Monday, April 30, 2007

But I like the taste of corn...

"In Kitui, a stony area to the east of Mt. Kenya, farmers have not harvested their main crop, corn, in five continue to plant corn even though it requires more rain than they typically receive. Cassava, pigeon peas, and sorghum are better suited to dry-land farming, and those who plant them are harvesting plentifully right now. Still, farmers prefer the taste of corn, so they keep planting it even though they do not harvest." Tim Stafford (Christianity Today, May 2007, p.45)

It is tempting to be condescending when you read about pre-modern farmers doing the same thing year after year without results, but how many of our churches have a similar problem. I know at least one or two examples of churches in our network that continue to do the same things year after year but seem surprised that their results aren’t changing.

How about you? Could it be that you're experiencing a lack of harvest because you keeping planting on the basis of your own personal preferences rather than the context in which God has placed you?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mark Batterson on Sermon Branding @ New Church Conference

Mark Batterson is doing an incredible job of planting a new multi-site church in Washington, D.C.
He also writes a great blog and just this week posted notes in addition to a session he was doing at the New Church Conference:
I don't have time to talk about sermon branding in my session today so here are some notes.

John 12:50 has always been my preaching mantra. Jesus said, "I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it."

What is sermon content.
How is sermon branding.

I have a core conviction: the greatest truths ought to be communicated in the most unforgettable ways. And when it comes to communicating things in unforgettable ways, how is just as important as what. I don't just want people to remember. I don't want them to be able to forget.

Sermon branding is nothing new. It's as old as the ancient prophets using God-inspired props to make their messages stick. Jesus took the Old Testament art form to a new level. No one was better at branding truth than The Truth. His parables are pure genius. Hear them once and you'll remember them forever! Sermon branding is hard work, but it isn't optional if we're serious about communicating like Christ.

Seven Steps to Sermon Branding:

#1 Come up with a series title

There is a fine line between catchy and cheesy. The goal is to reduce an entire series to a single word, phrase or symbol that captures the essence of the series. Book titles, magazine ads, TV shows, board games, and movies are a great source of creative inspiration.

#2 Create a series logo

The old aphorism is wrong. A picture isn't worth a thousand words!

According to neurological research, the brain is able to process print on a page at a rate of approximately one hundred bits per second. But the brain can process a picture at approximately one billion bits per second. Mathematically speaking, a picture is literally worth ten million words!

Images are important because of the way the brain processes information. The brain recognizes and remembers shapes first, colors second and content third. It is the sequence of cognition. If you want people to listen to the content of what you have to say, you better think about how you shape it and color it. And if choosing color schemes seems to be void of spiritual significance read the book of Exodus. A dozen chapters are devoted to design. God gives very specific instructions about colors and scents to be used in the Tabernacle.

#3 Design a series evite and invite

The key to buzz is word of mouth and word of mouse. One way to generate buzz about a sermon series is to send out an evite to your church email list. Encourage your congregation to forward it to a friend. And it turns church into a tag-team sport. The goal is to turn attenders into buzzers.

#4 Brainstorm Big Ideas

The more you say the less they will remember. It's the law of scope: more is less and less is more. That's why I try to reduce every message into one big idea. Why? Because people only remember one thing!

If you try to make too many points, your message turns into a bed-of-nails. Lie down on a thousand nails and they won't penetrate the skin. Why? The pressure of each point is diffused by all the others around it. Too many sermons are a bed-of-nails. But a single point will penetrate the heart and soul like a single nail.

#5 Shoot a Series Trailer

One way to brand a series and generate excitement is to add creative video elements. Our creative team brainstorms creative elements every week at our Big Idea meeting. And we try to produce a trailer that captures the essence of the series and sets up the message.

Check out some of our videos @

#6 Design a microsite.

Check out It's a microsite we created for our Chase the Lion series.

#7 Add Sermon Props

Jesus used everything from mustard seeds to Romans coins to make his messages stick. He preached from boats, washed feet, and used little children as sermon props. The reason sermon props make messages more memorable is because they involve more than one sense. The more multisensory your message is the more memorable it will be.

One idea is to create a series t-shirt. Turn your congregation into walking billboards.

Some great ideas from a guy who is on the leading edge! To learn more about Mark Batterson or National Community Church, check out his blog:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Passing the Baton of Leadership

"A leader's work is never done. Putting out a fire, reaching a summit, slaying a monster only clears the way for the next and greater challenge, be it organizational or personal... The last -- and arguably the most important-- leadership test is likely to be the most taxing because it is so different from those that precede it: sharing what you have learned with the next generation. Many leaders fail this test. Slaying monsters is a very different skill from teaching others how to do it. And, as Kenneth W. Freeman writes in "The CEO's Real Legacy" (HBR November 2004), it takes a well-managed ego to help a successor become, in the best case, an even better leader than you are." (HBR January 2007, p.128)

Robert Lewis echoes that thought: "there is no greater investment in the future of the church than... identifying, encouraging and providing training for the young leaders in our midst..." (The Church of Irrestible Influence , Zondervan, 2001, p. 179)

Keith Drury ( taught a cadre of youth leaders about "the Joshua problem." Moses raised up Joshua. Joshua raised up_____________. That's right. Nobody.

There's a sea change of leadership coming in The Wesleyan Church. Dr. Earle Wilson has provided exceptional leadership to our denomination as General Superintendent since 1984 but is likely to retire at General Conference 2008. Dr. Don Bray is resigning/retiring from years of exemplary leadership with Global Partners. Several district superintendents are over 60 and more than a few of the pastors of our largest churches now qualify for their AARP discount.

So, what will The Wesleyan Church look like 20 years from today? A lot like the next generation leaders you're developing in your local church right now. Working hard to leave a legacy is another way to keep your edge!

Monday, April 23, 2007

InJoy's Free Book Offer

Click here or on the picture to register for a new book from Kirk Nowery and InJoy Stewardship Services.

Yes, you'll receive subsequent e-mails offering InJoy's capital campaign consultancy, but that's not a bad trade-off!

If You're Happy and You Know It...

87% of pastors are very satisfied with their profession.

That's what the survey says. You might not get that impression listening to some voices, but that survey is consistent with what I hear in conversations with our district pastors.

The reality is that even just 13% who are disgruntled can make a lot of noise...that's true for congregation members too, not just members of the clergy.

Like the Psalmist, the vast majority of us in ministry can affirm: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:6 (NIV)

The attitude of gratitude helps us keep our edge!

Jeanna Bryner -LiveScience Staff Writer - SPACE.comWed Apr 18, 11:10 AM ET

Firefighters, the clergy and others with professional jobs that involve helping or serving people are more satisfied with their work and overall are happier than those in other professions, according to results from a national survey.

“The most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching and protecting others and creative pursuits,” said Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

The 2006 General Social Survey is based on interviews with randomly selected people who collectively represent a cross section of Americans. In the current study, interviewers asked more than 27,000 people questions about job satisfaction and general happiness. Individuals' level of contentment affects their overall sense of happiness, Smith said.

“Work occupies a large part of each worker’s day, is one’s main source of social standing, helps to define who a person is and affects one’s health both physically and mentally,” Smith states in a published report on the study. “Because of work’s central role in many people’s lives, satisfaction with one’s job is an important component in overall well-being.”

Job satisfaction

Across all occupations, on average 47 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs and 33 percent reported being very happy.

Here are the Top 10 most gratifying jobs and the percentage of subjects who said they were very satisfied with the job:

Clergy—87 percent percent Firefighters—80 percent percent Physical therapists—78 percent percent Authors—74 percent Special education teachers—70 percent Teachers—69 percent Education administrators—68 percent Painters and sculptors—67 percent Psychologists—67 percent Security and financial services salespersons—65 percent Operating engineers—64 percent Office supervisors—61 percent

A few common jobs in which about 50 percent of participants reported high satisfaction included: police and detectives, registered nurses, accountants, and editors and reporters.

The perceived prestige surrounding an occupation also had an effect on job satisfaction and general happiness. Not all jobs linked with prestige topped these charts, however, including doctors and lawyers. Smith attributes this to the high degree of responsibility and stress associated with such jobs.... (read more at

Friday, April 20, 2007

From "The Tests of a Leader"

The January 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review(The Tests of a Leader) was loaded with good articles.

One article, "Becoming the Boss" written by Linda A. Hill (pp. 49-56) , attempts to define what it takes to effectively manage and gain credibility with others. Here are three attributes (p. 53) she highlights:

CHARACTER - The INTENTION to do the right thing.

COMPETENCE - Knowing HOW to do the right thing.

INFLUENCE - The ABILITY to deliver and execute the right thing.

I thought about these three characteristics in light of Paul's directives to Timothy in selecting overseers/elders. It used to be taken for granted that pastors and lay leaders had the first of those three attributes nailed. We can and must live "above reproach" by the power of the Holy Spirit (1st Timothy 3:2) but solid character doesn't always equate to competence.

The Apostle Paul also said these overseers must "be able to teach" and "manage their own families well." Living the gospel and teaching the gospel are essential if the church is to keep its edge in culture.

Finally, Paul says the overseer must "have a good reputation with outsiders..." Character and competence provide the opportunity to exercise godly influence and that's the ultimate test of leadership.

“Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead...." J. Oswald Sanders (Spiritual Leadership)

How's your leadership edge?

Learning from each other...

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” Douglas Adams, British author

I'm grateful for the culture we enjoy in the West Michigan District. We're convinced that learning from each other is one of the gifts of our ministry partnership.

Yesterday I met with two of our district's peer learning networks: new pastors and church planters. Among the highlights of our time together was watching each participant throw out a real-time problem or challenge from their current ministry. Then the other team members engaged in a learning conversation about that challenge, each bringing their own experience and perspective to the table.

I was reminded again that "none of us is as smart as all of us." Learning from each other is a great way to keep our edge!

"Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success." Proverbs 15:22 (NLT)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone Again

“The phonograph has no commercial value at all.” – Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1880s

He was right before he was wrong but now he's right again!

Victor Hugo, 19th century French novelist, wrote "All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come. "

But what about an idea whose time has come and is then gone again?

This story was originally included in an article “Dan, Done” by Jonah Goldberg in National Review (March 28, 2005):

"At the beginning of World War Two, as the great powers of Europe were scrambling to mobilize their forces. Britain pulled out of the mothballs some light artillery that had been used in the late 19th century during the Boer War in South Africa. This piece required a five-man crew in order to operate it according to 19th century standards. However, when the piece was fired, two the crew members would perform an odd ritual. Three seconds before the weapon would be fired, two of the crew members standing behind the cannon would snap to attention and they would remain in this position until it was quiet again.

None of the current crop of artillery officers could figure out the point of the actions of the two crew members. The crew members themselves did not know the reason either. You see, artillery pieces always required five members to operate them. Finally, an old retired artillery colonel was brought in to observe the ritual. He watched the crew fire the weapon and the power of his recollection brought the truth to light. He announced, “I have it. They are holding the horses.”

You see back in the Boer War horses were used to move the artillery pieces into firing position so each horse had a crew member who was responsible for keeping the horse from bolting at the sound of the cannon firing. Over time, horses were phased out of the military, but the five man crew was not. Since only three men were actually needed to fire the weapon, two members of the crew became “mere place-holders.”

Innovations have a shelf life.

What is it that you, or your church, keep on doing, even though that innovation may have lost its purpose and edge?

Three Questions from Craig Groeschel

"Years ago someone asked me these questions. How would you respond?

1. If you weren’t on staff at your church, would you worship there?

2. If you didn’t know ANYTHING about Jesus, what would you know about him after a normal weekend at your church?

3. If you had a loved one who didn’t know Christ, and they had one week left to live, would you take them to your church or another?"

from Craig Groeschel, pastor of (March 2, 2007)