at a certain outcome, by the grace of God.
As such, a rebuke doesn’t carry a condemnation in itself. It may outline a future consequence (“if this doesn’t stop we will need to take these steps”). Rather, it is an appeal to see and change one’s sin with an offer of forgiveness.
On the other hand, an accusation is what satan does. An accusation is not an appeal to someone to change, but a verdict that change is not enough, and forgiveness is out of reach. It doesn’t look to a renewed commitment, but looks to incite guilt and self-loathing. An accusation is a declaration of condemnation.
However, because the difference is a “desired outcome”, that means someone who is unwilling to repent as desired will only hear a loving rebuke as an accusation. They can’t get past the first part of the rebuke… The idea they did something that needs to change.

Conference ideas from #oxygen14

For many people missing out on a conference, it’s not just the preaching and encouragement they miss out on, but it’s also observing the well-run machine of a big conference so they can take and apply the ideas in their own conferences, camps etc. So here’s a few…

Question time questions, not by SMS, but by app. A sure fire way to get loads of people to download the KCC app (it worked for me)!

Choose a location that has intrigue. The Australian Tech park is pretty cool, and adds an exciting element to the conf. As always, while dealing with humans, you need to have an eye to how I and are affected by locations.

Limit information. I know things sounds weird (and I don’t know how intentional it is) but there’s something to be said about keeping back some key information from your participants. It’s day 2 and I still don’t know which of the key speakers is speaking tonight. I don’t even know where my next seminar location is. There’s some workshops happening this arvo… I’m not sure what they are or who’s running them. But, the opt out level will be much lower, because I don’t know what I’m opting out of. Very gen y.

Two tier seating tickets. Yep, despite James 2:1-4, there are two seating areas… The up front, close to the action seats (zone 1 – blue) and there’s the up the back, participate through the video relay seats (zone 2 – yellow). Though I can imagine this working in America, I can’t hep but wonder if the cheaper tickets are zone 1, so those people have to fill the front section as a punishment ;)
It is a good way to fill from the front… A perennial problem in Australia.

Reblog: You can’t be a leader unless you…

make decisions.
In the end, that’s the basic things leaders need to do… They might do it with their team, or without their team – but that’s one of the decisions they make. Heck, they might even decide to ask for a vote.
Leaders need to make decisions because, in the end, they are responsible for what got decided.
Some leaders are really people orientated, and they are great at relationships, and building teams. Others are very task orientated and take a humans-as-resources approach. But the mistake is to think that the former don’t make decisions, while the later do.
If you’re a leader who’s good at building relationships easily and “getting people on board”, you’re still the decision maker. But chances are you’re guiding people to want the same thing you’ve already decided. That’s not bad, but there’s a danger to be easily avoided; they might “want” what you want, but they know it’s not their decision – and they don’t think you’ve made a decision (because you keep talking about it) – so nothing actually happens.
So don’t just go and make a heap of decisions… rather, ask the question, “Have I communicated my decision clearly?”

Did you miss your expected outcomes, or miss-communicate your expected outcomes?

This is a really important question to consider as a leader. When something doesn’t go to plan, after you’ve planned it, and delegated it… what’s the problem? Where do you go for answers about what went wrong?

The only question to ask yourself (as the leader) is, “How well did my team understand what I wanted?”

Please note, this is not “How clearly did I communicate it?” or “How many times did I explain it to them?”. It’s a consideration of how much they actually understood it… how clearly were they able to verbalise it back to you?

Regardless of how many times they’ve heard it, if their version of the expected outcomes is not the same as your version… it’s not a outcomes problem, it’s a leadership communication problem.

The gospel is a press-release not an archive.

The word gospel is usually thought to mean “good news”, but it’s more like “important news”.

The gospel is what happens when the president calls the TV stations and says, “Clear your airwaves, I need to address the nation in 30mins”.  He’s saying, “I have a gospel”.

For a gospel to be a gospel it needs a speaker and an hearer. It needs to be passed on, communicated, to be a gospel. In fact, if you knew the gospel and didn’t pass it on – in some senses – it actually stops being a gospel. It becomes an archive. It’s still true. But it’s not a gospel because it’s not being proclaimed and communicated and announced.

Spell out the consequences… clearly and with examples

One of the common ways which those of us in christian leadership fail is in our communication. We communicate ideas and big pictures of things that are clear in our head, however… our hearers only get a fuzzy idea of what we’re saying.

One of the ways to improve anything you’re communicating is by spelling out some of the potential consequences. For example:

“I’d like you to join our kids team… you’re going to miss-out on Sunday sleep-ins ’till 10am for the rest of the year.”

“I’m glad you’ve repented of this sin… you’re going to need to tell James and say sorry to him too.”

“This is going to be a big responsibility… I need to make clear that if you fall into gross sin or ignore your responsibilities, it will damage a lot of people’s trust and there might be cause for public rebuke.”

Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine the the things they’re going to experience… make it clear because it’s your vision about their life.

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Reblog: Abstract and concrete communication

For any field you can communicate a spectrum of things; from abstract ideas to concrete things. And in this sense, bible communication and organisation communication are no different.
The trick is to realise that you don’t just have a personal bent to communicating one way or the other. Rather, chances are you prefer to communicate down one end of the spectrum in the “bible teaching” field, and down the other end if the spectrum in the “organisation” field.
We’ve realised that we’re really good at communicating “biblical abstracts” (e.g. Doctrine, atonement, sovereignty, etc.) but we’re not very good at communicating “biblical concretes” (this is how you get to church each week, this is what evangelism at work looks like).
On the organisation side of things, we’re fine at communicating concrete things (where, when, who) but we need to develop in communicating our abstract org ideas (why church is so important, why we do small groups, why…)
What are your communication tendencies for each of your fields?

The wonderful idea of using an “umbrella of mercy” when talking

I can’t remember where we got this idea but it’s brilliant… our staff team has this phrase “umbrella of mercy”. It’s what we say before we say something that could be taken the wrong way, or something that might be offensive or touchy for other people in the conversation.

When one of us says, “umbrella of mercy”, we’re asking the other people to prepare their hearts and minds to hear something graciously… mercifully… ready to assume the best… ready to ask clarifying questions rather than make accusations.

It’s a little bit like saying “with all due respect”, instead it’s not a declaration like that. Rather it’s a request… “Please hear this as best as you can, because I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or attack your baby.”

I seem to use it a lot.

The difference between being in ‘sales’ and being in ‘ministry’ is…

The difference between being in ‘sales’ and being in ‘ministry’ is heartbreak.

See, if I’m trying to sell you something, it’s because I get a commission, or it’s my job –  get paid to help you want something (usually want something enough to buy it). If you decide to say “no”, it’s disappointing, and it may even be frustrating. I might have wasted heaps of time on one customer and never make the sale. I may even feel insecure about my ability. But that’s all.

On the other hand, if I’m doing personal follow-up at church, or inviting someone to a series like LIFE, or simply just trying to help someone see the majesty of Christ they should be living for… If they decide to say “no”, I would still experience all those things above (disappointment, frustration, insecure, etc). But, I will also experience heartbreak.

Because Christian ministry is motivated by love, it also has the potential to hurt. A lot. In fact, the more I cultivate love for you (which drives me to say certain things and do certain things) the more I open myself up to be heartbroken when I see you turn away from Jesus, continue in sin, make stupid decisions that will affect your relationship with Jesus and others.

Ministry is an investment of Jesus-inspired-love in people. We invest more than our time, energy, mind… we invest our heart. And so you can’t invest your heart into people without expecting to be heartbroken. When that happens, refill your heart with Jesus’ love and go love some more.

The principles that should guide what pastoral staff meetings look like

A Church staff meeting is the opportunity to express and embody the values you want to shape your staff team culture. For our staff team, that means we spend time in the bible and in prayer for our church and each other. We spend time communicating the things going on (not just to inform, but to enthuse and encourage). We spend time on relationships by doing lunch together, and we spend time trying to improve by training and development. We also blow up the staff meeting plans every so often to do walk up as a team, or all do one ministry together.
We do these things in a formal way in “staff meeting” time, because we want these things to be informally part of what goes on throughout the week and throughout the year, and throughout the generations at our church.

Scripture, stories and stats

Different people are tuned into different frequencies. Some people just want to principles from scripture, the verses to back it up, and the biblical implications. Anything else is superfluous fluff.

Some people just resonate with stories. The personal journey, the struggle, the hope, the victory, the passion and people. That’s what’s real to them; it’s what matters. They’re less likely to be swayed by biblical arguments and numbers on a chart.

Some people just want the numbers. They understand that scripture and stories are all real and (somewhat) important, but if it’s not going to make a difference, or there’s no plan or strategy, it’s just pie-in-the-sky.

If you want to communicate to a lot of people, these are three good things to keep in mind. Whether it’s a sermon, an ad, or a project overview; these three people will probably be in the room.

Numbers change communication

When church is 30-60 people, your primary communication channel is word-of-mouth; you can get around to most people in a week, and the other will hear about it soon enough. Any ads up the front, or video-ads are purely secondary to that word-of-mouth.

When church is 120-200 people (and all the more as you grow), your primary communication channel is up-front ads, videos, etc. But what’s often forgotten is that word-of-mouth becomes a purely secondary method. What was once primary simply becomes unreliable.

It’s nice when it does happen, but you can’t rely on it.

Don’t pretend there’s NOT an issue #horstmans-laws.3

(This is a series of reflections on Horstman’s Laws)
People know when you’re faking it. They just do. If you think you’re that clever that you can pretend you don’t have an issue or a strong reaction to something, you’re either surrounded by the wrong people or you’ve lost connection with the real world.
If there’s any awkwardness, any hesitation in your gut, say so. Use that to your advantage, leverage it towards the hugeness of what you’re selling.
Paul says, “Who is competent for such a task?!?” He’s been through pain and struggle and even the church he’s writing to is shrugging him off… But he owns his frailty and anxiety, while also telling them he’s trusting in God.
Don’t try to fool people into your fake enthusiasm… It will only backfire. Bring them – with you – through your hesitations.