New CD and other thoughts

Kelly’s worship band, The Wired Band, released their first album a few weeks ago. It’s pretty amazing. I think the sound is really distinctive and progressive. Check it out at their website, thewiredband.org.

As I watch Kelly’s journey with this album, I am truly astounded by her fearlessness. She attacks life with a ferocity comparable to a lion. She is one of those people that makes life happen.

Fear is a funny thing. It is universal, yet not everyone shares the same fear. We all fear something, even if it is fear itself.

God doesn’t want us to be afraid. He wants us to have power, love and self-control, but not fear. Fear paralyzes, fear hinders, fear prevents.

Power emboldens and strengthens.

Love motivates and encourages.

Self-control stabilizes and secures.

Don’t let fear trick you into missing out.

Ever been too afraid to do something?

Advertisements

10 Quick Tips on Video Venues

Each Sunday our church, we host five morning venues*. Two of the venues are “live,” and three are “video.” In our live venues, we do everything your church does. We do it in our unique way, but the evangelical core is there: music, prayer, offering, sermon. In our video venues, everything is live, except for the message, which is broadcast to a large format screen. We’ve been doing it for almost three years now, and we’ve learned a few things, some of which I will share with you here.

In our research for video venues, we speed-modeled our approach on the model from North Coast Church in California. Many of our best practices start with what we learned from them.

* We use “venue” interchangeably with “service.” Neither is in the Bible, so it’s OK.

  1. Get good food and comfy chairs – the overflow room needs to be a reward, not a punishment. (North Coast)
  2. One shot, fixed camera – it seemed counter-intuitive to me, but it really works. (North Coast)
  3. Lower thirds rather than overlays – it helps with the suspension of disbelief.
  4. If you do it in the Live Room (i.e. prayer for the sick, video announcements, etc.), do it in the venue. – People don’t want to feel cheated on their expectations of the church experience.
  5. DO NOT REFERENCE HOW GREAT THE MUSIC WAS IN THE LIVE ROOM DURING THE SERMON!!!!!!!!!!!!! – This one is kind of a big deal.
  6. The teaching pastor needs to talk to the people in the venues – It helps them feel connected.
  7. Call it the “Live Room” or the “Sanctuary”, not the “Main Service.” – Your venue pastor will appreciate this.
  8. Practice the flow – Even with slip-timing with the DVR, you will need to be comfortable with the flow of the service of when the feed comes in.
  9. Keep the production value low – again counter-intuitive, but is church really the place to tap into your inner James Cameron? Minimize the unconscious reminders that the audience is not in the Live Room. (Admittedly, this is  a subjective tip. We’re a pretty bare-bones production value church anyway, so maybe this is just us.)
  10. Admit the mistakes – Weird timing, bad picture, poor audio, it all happens. Just quickly acknowledge the problem, set a default time to fix it, then move on. (North Coast)

Any tips on how you do it? Any cool ways of “doing church” that you’ve seen?

4 Steps to Building a Preaching Library

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Probably the best line from any Batman movie, though I’m not sure anyone is keeping track of notable quotes from Batman movies (run-on sentence). Batman, as we all well know, is not a super-powered hero like Superman or Aquaman. He’s just an angry, rich white guy with no regard for the traditions of civilized law enforcement. No super-strength, can’t talk to animals, can’t fly. The utility belt, the Bat-a-rangs, and the Batmobile make him great.

Following up on my last post’s tips for communicating, I thought I would share the wonderful toys that I use when putting my sermons or lessons together.

  • An Old Testament and New Testament Introduction. I preach almost exclusively using chunks of passage from the Bible (expository). As a result, the historical and literary context of a passage are the first things I go for. A good introduction can answer these questions fast without getting bogged down with overly academic concerns.
  • A Good Thesaurus. Ever notice there is no synonym for thesaurus? Anyway, words matter. The right word can make or break a point. Learn multiple ways to say the same thing, and you’ll never be out of a job. (Insert political speechwriter joke here)
  • Intervarsity Press’ Dictionary Series. These things are paper gold! They can give you more insight into biblical research quickly than just about anything on the market. Need to know about Cyrus the Great for your “Out Of The Lion’s Den: Lessons from the Life of Daniel” sermon series? You can find it all here! What about the history of baptism in the ancient Near East for the “Live Like Jesus: Moments from the Greatest Teacher” post-Easter sermons? Whoop, there it is!!!! Seriously, these things are handy.
  • Jewish Cultural Background Material. Without getting all Zola Levitt on you, Jesus was Jewish. Use resources like this to bring deeper insight into Rabbinical and Jewish traditions. You know, without tradition, we’re just like a fiddler on the roof. I don’t know if you heard.
  • Biblical Languages Resources. Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with biblical languages. Few things give me brain spasms, more than, “The Greek word for power is dunamis. That means a power that’s DYN-O-MITE!” (Jimmie Walker reference) But the words do carry nuance and do carry weight. A good Hebrew-Greek study Bible and a word dictionary should be enough to give you the insight you are looking for.

While none of these tools guarantees sermonic success or erudite elocution (see what I did there? Thesaurus!), they can be the foundation to a great library that will benefit you and your audience.

(BTW, I created an Essentials List at BarnesandNoble.com In case you wanted to buy these online.)

What are some things you use?

5 Quick Communicating Tips

At the church where I work, I preach/share/teach/facilitate/browbeat about 100-125 times a year. As a result, I spend a fair amount of time scared to death about what I am going to say and how I am going to say it. Over the years, I have learned a few truths about communicating that I want to share with both of my readers. Never forget, words shape the world. What we say and how we say it are the gifts we offer to truth, the frame that enhances or detracts from the beauty and power of our subject.

  • Let the tool do the work. (No, I am not calling myself a tool.) I learned this from my dad, Col. JenkTank. Some of the greatest lessons I learned came from Saturday afternoons reversing whatever damage had been inflicted on our Volvo the week before. Tools exist to make work easier. When communicating, the tool is the subject or source of your material. In my case, it would be the Bible. My role as communicator is to let the Bible do the work in people’s lives, and try not to put to much of myself into the effort.

Resource: How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

Euclid, the guy who created geometry. Jerk.

  • The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you can’t explain your key points in the 140 characters of Twitter, then you’re not taking the shortest distance. Remember, you are communicating. That means if they aren’t “getting it”, you’re not communicating with them, you are only talking at them. Try to take them on a simple journey of connected ideas. I rely heavily on my formula of Problem (Our’s) –> Solution (God’s) –> Response (Our’s). A variation is Lie –> Truth –> Response. This keeps me on task and gives the audience a sense of accomplishment after the message/lesson/seminar.  It also disciplines me to streamline content to support only the necessary points for the listeners, not the stuff I think is cool or will make me sound smarter. Communication is service, not self-serving.

Resource: Communicating For A Change by Andy Stanley

  • Love means never having to say “I’m sorry.” “Facts,” John Adams once said, “are stubborn things.” If you believe you have a truth people need to hear, and if you love those people enough to share even the most difficult truths, don’t ever regret sharing it. The lack of conviction and authenticity will be read by everyone, and the impact of your message will be lessened. In my profession, this fear of the truth usually comes out over three subjects: sin, Hell, and money. Understand, this is not a jerk license. The fact that the Bible teaches truths about sin and Hell doesn’t empower us to browbeat or harangue people into compliance. Passion over consequence, emotion over rewards and outcomes, those are the places for enthusiasm and demonstration. Don’t pull your punches if it’s true, but don’t beat your audience to bloody pulp either.

Resource: I learned this one from some great communicators that I admire. Not everything comes from books.

  • Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln. Winston Churchill was the greatest communicator of the Twentieth Century. Abraham Lincoln communicated his way from failure to the White House, and used words to navigate the Civil War. Both of these men were great because they were unashamedly themselves. They knew what worked for them in speech, in body language, even in the clothes they chose to wear. Consider every detail and whether or not it is authentic to you and to your message. When I was starting to preach, a friend invited me to speak to his youth group at his small church in rural Northeast Arkansas. Growing up in Southern Holiness Pentecost forged a very specific model of what “good preaching” consisted of. Needless to say, those elements, I found out that night, were incredibly inauthentic for me. Over the years, I have developed certain devices and mannerisms, key phrases and pacing, and gestures and movements that communicate not just the truth being shared, but insight into me as well. This provides comfort and confidence for me and communicates credibility  and consistency to my listeners. Don’t work at being like a great communicator, be the great communicator you are.

Resource: Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln by James C. Humes

  • Sometimes you need to throw softer. Earlier this year, I was watching a pitcher struggle in the College World Series. Orel Hershiser noted that as the pitcher was fatiguing, and struggling to locate his pitches, he needed to throw softer, not harder. In pitching, location is more important than velocity. I notice that oftentimes, if I sense a point isn’t hitting the mark, I stay on that point, and emphasize it until I feel everyone “gets it.” That is a mistake. In the moments where you are not connecting with your audience, infinitely belaboring a point achieves the opposite from its intended effect. People check out, they shuffle in their seats, check their phones, and look at their watches. These are the signs of over-pitching. You sacrifice control for volume, or humor, or arcane language and grammar insights. Move to the next point, take a breath, slow or soften your speech. You need to have a megaphone in your head that can scream, “ABANDON POINT! ABANDON POINT! WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!!!”

Resource: Greg Maddux, Satchel Paige, Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson. Not everything comes from blogs.

(Honorable Mention: Turn off your phone, never check your watch, make sure your fly is up!)

These are some of the things I’ve picked up over the years. I hope they help.

<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nd/3.0/80×15.png&#8221; /></a><br /><span xmlns:dct=”http://purl.org/dc/terms/&#8221; href=”http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text&#8221; property=”dct:title” rel=”dct:type”>Intentional Spiritual Communication</span> by <span xmlns:cc=”http://creativecommons.org/ns#&#8221; property=”cc:attributionName”>Brian Jenkins</span> is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License</a>.

What about you? Any insights on public speaking, communicating, or preaching that you find helpful?

Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson

(My first book review. Landmark moment)


Book Rating:

3 out of 5 Tanks

Mark Batterson’s latest, Primal, reaches quickly into Restorationist tones, asking, “Why isn’t our Christiantiy like the Christianity we read in the Bible?” Using the Great COmmandment as a paradigm, batterson outlines a hopeful return to the primal (hence the title) nature of Christiantiy, the true faith.

Primal is Batterson at his best. While not theologically dense, it does provide a challenging and inspiring call to a passionate Christianity. Laden with illustrations, he paints a contrasting pattern of what is and what can be when we tap into the essence of Christian faith. Utilizing pithy (and sometimes cliche) axioms, he keeps his message tight and simple.

While it will never rise to the heights of Celebration of Discipline or Mere Christiantity, Primal doesn’t need to. It fully accomplishes its mission, reminding us that there is always more to discovery in our faith, and that those mysteries are there for anyone who wants them.

You can find Primal here.

Thoughts on Hebrews

A few weeks ago, at the church I work at, I preached a sermon on Hebrews 10:19-25. That began a moving in my heart to discover some of the other spots where the author uses a formula of “since-then-let us” teaching propositions. I like this construct because it bases reasonable models of ethics and morality on divinely revealed truths.

In this particular passage, the author gives two revealed truths:

  1. We have confidence to enter the the holy places because of the work of Christ
  2. We have a great high priest (Jesus) over the house of God

What is your confidence level when it comes to God? Many people struggle with the idea that God even knows they exist, let alone loves them. We view God as the one person we can never please, who we’re never good enough for, and with whom we can’t get anything right. Our understanding of God is constricted by fallen leaders, despotic rulers, and invisible fathers. People think that God is either limited, cruel, or simply not there. This view of God gives no one confidence to bring an ingrown toenail to His attention, let alone a broken life and spirit.

One of the things Christ came to do was change our view of God. The Jews of the First Century world saw God as theirs alone, and that absolute legal perfection was the only way to please Him. Christ came and re-imagined the idea of grace, that God would take care of the Law, and we would simply trust Him. Christ give event the worst of us the hope that we can come before God, to whom we can give nothing, and receive everything we need. This is not because of what we have accomplished, but because of what Jesus did in His redemption role.

So what do we do with these truths? Let us:

  1. Draw near with a true heart
  2. Hold fast the confession of our hope
  3. Consider how to provoke love and good works

Don’t ever stop walking towards God. Many times in my own life, when I perceive God’s disappointment or displeasure towards me, I run and hide from Him. I still go to church, preach my sermons, keep my counseling appointments, and teach my classes, but there is, as Dave Matthews puts it, “a space between.” Grace reminds me that failure, hurt, or fear, are the best reasons to run to God. I can draw near to Him; I belong in His presence, because the work of Christ on the cross lets me in.

That drawing near allows me to hold on to my confession of hope. I love that this is a confession of hope rather than a confession of truth. Hope just seems better than truth sometimes. The amazing thing a bout Christianity is that the truth is full of hope. I can be better, I am saved, I can look towards the future.

And then I need to do great things with this truth and encourage other people to do them too. The word that the ESV renders as “stir up” carries a nuance of “provoke.” I love this. I laugh at the idea of Christians, full of God’s grace-filled truth/hope, provoking the best from each other instead of the worst. What would our influence in the world  and on history be if instead of bringing out all of the anger, bitterness, and discord we carry, we demand and expect love, peace, and joy?

How Baseball Will Save The World

Revelation comes to life through the random convergence of unrelated events. Take Einstein for example. Here’s a guy, wrestling with the theories that will re-write humanity’s understanding of the universe, and he looks out of the window of a train, figures out the problem, and changes reality.

Here’s two that happened to me.

At General Council last month, missionary Dick Brogden preached an incredibly compelling message about Christianity’s approach to its only real rival for the souls of this world, Islam. Brogden said that, “Islam will not be fought with guns or intellect. Islam will be loved to death.”

After that, I got back to Ft. JenkTank and engaged in one fo my favorite summer rituals, watching the Little League Word Series. After watching one of the international matches, I came to this realization: baseball, my friends, will save the world. There I was, a white American Evenagelical Christian, watching little Muslim boys from Saudi Arabia play baseball. They even won a game!

I thought to myself, “That’s how the Church can win, that’s how we change the world.” Not by being weird, not by being elitist or self-righteous, but by the radical approach of being normal. What’s more normal than kids playing ball on a summer afternoon, laughing and running around together? Won’t my story in Christ have more impact to the people I go to the gym with, than with the people I yell at on a street corner? Will my everday life demonstrate Jesus to my Sikh or Muslim neighbors more effectively than the “rightness” of my theology?

How about instead of debating the infidels and bringing them into submission to God’s Law, I just invite them to play baseball?