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Benny Perez 100-Year Warning

are you usingVision every a Prophetic available medium? From America’s Past

Kim Dorr-Tilley Share the Love

Lessons from a The Most Effective HollywoodMethod Agent Evangelism

Jack Graham Enough is Enough

a compelling How to Challenge guest experience church Consumerism May // june 2013

Equipping Christian Leaders to Grow

Joel Osteen

What TV producing taught me about being a pastor

Kem Meyer

Your playbook for better communication

Phil Cooke

How the Holy Spirit is moving in Hollywood

The media expert explains how to clearly communicate the gospel in today’s cluttered, distracted culture m in is t r y t od aym ag.c om U.S. $6.99 Canada $9.99

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c o n t e n t s V o l . 3 1 // N o . 3

16 Communicating in Our Times 16 In the information-barraged 21st century, media and communication have never been more important for reaching today’s digital culture. In this issue, Guest Editor Phil Cooke—who works with some of the world’s largest media ministries to help them find their voice and amplify their message—offers a cutting-edge look at what it takes to connect to the most distracted and disrupted generation in history.

14 | the media man

Phil Cooke has always had a passion to influence culture through media. But it’s his years of experience that make him a go-to guy for ministries seeking to sharpen their messaging. By Steve Strang


16 | the new rules

How can the American church regain its voice and communicate the gospel in today’s cluttered and distracted culture? By Phil Cooke

26 | Gospel communicator

What TV producing taught Joel Osteen about preparing a message and delivering the good news An interview with Lakewood Church leader Joel Osteen

34 | is the church losing its voice in today’s media-driven world?

Defining your story and consistently telling it are essential for communicating your message in an information-saturated world By Phil Cooke

40 | the abbreviated communication playbook

Your leader’s guide for helping people take their next step toward Christ—and each other By Kem Meyer plus: Your DIY Communication Checklist

46 | the power of story

Valuable insights for storytelling that impacts an audience By Ralph Winter 4

MinistryToday May // June 2013

M a y // J u n e 2 0 1 3

52 DEPARTMENTS MinistryLife

52 | culture Simple ways your church can impact Hollywood 54 | Multi-Ethnic Ministry Do you and your church have a multi-ethnic vision?


56 | personal integrity The fruit of a king’s distracted thoughts —and what it means for your leadership today 58 | adversity Talent agent and pastor Kim Dorr-Tilley shares insights for the difficult times of ministry 60 | communication The non-negotiables of navigating and landing a unified leadership team


62 | community engagement Three proven keys to engaging your community

64 | facilities Jack Graham explains how to assess the experience first-time guests have at your church 8 | MINISTRY OUTSIDE THE BOX When true-life stories go viral | Getting started on Twitter | Mascots in children’s ministry? | Expanding your church’s Facebook reach


12 | kingdom culture A Las Vegas pastor shares the lessons he’s learned communicating in a disruptive world By Benny Perez 66 | pastor’s heart Are you thinking more about your message than the people who are hearing it? By Ron Carpenter

Ministry Today (ISSN #0891-5725) is published bi-monthly by Charisma Media, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746. Periodicals postage paid at Lake Mary, FL 32746 and at additional entry offices. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distributing) Sales Agreement Number 40037127. Subscription rate is $24.97 for six issues and $39.97 for twelve issues. Canadian subscribers add $5 per year for postage, other countries add $10 per year for postage, payable in advance in U.S. currency only. Postmaster: Send address changes to Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602. Send undeliverable Canadian mail to: 1415 Janette Avenue, Windsor, ON N8X1Z1. © 2013 by Charisma Media. For advertising information call (407) 333-0600. Nothing that appears in Ministry Today may be reprinted without permission. PRINTED IN THE USA Steve Anderson Photography, © istockphoto/Deklofenak

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Ministry Outside the Box

ideas, insights & inspiration beyond the norm

True Stories

Want to create something viral? Create something real. My church recently held a creative worship night. It was filled with dancing, music, painting and other artsy things I usually don’t enjoy. But one particular piece got my attention. As the Gungor song “Beautiful Things” played through the sound system, people emerged from backstage carrying handwritten stories written, typed out, painted, scrawled, etc., on poster boards: “I was going to get life without parole, but God intervened.” “I struggled with feelings of inferiority, but God loves me so much.” They were well-crafted stories. I assumed the people carrying these poster boards had found the stories on the Internet and just “copied and pasted.” But as more people emerged, I saw people I knew who were carrying stories that sounded remarkably familiar. Wait! These are actually their stories! The emotion was real. They were baring their souls. Tears welled up in my eyes. After the program ended, something bubbled inside me. I had to tell people about this. I struck up conversations with everyone I passed about those amazing stories: Could you believe they were real? That night went viral for me. Hollywood blockbusters can’t compete with that. Their special effects and perfectly crafted stories don’t go viral. Videos shot on webcams that reflect honesty and truth go viral. We live in an increasingly phony world filled with Photoshopped images and special effects. People are cleverer at faking things. And we spend a lot of emotional energy trying to separate the fake from the real. Look at the comment stream below a viral video or incredible photo: “Photoshopped!” “This is so fake.” “Actors.” People are trying to find truth. So while we’re spending more money in churches, mimicking Hollywood blockbusters, let’s never forget that the greatest thing we can do is tell a true story. True stories go viral. Openness and honesty go viral. We have a viral message—the gospel. Let’s present it as honestly as possible.

© istockphoto/enot-poloskun

Go Viral

Recently, I got a question from a church leader asking if I thought he should get his church on Twitter even if he could only post once a week. My advice if you’re considering getting involved in social media: Start small and build up. If you have time for one tweet a week, great! Just make sure to build time in your schedule to make that tweet appointment. Most people actually have much more time than they realize. If engaging in social media is a priority (which it should be), try to carve out just five minutes a day to build a strategy. You’ll be surprised at what you can do in those few moments. Build small. Build simple. Be consistent. Scale as you’re able. J u s t i n W i s e is a writer, blogger and executive director of the Center for Church Communication.

Chuck E. Church Mouse at a Church Near You! Recently I was part of a team that used a store mascot to do some local marketing. We visited a family carnival night at a local elementary school. The evening was a massive success. In fact, I even overheard a few kids talking about when the bear mascot had refereed their hockey game a few months ago. It reinforced an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while. Why don’t children’s ministries in church use some kind of mascot to connect with kids? I know how much my own kids love going to Chuck E. Cheese and singing and dancing with Chuck E. the mouse. Most kids really enjoy interacting with an over-sized animal. I think churches need to get on

J o n a t h a n M a l m writes and speaks about the creative process, especially for churches. He blogs about creativity at and 8

MinistryToday May // June 2013

© istockphoto/julos

board with this and use it as a way to get kids excited about church each week. Now obviously, I’m not proposing that we eliminate Jesus as the hero, or that we replace Him with some critter costume. But couldn’t we at least use a mascot to get kids excited about Jesus? Why not use something larger than life to teach kids about the one who truly is larger than life? My instinct and experience tells me that our kids would go nuts over this kind of thing. Something about fantasy hooks the attention of kids. I do have one fear, though: that churches might start creating really cheesy Bible mascots. Let’s meet kids where they’re at and connect a non-Bible character with Bible characters—and teach biblical truths that are eternally significant.

B r e n t o n B a l v i n is a writer, blogger and speaker passionate about helping churches create great ideas and first impressions.

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Ministry Outside the Box V o l . 3 1 // N o . 3 Publisher/Executive Editor Steve Strang

Chief Operating Officer joy F. strang Editorial Director marcus yoars

General Editor LINDY LOWRY Editorial Assistant SEAN ROBERTS

Advertising Manager ANN MARIE Kelly Ad Traffic Coordinator NANCY WILEMAN

How Our Facebook Page Grew to 250K Likes I get asked a lot about the Online Church Facebook page and how it grew to more than 250,000 page likes in less than two years. People often expect one secret sauce solution. That simply does not exist. This page grew through experimentation, systematization and plain old hard work. Over the first two years of the Online Church page’s existence, we have failed at many experiments and succeeded in just a few. However, those few successful efforts have been tremendous for our growth. Here are our three success points: 1. Schedule posts.
We post approximately four to six times each day. Many people suggest this is too frequent, but the reality is that Facebook users rarely go to your actual page. They interact with your posts in their newsfeed, and they likely only see about 10 percent of the posts you make. This means that if we post four to six times each day, the average user will see just one of our posts every other day. Doesn’t seem like too much to me, and our Facebook community has yet to complain. By the way, we schedule out most of our posts through Facebook’s scheduling feature so that we don’t have to manually post with this regularity. We monitor the page closely and always strive to constantly engage with our audience. 2. Post variety. We have a posting formula, which helps create a balance of posts focused on inspiration, conversation and information. Most churches want to get

straight to the information and let people know about their events and activities. We’ve found that the more we offer inspirational and conversational posts, the more effective our information becomes. We try to add even more variety by posting these three different styles using multiple formats, such as text, images and videos. 3. Consider paid ads.
You don’t have to, but I think paid ads are a great tool to reach more people. For the Online Church Facebook page, we spend about $5 per day on ads, and the exponential growth these have fueled has been well worth the cost. On our way to finding these success points, we’ve made dozens of mistakes. As we now look ahead to the milestone of 500,000 likes, I’m sure we’ll try dozens more experiments that will fail. At the same time, I believe that through those experiments we will find two or three more things to add to this list. We plan to keep experimenting, keep tweaking our systems and keep working hard as there are more than a billion active users on this network that need to hear about Jesus and engage in community.

N i l s S m i t h is the author of Social Media Guide for Ministry and web pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he helped to launch He blogs regularly and is passionate about serving the local and global church using technology in ministry.

All articles excerpted and adapted with permission from the website 10 MinistryToday May // June 2013 church

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600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746 Phone (407) 333-0600 • Fax (407) 333-7100 Email: Website: POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602. subscription information: Six issues $24.97; twelve issues $39.97. Canadian subscribers add $5 per year, including GST. Other countries add $10 per year, payable in advance in U.S. currency only. If you have moved, received damaged or duplicate copies/ missed issues, experienced billing problems, want to renew or need additional subscription information, call (800) 829-2547, go online to (to subscribe), e-mail mntcustserv@cdsfulfillment. com, or write Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602. Foreign subscribers call (515) 237-3640. Advertising Policy: We make every effort to be sure advertisers operate with the highest principles and credibility. But advertising in Ministry Today does not imply editorial endorsement. Mailing List: We make a portion of our mailing list available to reputable firms. If you would prefer that we not include your name, call (800) 829-2547, write to us at 600 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32746 or e-mail us at


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Welcome to the Revolution

Learned lessons for communicating in a disruptive world


have a need to stay connected to one another. Recently, in my book More I wrote about the “ships” we hold on to in life: fellowship, relationship, discipleship. The truth is, our need for community is a legitimate need. So don’t resist this communication revolution. Understand that it comes from the God-given desire for community and use if for the purpose of the gospel.

“Understand that this communication revolution comes from the God-given desire for community, and use it for the purpose of the gospel.”

1. The method may have changed, but the message hasn’t. The platforms available to you today have never been greater. So don’t avoid these opportunities. Most social media venues are free! You don’t have to compromise your message. Preach what God has given you to preach—stay true to what you believe, but use what is now available! 2. Community still matters. The reason we’re invested in social media is because we

MinistryResource More: Discovering the God of More When Life Gives You Less by Benny Perez offers hope, healing and practical, real-life advice from a pastor who knows what it’s like to walk in faith when life shatters around you. 12 MinistryToday May // June 2013

3. Stay relevant. If we really want to be purists about the method, we should be teaching from a boat or mountainside. In His day, Jesus spoke to fishermen and farmers. His stories were based on examples people in that profession could relate to and understand. If I try to talk to my congregation in Las Vegas about water/fishing, there will be no connection! So stay relevant.

4. Sunday morning isn’t what it used to be. You have to understand: Your time with people on Sunday morning isn’t what it used to be. Today, it’s only one small part of the puzzle. If you’re not a voice in their lives throughout the week, someone else will be. Use the available social media opportunities. I have thousands of Twitter followers to whom I can communicate instantly. If God gives me a Scripture on Monday, I don’t have to wait six days to share it. I can honestly say, there are times when I have shared a word on Twitter and immediately heard that what I shared literally saved someone’s life! Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). The results of your ministry are ultimately up to God. But in this everchanging, wired world, I encourage you to use every available resource you have to share the Good News. B e n n y P e r e z is the lead and co-founding pastor at The Church at South Las Vegas and author of the Amazon best-selling book, More: Discovering the God of More When Life Gives You Less. To connect with him, visit or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @bennyperez.

The Church lv

e live in a wired world. We walk together as a disrupted society. In just a few decades, the technical revolution has altered the face of communication—not only how we communicate, but with whom we communicate, the speed by which we communicate and the number of people to whom we communicate. How we communicate has also changed. Communication is happening less and less verbally. If you can avoid a phone call by sending a text, you’ve saved time, and saving time is better! In an ever-evolving society, where communication is still radically changing, being a communicator of the gospel can be perplexing and even frustrating. How much technology should we accept as pastors? Is it OK to use social media? Does being current equate to compromising the gospel? These questions can stir up some strong opinions. But here’s what I’ve realized: Just because the message is timeless doesn’t mean the method has to be timeless! Here are four essential communication lessons I’ve learned as a pastor praying to engage people where they are today with the good news of the gospel:


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his issue of Ministry Today is all about using the power of media to effectively communicate God’s message, and it’s as important as any we’ve published in the magazine’s 31-year history. That’s because our society today is increasingly dominated and driven by the media, and for believers to communicate the gospel, we must not only understand the media, but also be ahead of the curve in using it. Recently I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students at Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania. Among other things I shared, I spoke on the topic of learning to write for digital media. I actually talked about some of the concepts addressed in this issue, even quoting Hollywood movie producer Ralph Winter (p. 46) and other contributors. These were young, eager people preparing themselves to serve in ministry, trying to get the tools they need for the future. Why they wanted to hear from a journalist who learned the ropes of the media industry on manual typewriters and who graduated before the personal computer was invented is beyond me. Yet I am a veteran of learning to navigate the tumultuous waters of change—and when it comes to the media world, things are changing like never before. I never could have envisioned a world of Facebook, Google, iPhones and text messaging when I started my career. But I reminded these students that they’ll likely experience more change in their own careers than I have in mine. If you’re young, the same may be true for you. But even if you’ve had decades of ministry experience, you face the same dilemma as someone fresh out of college: Are you effectively communicating the message God has given you? Media—and how you use it—plays a huge role in answering that question. As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of responding to the world we live in with the Good News, no matter what the circumstances. Yet Christians have traditionally lagged behind the world in coping with technology and societal change. (That has nothing to do with the gospel and everything to do with paradigms of the Christian subculture.) Because of this, it’s crucial for us—especially those in full-time ministry—to listen to leaders who are “bilingual” like Phil Cooke, our guest editor for this

14 MinistryToday May // June 2013

issue. They are citizens of God’s kingdom who know the language of Zion. But they also know the cultural language expressed through media that the world listens to. Phil and I have been friends since he worked for Oral Roberts shortly after graduating as a student at Roberts’ university. We first met when I was a guest on Richard Roberts’ TV show in the 1980s and was impressed by a sharp young producer behind the camera. As I got to know Phil, I could see he had a passion to influence culture through media. I also watched him during a season in which he cast caution to the wind, quit his job and moved his family from “Tulsa-rusalem” to be a type of missionary to Hollywood. Today, though he still spends a significant amount of time working in the Christian media industry, he’s had enough success in the secular arena that people take notice when he recognizes an emerging cultural trend. I’ve had dinner with Phil and his lovely wife, Kathleen. I’ve visited his offices in Burbank, Calif. We’ve collaborated on projects, and he’s become our company’s go-to guy for anything having to do with the media. If you’ve read our magazines, you’ve likely seen his byline often in print and online. So when Ministry Today General Editor Lindy Lowry suggested him as a guest editor, I jumped at the idea. I knew the material would be good—as good as any we’ve had in the magazine. Whether in his books or behind the camera, Phil’s always produced topnotch content. And his Rolodex of names— including everyone from Joel Osteen to Ralph Winter—adds a richness and texture no one else could do when dealing with the topic of messaging and media. Given Phil’s credentials, I encourage you to not just read this issue—devour it. Put these principles into practice in your own ministry. Lets start a movement of believers who will reclaim the airwaves— and every other medium—to advance God’s kingdom in our day. 

Phil Cooke has always had a passion to influence culture through media. But it’s his years of experience that make him a go-to guy for ministries seeking to sharpen their messaging.

Steve Anderson Photography

media // messaging // ministry

LIFE Mission: Film producer Phil Cooke has spent the last 30 years telling stories and finding ways to leverage media to engage a non-believing culture with the gospel

16 MinistryToday May // June 2013



New Rules Communicating the gospel in today’s cluttered and distracted culture By Phil Cooke

“Studying NFL football is like preparing for war on the playing field. Sometimes that war requires you to study your opponent.” —sports journalist Jay Bee, Bleacher Report


he most successful military generals and athletes ruthlessly study the strategy and tactics of their adversaries. In a similar way, effective pastors and ministry leaders have always studied the enemy. The Bible is very clear about evil, and there’s no question the enemy will stop at nothing to destroy God’s people. But in my experience, the vast majority of pastors

Cooke Pictures

and leaders aren’t recognizing a new but remarkably effective tool in the enemy’s arsenal: distraction. Today’s digital culture has brought great convenience. Who doesn’t love their iPhone, Android or iPad? The ability to connect instantly with thousands of people through social media has proven to be a powerful way to share Christianity with the culture. »

about our guest editor...

But along with convenience comes something far more sinister than we realize: distraction. The average person today is exposed to 3,000 to 5,000 media messages every single day. The cable TV service in our home boasts nearly 500 channels. Last year, 300,000 books were published, with another 3 million self-published. More than 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Hollywood studios released nearly 1,000 movies last year alone. Nearly 40 percent of the average employee’s day is spent sending or receiving email. Even more dire, studies reveal the distraction of social media is rapidly destroying the study habits of this generation of students. From radio and TV commercials, billboards, Internet banner ads, magazines, social media and more, we’re literally being overwhelmed. So what does all this have to do with the church influencing culture?

A preacher’s kid growing up in the South, Phil Cooke knew he wanted to work in media when his college film professor saw one of the young filmmaker’s high school film productions and screened it in film class. After the film, the students began to discuss what they had just seen and in that moment the future was clear for Cooke. “I had the most crystal clear moment I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “The thought occurred to me that if I could do something with a camera that would make people think, then that’s what I was supposed to do with my life. I changed my major that day and never looked back.” At Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., as a student directing primetime network Christian and family TV specials, Cooke began working with leaders to help them communicate their message. “Oral was remarkable in his ability to connect with audiences through the camera,” he remembers. “I learned things from him back in those days that I still teach pastors and leaders today.” Now living in Los Angeles and working in his Burbank, Calif., office, Cooke, who holds a PH.D. in theology, works with many of the most well-known and loved media ministries in the country, helping them reshape their brand and leverage media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture. A TV producer, media consultant and founder of Cooke Pictures, he has produced media programming in nearly 50 countries. Cooke is a recognized expert, speaker and author on branding, having appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. His latest book, Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media, provides a blueprint to help churches cut through the clutter of information today, communicate their story and impact their audience. It’s a message he fervently and prolifically writes about, known for his straight talk to church leaders and boldness to ask questions like, “How compelling is your service? Do your people want more of God or a better seat at the buffet down the street?” “Even as a kid, I remember vividly the negative image Christians had in our culture, and I’ve always felt it could be changed,” he says. “No matter how powerful our message, if people aren’t paying attention, then we’ve failed. Bad hair, tacky clothes, poor production quality, or cheesy ideas should never stand in the way of changing people’s lives.” 18 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Let’s say the typical pastor teaches a congregation an hour a week. I’ll even be generous and stretch that to two hours with a mid-week service or Bible study thrown in for good measure. How do those two hours compare with the impact of TV’s Nielsen ratings indicating the average home in America is watching television about 8 hours and 18 minutes a day? (And we wonder why we’re losing the battle for the hearts and minds of this generation.) The simple truth is that we desperately need to re-examine the Great Commission in light of today’s digital culture. If you think this isn’t serious, consider this: A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported on a Korean mobile phone study that indicated teenagers in that country were making up to 94 cell phone calls per day. While it’s inconclusive, some researchers are beginning to link rising rates of depression with high cell phone use. Simply put, this generation values their “digital time” more than their “people time,” resulting in fewer personal relationships or real connections with friends and family. I love the remarkable advances digital technology has brought us, but at the same time we need to be aware of how that technology is impacting our behavior and undermining the influence of the church. And we need to find new and innovative ways to leverage technology to engage a non-believing culture. Historically, Christianity has always had a love/hate relationship with the culture—particularly the media. Innovation and technology have more likely been perceived as a threat than a friend. Centuries ago, the Catholic church rose up against the specter of the printing press, fearing the common man’s ability to read the Bible for himself would undermine the church’s authority. Since that time, the church has learned some important lessons. By 1833 the largest publisher in America, Harper and Company, boasted one horse-powered printing press and seven hand presses while the American Bible Society owned 16 new state-of-the-art, steam-driven presses and 20 hand presses. Early in the 20th century, the church embraced the mediums of motion pictures and radio, then television and now the Internet and social media. But in the vast majority of cases, we’re not using those platforms beyond church walls. Instead, we’re living inside a bubble. From our own Christian websites, publishing companies, record labels, TV networks, universities and more, the last 50 years have seen a remarkable withdrawal of the church from Cooke Pictures

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mainstream culture and a move back to a cloistered, protective bubble. Perhaps the church isn’t losing its voice; maybe it’s giving it away. But this approach is antithetical to the life Jesus lived. He never advocated protective bubbles or retreated from the challenges of the culture around Him. He spent His life where the people were—in the marketplace, social gatherings or the Temple. He wasn’t afraid to answer the hard questions. And in Acts 17, the apostle Paul went directly to the pagan philosophers at Mars Hill. He understood their beliefs as much as they did, and they were so intrigued they invited him back. But today, when it comes to the culture around us, the church is far more likely to protest, criticize and condemn, rather than actually engage. How can we regain our voice in today’s distracted culture?

To break through the clutter and get your message heard by your congregation, the greater community or the world, remember these five critical principles: 1) Perception matters. To re-engage today’s digital culture, we need to understand the power of perception. In a digital culture, perception matters, and it happens in the blink of an eye. The creative team at Cooke Pictures (, our media production company in Burbank, Calif., discovered that in a 300- to 500-TV channel universe, most people only take two to three seconds to decide what channel to watch. It’s not much different from deciding the next book you’ll read or church you’ll attend. In a world of nearly unlimited choices, your initial, split-second perception is critical. The slightest distraction is all it takes to sidetrack people. How often do you meet someone for lunch and put your mobile device on the table just in case you get an important email, text or phone call? We live today in a state of continuous partial attention. As a result, I believe the most valuable commodity of the 21st century will be undivided attention. When was the last time you felt that a friend, co-worker or even spouse was fully in the moment in a conversation? This isn’t the world I would like, but it’s the world we live in. 20 MinistryToday May // June 2013

The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter how powerful or anointed your message if you can’t get anyone in the door to hear it, or get them to focus once they arrive. 2) In a digital world, word travels fast. Founder Jeff Bezos

says that a few years ago if a customer had a bad experience with a company, he would complain to seven of his friends. But today through social media, he can complain to 7,000 friends. In an email and text-messaging world, you can’t outrun your reputation. What are people saying about your church or ministry? Find out. Start thinking less about Google as a search engine and more as a tool for reputation management. A few years ago, I actually had a pastor tell me he didn’t want his congregation to know about his yacht. I politely told him he was living under a rock. In a digital world, a reasonably sharp sixthgrader could download the yacht’s title online and, with Google Earth, could print a satellite photo of the boat at the dock. You can’t hide anything anymore. In a digital era, Christian leaders have to live more transparently than ever before.

3) In a cluttered world, original ideas stand out. There’s a reason Super

Bowl commercials capture the public’s imagination or blockbuster movies make such an impact. I’ve always been fascinated that God chose to introduce Himself to us in the first verse of Genesis as a Creator. And yet so few Christians really understand the power of creativity to influence the culture. Throughout history, Christians have led in the arts, letters, science, academia and politics, and today we need creative leaders more than ever. And the most creative approach is often the simple approach. For instance, I advise our ministry clients that their website design is finished when we’ve eliminated everything we possibly can. Keep your website clean, simple and to the point. We earnestly think that the more information we cram into our sermons, websites and brochures, the more they will help communicate our message. But Jesus didn’t overly complicate His stories, and neither should we. I love the quote from jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie: “It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.” »

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4) It’s time to rethink “missions.”

As I write this, Facebook has more than 1 billion members, which by population makes it the third largest country in the world—somewhere between India and the United States. Who’s sending missionaries to that country? Who’s planting churches there? To be effective in a media-driven culture, we need to stop thinking of missions solely in geographical terms and start thinking virtually. This year, my wife, Kathleen, and I are launching a new nonprofit organization called “The Influence Lab” to research and discover new ways the church can influence today’s culture, particularly through media. One of our most exciting initiatives will be a shortterm missions program for communication and technology professionals. While traditional missionaries will always be needed, we receive request after request from mission organizations around the world for a short-term web developer, video editor, photographer, IT professional and more. Funding such

an innovative outreach will be a challenge, but it will help shift our thinking about the future of missions. As a result, it’s one of my most important personal priorities for the future. 5) We must be strategic. Social media is a far more powerful tool than simply letting your church members know you’re at Starbucks. In my book Unique, I write about remarkable stories from local churches using social media to create “brand ambassadors” who are sharing their own stories of transformation with their friends and followers. For example, Kristen Tarsiuk, communications director at Oasis Church in Los Angeles, has used social media to minister to women fighting eating disorders; pray with people who have just lost loved ones; share the gospel globally; and help people outside Los Angeles find a local church home. The key is understanding that social media isn’t about “marketing” your church or message; it’s about “connecting” with people who want to make your

story part of their story. Making that connection doesn’t happen randomly, but rather through an intentional, strategic plan that fosters connection. In h is book Viral: How Social Media is Poised to Ignite Revival, thought leader Leonard Sweet writes: “Can you imagine doing ministry the last five hundred years and getting away with ‘Sorry, I don’t do books’? Can you imagine doing ministry in the next five years and getting away with ‘Sorry, I don’t do Facebook’?” The great challenge of the church today is speaking into a culture that more and more simply perceives us as an irrelevant, out of touch museum piece. During my lifetime, living by JudeoChristian principles was assumed and taken for granted. But in a world where best-selling books are titled God Is Not Great, and hostility to the faith is championed by much of the culture, we must react differently if we’re to engage the hearts and minds of those around us. The new rules of communication

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in the 21st century are about cutting through the clutter and connecting. Media today is interactive, and a new generation has grown up understanding it’s a two-way conversation. After all, they pick the next American Idol by texting on their cell phone, so they know they have power. That kind of engagement is transforming education, business, politics—and the church as well. One Ring to Rule Them All

Just as one ring ruled all others in the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, one principle rules all others in today’s distracted and cluttered world: brutal honesty. If you’re insecure, need to be constantly affirmed or were born with a fragile ego, this task may not be for you. It doesn’t take long on Twitter or Facebook to realize that this generation holds back very little when it comes to personal opinions. On my blog, my readers don’t care about my feelings and are brutally honest in their opinions. When I contribute to other online platforms such as The Huffington Post, or Fast Company magazine, it can get even worse. While it often stings, there’s also something refreshing about sharing your faith to an unchurched audience. A generation ago, a local pastor could preach his entire lifetime and never have his message reach farther than the county line. But today my Twitter followers stretch from the United States to Africa, India, Russia, Australia, South America and more. Under that kind of scrutiny, leaders can’t afford to phone it in. We have to share our faith with integrity, truth and honesty. Anything less, and I can guarantee you, someone will call you out. Two thousand years ago, a tiny, obscure, marginal group following the teachings of Jesus became the dominant religious force in the Western world. They didn’t have political power, an army or vast wealth. But they understood how to change the perception of Rome, which allowed them to eventually impact the world. What about today? The message is the same, but how we communicate it in today’s distracted digital culture will determine if we have the same impact. 24 MinistryToday May // June 2013

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media // messaging // ministry

What TV producing taught Joel Osteen about preparing a message and delivering the Good News

mmunicator By Phil cooke


n the late 1980s, I was asked to direct a series of prime-time TV specials from Lakewood Church featuring pastor John Osteen. The producer who invited me was his son Joel, who at the time was producing his dad’s TV program and leading the media ministry for the church. In 1982, Joel left Oral Roberts University at the end of his sophomore year to help his father launch the growing TV ministry nationally. For the next 17 years, Joel produced his father’s program, growing it into one of the world’s most successful media ministries. During that time, Joel and I became close friends as well as colleagues. I was invited back many times, and after Joel took the helm as senior pastor at Lakewood, we created a new TV outreach, which would become the most watched inspirational program in history. To date, his TV broadcasts reach 10 million U.S. households each week. When Ministry Today asked me to be the guest editor for this issue, I knew I wanted to sit down with Joel to ask him the practical lessons he learned behind the camera that have contributed to his enormous influence in front of the camera. After a few jokes about the old days and mullet haircuts, here’s what happened:

Chris Faytok/Lakewood Church

Phil Cooke: When exactly did you get interested in television? Joel Osteen: Back in college, I’ll never forget taking a tour of the Oral Roberts TV studios and being overwhelmed with the power of television to reach millions of people. I applied to work there just pulling camera cables on Oral’s program, but before a job opened, my father made the decision to take his media ministry national. I jumped at the opportunity to help, although I have to admit, my mom wasn’t too happy about my leaving college! Cooke: From a practical perspective, what do you think was the secret that gave your father such an impact on television? Osteen: My dad was remarkably real and authentic. When he looked into a camera, there was no hype. He was warm and sincere, and people felt it. People today tell me they feel something similar when they see me on TV, and the truth is much of that comes from all those years studying my father. Cooke: When you look back to those days behind the camera, what did you learn from that experience? Osteen: My father had an amazing understanding of the Bible. As I edited his program, I was immersed in Scripture all day long. I think that’s one of the reasons I have so much Scripture memorized—I was reading it and hearing it every day in the edit room. At the same time, my dad was

May // June 2013 MinistryToday   27

brilliant at extemporaneous speaking. Because he had so much experience, he could speak without notes, and he could improvise on the spot. That’s an amazing gift, and it helped him come across in a very compelling way. However, it also meant he sometimes repeated a story or followed what preachers call “a rabbit trail.” So I often spent hours in the editing room cutting his message down to broadcast time.

That experience taught me two things: First, I learned how to structure a great sermon through editing. To get the sermon down to TV program length, I learned what was essential and what could be edited out. Second, it taught me to spend more time preparing my own sermons, so I do the editing on paper ahead of time rather than cut things out later. I can’t express just how much editing those hundreds of messages from

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my father taught me about preaching. C o o k e : W hen it comes to preparing a message, what’s your usual process? Osteen: One of the keys to being a successful TV producer is preparation. So I spend a g reat dea l of time researching and writing my messages each week. Cooke: I know you write them out word for word. Osteen: That’s right. I literally write out my sermon each week as if I’m writing an essay. I want to know that it makes sense; has a beginning, middle and end; and teaches the congregation something important. I’ve never skipped preparation because it makes such a dramatic difference on Sunday. Other pastors may do things differently, but for me it’s all about preparation. C o o k e : W hen do you sta rt actually prepping? Osteen: Wednesday. I usually spend Wednesday reading and doing research. If you’re not feeding yourself, you can’t feed others. Then on Thursday and Friday, I go into “lockdown,” shut the door and focus on the message. On those two days, unless it’s my family or an emergency, I don’t take phone calls or schedule meetings. Cooke: What would you say to pastors who prepare their sermon during the song service? Osteen: (laughing) If it works for them, what can I say? All I know is that preaching the gospel in today’s world is tough. The stakes have never been higher. That’s why I focus so much on getting the message right and knowing exactly what I’m going to say. Obviously, I’m open to the impromptu leading of the Holy Spirit, but I’m not going to trust that I’m creative or spiritual enough in the flesh to not prepare. Cooke: That kind of preparation becomes especia lly importa nt on television, where the average cable system in America now has more than 160 channels. O s t e e n : A b s o lu t e l y. My congregation is captive. For the most part, they’re not going to leave the sanctuary during the service—at least I hope! But for the audience at home, they have other choices. I remember years ago 28 MinistryToday May // June 2013

encourage pastors and leaders not to when you and I discovered that people how the public wants to receive it. discount broadcast TV as a powerful Osteen: That’s exactly right. sitting at home with a remote control tool for reaching this culture. But I’m So we started exploring platforms like only take two or three seconds to decide also committed to exploring every what program to watch. In that possible platform for making the context, every word matters. I think gospel available to people. all pastors and speakers could learn Cooke: What has been your a lesson from that. People have secret to succeeding with social plenty of other options today, so we media? need to be the best in the pulpit that Osteen: Being consistent. we can possibly be. For instance, on Twitter, I don’t Cooke: You’ve always been tweet about having coffee with ver y intentional about getting friends or what I had for breakfast. your message on as many media People follow me for three things: platforms as possible. hope, joy and inspiration. So I stick Osteen: You and I both to that. I want anyone who sees me come from broadcast backgrounds, For 30-plus years, Phil Cooke (standing, left) has on TV, reads my books or follows and I thought my TV program worked with Joel Osteen on two national TV ministries me on social media to receive was all I needed. Then I realized the message that there is hope in my team was taking my messages and uploading them to iTunes on a social media, and without knowing whatever circumstances they’re in at that podcast, and I discovered we had nearly much about what I was doing, the New moment. Cooke: With so much happening 11 million people downloading that York Times listed my Twitter as one of every week. That’s when I woke up to the the top accounts worldwide. People may in your media ministry—and you being want to hear my message in the car, at the central figure of it—time away must power of other media platforms. Cooke: It’s not really how you the gym or on a plane. TV is still our be very precious. How important is it for want to share your message anymore; it’s biggest audience by far—and I really you, personally, as well as your ministry,

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prog ra m open i ng on 35m m to take time off? motion picture film, which was the Oste e n: Actually, taking best film you could use. Quality time off is a critical key to what we’re has always been important to able to accomplish at the church. I you. Why? think far too many pastors and Osteen: Two things: The leaders get too caught up in areas world is far more sophisticated that aren’t really their strength. As than any time in history, and a result, it grinds them down, and second, audiences have more they eventually burn out. I’m a big choices where to spend their time believer in taking a break. After this and energies than ever before. interview, I’m going to spend the T hat mea ns if you r chu rch, rest of the day with Victoria and the ministry or media outreach isn’t kids. As pastors, we need to discover one of quality, then people will where we have the most impact and go somewhere else. If you want focus on that area. For me, it’s the people to spend their time with time I spend in the pulpit, so I’ve Before taking the reins of Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen you, then you must give them developed a great team to help me served as producer for his father’s TV ministy, which your best. And understand that with leading our staff and managing taught him the necessity of sermon preparation “qua l it y” isn’t a lways about the church. budget. Back in the days when we Cooke: What about leaders of smaller churches that don’t have these and start focusing your time and effort had very little money and resources, we were still committed to finding the best great, diversified teams? on that area. Osteen: You can still encourage C oo k e : I remember back in personnel and equipment we could volunteers to help, or train interns to the days we worked on your dad’s TV afford. We’ve always felt that we were assist with the load. Find out where God program, you were always driven by doing this for God, and that He really has called you to be the most effective, quality. Back then, we even shot the deserves the very best we have to offer.

Small Miracles. Big Heart. Small Miracles. Big Heart. Small Miracles. Big Heart. This morning you greeted a returning missions This you greeted returning missions teammorning and welcomed a newafamily to your church. This morning you greeted a returning missions team and welcomed a new family to your You put your heart into everything you team and welcomed a new family to your You put your heart into everything you We youinto do what you do. That’s Youunderstand put yourwhy heart everything youwhy do.we’ve We understand why you do what you do. That’s whyproduct we’ve developed MinistryFirst®, a customizable insurance We understand why you do what of you do. That’s we’ve developed aneeds customizable insurance product designed toMinistryFirst®, fit the specific churches likewhy yours. developedtoMinistryFirst®, customizable insurance product designed fit the specificaneeds of churches like yours. And, it’s why hundreds safety like resources designed to fitwe theoffer specific needsofoffree churches yours. and And, it’s why we offer hundreds of free safety resources and services, including LegalAssistance for ministries. And, it’s why we offer hundreds of free safety resources and services, including LegalAssistance for ministries. services, including LegalAssistance for ministries.

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C o o k e : A nd recent ly you partnered with [Survivor producer] Mark Burnett and Roma Downey to promote their TV series, The Bible, on the History channel. O s t e e n : I’m a pa ssionate believer in the idea that we need to be engaging today’s culture in a w ide va riet y of ways. W hen Ma rk a nd Roma told Vic tor ia a nd me about their vision for the The Bible series, we were excited to help them in any way we could. We travelled to Morocco during filming and offered advice when they asked. We helped promote it on T V, throug h socia l networking, online and even through direct mail. Mark and Roma did an amazing job. I would love to see more movies and TV programs based on biblical stories, and I applaud the Histor y channel for devoting 10 hours to this project. It’s exciting to see it do so well in the ratings. We really believed in it, so I love that America tuned in.

Cooke: What would you say to pastors about communicating their message to their church, community or even wider audiences? Osteen: When you study Jesus, you find that He spent His life where the people were—in the marketplace, the temple or social gatherings like weddings. While people still gather in these same places today, millions of them worldwide are doing so in a virtual way. For hundreds of millions of people today, their marketplace is online, their social gatherings are happening on Facebook and Twitter, and church is often (and perhaps, unfortunately) a TV or Web streaming experience they decide to participate in. Like it or not, these are the facts. Yet there is a bright side. These virtual gatherings are huge—much larger than in Jesus’ day—and they are global. T h i n k about t h is: Pa stors a nd teachers today can preach the gospel

to more people during a 30-minute live Web stream than the crowd that would fit into the world’s largest stadium. And, they can reach more people in more countries during that same 30-minute sermon than they could reach were they to travel the world for 10 years. Victoria and I see this as a great and wonderful time to live, a time when technology allows us to preach the good news to more people in more places than our fathers and grandfathers could have ever imagined. My advice to pastors and teachers is simple: Embrace it! In 1958, Joel Osteen’s father, John Osteen, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and started Lakewood Church in an old feed store on the poor east side of Houston. After John’s death, J o e l O s t e e n succeeded his father. Under his leadership, Lakewood Church has grown into a multi-ethnic church with the largest attendance in the United States. His TV ministry reaches 10 million U.S. households each week.


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Defining your story and consistently telling it are essential for communicating your message in an information-saturated culture

Is the Church Losing Its

in a Media-Driven World? by phil cooke


y team at Cooke Pictures gets hired when a church, ministry or nonprofit organization is losing its voice. Perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation: Despite doing great work in the community—like building homeless shelters, drug treatment centers or food banks—your ministry still lives hand to mouth. Or, as a pastor who has had a genuine calling, you’ve built a great team, invested your life in the vision with powerful preaching, teaching or ministry, but the spark never happens; growth never takes off. Or it just suddenly stops. I see it happen all too often: media ministries that just can’t seem to grow beyond a local broadcast; churches that hit an attendance plateau; benevolent outreaches that can’t seem to break through a certain level of fundraising. In most cases, these efforts are led by qualified, sincere men and women, and almost all have a strong vision for excellence. They spend money on capital campaigns, media equipment, church-growth consultants, marketing, TV or radio time, advertising, social media campaigns and more, but they just seem trapped and unable to grow beyond a certain point. »

34 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Š istockphoto/scanrail

Telling Conflicting Stories

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A number of years ago, I was invited to the monthly creative and marketing meeting for one of the world’s largest media ministries. For some time, the leaders of the ministry had noticed that their TV viewers—although historically a large audience—had stopped growing. Once they began investigating, they discovered it was pretty much the same story throughout the entire ministry. Income had hit a plateau, resource sales were flat, TV response was slowing, and financial partnership with donors was almost nonexistent. When I was introduced to the ministry leader—a prominent religious figure—his first response was, “Well, I don’t know why you’re here. There’s nothing wrong with this organization.” The room got a bit icy, so I stood up and walked around. In a respectful tone, I replied, “I think you’re absolutely correct. Your program is well-produced, and your ministry has always been very popular. But the truth is, you’ve

“In a world of choices, defining your ministry and message gives your audience a quick understanding of who you and your church are—and where your focus lies.” suddenly hit a wall that no one seems to be able to explain.” I continued, “Before I came to this meeting, I spent time studying the different expressions of your ministry, and the first thing I noticed was that everything you do looks different from everything else.”

I pu lled out pict u res from the ministry website, the title card from the opening of the TV program, examples of the website design, a print ad, a brochure and his latest book and pointed out that they all looked like they came from five or six different organizations. There was no common look or theme to anything. Essentially, they were telling six different (and sometimes conflicting) stories about the ministry. The Noticeable Power of Unifying Your Story

When you look at the advertising from a major brand like Nike, Starbucks or Apple, everything they do— from bus stop ads to television to magazines—has a common look and style. From a hundred yards away, you can recognize a McDonald’s restaurant in the distance—whether you’re in Beijing, Mumbai, Cleveland or Moscow. These companies all carry the theme of the business across all media, which in turn strengthens the power of the

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company in the minds of the consumer. I got his attention. “So how do we fix that?” he asked. “Tell me who you are,” I replied. “We’re a teaching ministry that’s called to preach and teach the message of Jesus Christ.” “Be more specific,” I said. “What you’re saying is no different from what a million other churches and ministries out there are doing.” “OK, we’re called to television.” “Still no good.” I pushed him a bit. “The question isn’t, ‘What do you do?’ or, ‘How do you do it?’ The real question here is, ‘Who are you?’ ” I stopped for a second and said, “Let me put it this way: What do people think of when they think of you and, in turn, your ministry?” He had no a nswer. He’d never thought of it before.

the importance of godly worship in the church today. Bottom line, if you cut Jack, he bleeds worship. I rattled off a list of other names from the world of media ministry, both past and present, to illustrate my point. Whether or not you agree with their theology, to most people these leaders are known for a specific topic: ●

Billy Graham is the salvation guy.

May // June 2013 MinistryToday   37

Granted, you may consider this a crude way to look at it, but for millions of people, that’s exactly how they view


God’s Love shines Through our Trials and Grief

Define and Refine Your Overarching Story

Whatever good the abundance of ministry outlets brings to the world, it also brings confusion and clutter for people who are trying to make sense of it all. The ministry leader I was meeting with began to understand. “So how do audiences relate to people and ministries they see out there right now?” he asked. I encouraged him to consider ministries and how they’ve identified and branded themselves during the last 20 years. The most successful may teach on a wide variety of issues, but in most cases, they each have an overarching theme to their life and ministry. Until he retired from pastoral ministry a few years ago, my own pastor was Jack Hayford at The Church On The Way, in Van Nuys, Calif. As a pastor, Jack has been a brilliant teacher and spent decades preaching and teaching on an incredibly wide range of subjects in response to God’s calling. But despite that range and depth, I believe that Jack was and is motivated and driven by “worship.” He is endlessly fascinated with the subject, both as a pastor and as a musician. As a result, he has taught today’s church volumes on the issue. Many would say he’s the single greatest voice in the Christian community on

Rick Warren is the purpose guy. John Maxwell is the leadership guy. ● James Dobson is the family guy. ● Joel Osteen is the inspirational guy. ● Dave Ramsey is the financial guy. ● Joyce Meyer is about enjoying everyday life. ●

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these ministry personalities. In a world of choices, defining your ministry gives your audience handles they can easily grasp and allows them to have a quick understanding of who you and your church are—and where your focus lies. Why is this necessar y? Think of your brain as acting like a filter to help you sort through the growing flood of information surrounding us every day. In this environment, we need easy ways to help us get to the real information we need to make decisions about life. It’s about the story that surrounds who you are—a story that creates focus for your ministry. In short, it’s about your ministry “brand.” I ask you the same thing I asked that ministry leader in our creative meeting: What do people think of when they think of you and your church? A successful church, ministry or nonprofit organization happens at the intersection of a number of issues, not the least of which is calling, vision, ability,

“Jesus criticized the Pharisees for not recognizing the signs of the times, and yet 2,000 years later, many leaders are still just as blind.” commitment, resources, exposure, location and education. But, what happens when all those things fall into place and the spark still doesn’t happen—when a church with all the right ingredients still struggles; when a gifted pastor never reaches a larger audience; when a wonderful ministry can’t seem to break through a particular barrier? It could also happen to a church or ministry of any size that has been successful in the past, but like the pastor

in my creative meeting, suddenly and with no explanation, the ministr y stops getting results. In a media-driven culture—when even the best idea doesn’t have a clear and compelling story surrounding it—no amount of qualifications, resources, advertising or leadership can overcome the deficit. The media today is a digital cacophony of voices and images. To stand out in that ocean of choices ta kes more than excellent sermons, quality resources, professional programs and good intentions. It’s not about manipulation, but about helping people clearly understand who you are and how you can impact their lives. Connecting With a Culture That Changes at Light Speed

In today’s world, people establish a gut-level connection with a person based on their own values and perceptions long before they buy into the person’s message.

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May // June 2013 MinistryToday   39

Pharisees for not recognizing the signs of the times, and yet 2,000 years later, many leaders are still just as blind. Creating an effective brand story doesn’t mean being reactive to the culture; it means being responsive to the culture—recognizing the change and being there with the story that has transformed so many generations before us. Don’t give your congregation, your


donors or your audience what you think they want. Give them what they never dreamed possible. Excerpted and adapted with permission from Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media by Phil Cooke (Regal Publishers, 2012).


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Think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, you’ve sized him up long before he opens his mouth. When a consumer makes the initial connection—hear me when I say “initial”—it’s not about content; it’s about the brand. In that first moment, the values, story and sense of authenticity surrounding a leader or church are far more important than anything else. A media-driven culture changes the equation for ministry. Today, we operate our churches, ministries or nonprofit organizations in a 21st-century technological context. In our current digital culture, where a typical American deals with as many as 5,000 media messages a day, it doesn’t matter how great your message is if it can’t cut through the clutter and ultimately impact people’s lives. There’s no question that the Christian faith has been most effective when it has acted as salt and light. Operating on the margins of society, we’ve made a great contribution to the culture. And as I’ve said many times, it doesn’t take a scholar to note the remarkable and unparalleled contribution Christianity has made to the West throughout history. But in what most call a postmodern and post-Christian culture, we’re discovering that any power we thought we had during the last generation has created a backlash. Even though they acted with the best of intentions, Christian leaders of a generation ago who made Christianity a political force are now viewed by the culture as parodies and are often referred to in condescending and humorous terms. I’m not here to argue their accomplishments, but I am here to offer a better way to impact the culture for the future. If your story and brand are connecting to the audience and giving their lives meaning, then it will continue to sustain its impact and your ministry will grow. The truth is, change happens, and change is coming whether we like it or not; whether or not we bemoan modern advertising and marketing; whether we criticize those who are pioneering new ideas or turn our backs on new technology. Jesus criticized the

media // messaging // ministry

The Abbreviated Communication Your leader’s guide for helping people take their next step toward Christ—and to each other By Kem Meyer

“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.” —Matthew 10:16, MSG


ommunication is tricky— especially organizational communication. So many people are involved — on the inside and out. How do you communicate to help people take their next step toward Christ? How do you cover all of the following objectives that are often thought of as required elements for effective communication?

INSPIRATION: information that motivates people to action. ● OWNERSHIP: mission, vision and values across teams and locations. ● INCLUSION: a common vocabular y for diversified audiences. ● BALANCE: just enough, but not too much. ● LONGEVITY: not just the here and now, but for the ongoing future. These are loaded objectives, and we usually see two common responses to the challenges of meeting all five: Control everything or just give in to the free-for-all. Both approaches are counterproductive. At this point, things could get complex if we let it. But we won’t. Simple approaches do exist. The best way to get there is to start right with a few ●

© istockphoto/sydmsix

If you know the definition of a brand and you know your job description (see p. 42), you’re almost there. The last thing you need to check is your agenda. Fine tune it for maximum results. (You might want to meditate on what your goals should and should not be.)

Not this...

x  Publicize x  Control x  Promote x  Censor x  Capture x  Consistency

But this... ✔  Connect ✔  Cultivate ✔  Personalize ✔  Coach ✔  Liberate ✔  Cohesiveness

May // June 2013 MinistryToday   41

intact a nd understa ndable. Thin k brand handlers. 3) How does brand awareness grow? Brands need friends, or a sup-

“The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.”

port system, and again it comes back to people. Think brand advocates. A communications hub team collects, prioritizes and edits the essentials of the brand, providing to all the handlers what they need to connect with people and the world. The systems they create allow the brand to adapt and be used in different ways.

—Ps. 119:130, NLT

Kem Meyer

essentials and to stay right with the right filter. Start right with the right basics that apply to everyone.

A g roup of people w ith a clea r understanding of the defined win can effectively create great work— easily. When everyone on the team collaborates to g ive it form, decisions are made and materials come together readily. You, me—we are that group of people. But first we need to start with the same understanding of a key ingredient to our communication: the brand. 1) What is a brand? Given the right tools, a brand is like a person

with good communication and adaptation skills. A brand is not a veneer you apply to make something pretty. Instead, a brand begins to exist when you have something to offer the world. It is a promise of what to expect. Great brands are trustworthy experiences. Think Nike, Apple, Star Wars. 2) How is a brand created, developed and maintained? Brands are

created a nd developed by people with a shared philosophy. They shepherd the brand’s development, acting as the brand’s heart, head, eyes, hands, ears and voice. Everyone (and by that I mean everyone) who affects any brand touchpoint is responsible for ma k ing sure its va lues rema in

Let ’s review. Handle the brand with care. Don’t manhandle the brand. Got it? Good. It’s as if you just graduated from the fastest branding school in the universe. Move your tassel and advance to the next section. You have a new job description.

Now that you’ve graduated from brand school, it’s time to define your role as a brand handler. As promised, we’ll keep it simple. It a ll boils down to three basic mantras: Love them. Own them. Live them. Everything else will fall into place. Remember these brand handler characteristics: 1) Your job is much more about releasing the right response than it is about sending the right message. 2) You vow to reduce information obesity and simplify complexity. 3) Your commitment to effective

As individual departments operate as part of a larger family, here’s a sample filter you could use to help triage to what degree and how your church will promote something. High Emphasis   Everyone (audience)   Churchwide   Applies to 80% of the congregation

42 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Medium Emphasis   Many (audience)   Large venues and demographics   Applies to 50% of the congregation

Light Emphasis   Limited (audience)   Small   Targeted based on location, life stage or confidentiality



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communication comes from a level of self-awareness that is more of an attitude than a skill. It comes not from technique, but from being genuinely interested in what really matters to the other person. What are your values?

How we communicate with each other and our audience brings our values to life. By protecting these values, we’re able to help people take their next step toward Christ and each other. The win? To simplify everything our audience sees, to make their life easier and more rewarding in every interaction with our church and ministries.

Abide in these values like your own little personal quality control department: ● Clear. It’s not what you say; it’s

what people hear. Remove distractions to simplif y ever y th ing you r aud ience sees or touches to help them effortlessly connect with Jesus and others. Eliminate the fluff and get to the point. Answer the essential questions: who, what, when, where and how. Portable. Put the mission within reach for everyone. Make it shorter, visual, specific, scannable, searchable and categorical. ●

All Access. Easy to find. Easy to use. Easy to share. We use universal language and avoid insider jargon (and acronyms). We focus on the needs of our guests, not the needs of our ministries. ●

Well Done. If it’s worth communicating, it’s worth getting it right. When you’re tr ying to enhance the experience and harness the power of a message, every detail and touchpoint matters, up front and behind the scenes. ●

Guide. We use communications not as a final destination, but as an effective vehicle that helps people find their way from A to B. We treat our deliverables as way-finding tools that help people navigate their way to what’s next in the process, not everything at once. We draw people into the content we have to offer—allowing them to absorb a nd seek on their own terms. ●

Whole. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are a unified church working toward one common vision we all own, not a federation of sub-ministries working for our own agenda and goals. We don’t strive to be fair, but rather appropriate based on scope. ●

  What do I want to happen as a result of this communication?   Who is my audience? Am I tailoring this content for them? Am I answering the questions they would ask?


Have I answered who, what, when, where and how? Have I answered this question for my audience: “What’s in it for me?” Have I asked someone to proof this for accuracy and context? Would someone who is new to our church be able to understand the words

and names I’ve used?

  How will people use this message? Does my communication fit the context of where and how people will read and experience the material?

  Is it easy for people to take action on this information? Are there too many options that make it hard to find?

  Is the most important information at the front?   What’s redundant or unnecessary? What can I cut?   What is the essential contact information needed to move people to action? Does my communication include it?

44 MinistryToday May // June 2013

I hope this little guide has helped you tap into a fresh perspective, an encouraging nudge, a few “aha” moments and some uncomplicated strategies that make a noticeable difference in your church’s internal and external communication. Take advantage of all the tools you have here. Believe it or not, every form of your communication can be better, and your life will be easier. No, seriously. It will. K e m M e y e r is the communications director at Granger Community Church and author of Less Clutter. Less Noise.: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales. You can find a full version of Granger’s Communication Playbook, as well as information about Meyer’s communication workshops and coaching networks, at She blogs at

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media // messaging // ministry

Hollywood film producer Ralph Winter shares invaluable insights for storytelling that impacts an audience

The of





Ralph Winter stands on the set of X-Men, the first of four films he’s produced in the blockbuster series

By Ralph Winter

W i n t e r is among a rare (and elite) group of film professionals who have produced some of the largest budget movies in Hollywood history. With a résumé that includes the Star Trek, X-Men and Fantastic Four feature-film series, along with I, Robot, Planet of the Apes and many others, his movies have grossed more than $2 billion at the box office. The bottom line: Ralph Winter knows how to tell a story. » alph

May // June 2013 MinistryToday   47

For this issue, we asked Winter, a longtime Christian who spends as much time mentoring a new generation of Hollywood professionals as he does on a movie set, to sit down with us and share his principles for storytelling that impacts an audience. The gospel is the greatest story ever told, and as leaders we have a responsibility to tell it in a way that resonates with people as they hear God’s story of rescue, redemption and restoration of His creation. Here, Winter unpack s for pastors what makes a good story—and good storyteller—in the 21st century: It’s all about the story, especially the way we tell the story. It’s how we engage the audience, and in my business, how we get the audience to tell their friends. Pastors, sound familiar? Storytelling is what makes us human. The ancients sat around a fire and told

“Perhaps the most important thing we can remember is that great stories are not about providing answers, but about asking the right questions.” stories that captivated their audiences— events of the day, stories of adventure, of conquests, of losses, stories about laughter and fear. Today, we tell or tease stories in 140 characters on Twitter. We tell a story with one image on Instagram. Advertisers try to persuade you, financial institutions pitch you, musicians craft a narrative of their feelings, charities

tell you of moving, emotional stories of pain and need, the courtroom builds a case and a storyline—it goes on and on in our culture. Everyone is trying to tell you a story. Everyone has a “narrative,” and those stories are all competing for the hearts and minds of the public. Much of the power of storytelling is contained in the structure—or how the story is told. Today, everyone sits around a digital campfire telling stories, trying to get their point across and connect with their audience. There are conventions, particularly in our Western culture, that the audience is accustomed or conditioned to. There are certain formats, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes breaking those conventions can work as well, but generally, stories follow a well-worn arrangement. Storytelling within a movie allows for a complex and nuanced narrative and can develop an idea or point of view over two hours. It involves experiences, actions and relationships that have many layers. And all of these layers interact with each other. There is an ongoing struggle in the movie like there is in real life, and those encounters and conflicts interplay with our mind as the audience works it out. Movies can go further and deeper with a character and his or her journey through the story. You learn more about what they value, what they question, what they believe and how they will act on those beliefs, just like those stories around the campfire. 48 MinistryToday May // June 2013

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You can isolate what we would call a scene or incident within a movie; in other words, something that captures the moment and propels the story forward. As a pastor or teacher, you don’t have two hours, and probably feel the pressure to make every sermon a TED talk—less than 18 minutes with lots of visuals. The key is to isolate a moment, perhaps somet h ing from your own life (that your listeners will benefit from hearing), that propels your story for wa rd. Remember that action is the key (even in the most romantic stories). In the same way, your congregation is expecting you to take them on a journey. T he g reat stor ies a nd encounters in the Bible do this in a powerful way. The chronicles of King David’s life and his actions show us what he believes. The text weaves a clever narrative when the prophet Nathan confronts David with a great sin within his kingdom and then shows him, by David’s own outrage, how he should view his failure and adultery.

“As storytellers, we give the audience 2+2 and let them figure out the answer along the way.”

Within these great stories, our main character or “hero” learns a deep truth about himself that changes the trajectory of his life. And isn’t that exactly what we aim for in the church? A self-revelation that is learned and transforms us from within, through the power of Christ? Earlier in his life, when he battles with Goliath, David unexpectedly rejects the normal body armor and time-tested rules of engagement and declares his allegiance to the God of Israel, and then believes God for the outcome. And in a period of history where the normal battle strategy was to approach each other slowly and then swipe away in hand-to-hand combat, the text says David actually runs at Goliath—shocking enough for Goliath and probably making him a bit easier to hit with a smooth stone. 50 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Sometimes in simply telling the s tor y, poin t ing ou t the details we might have missed brings renewed understanding and new power to what our hero learns about himself—and God. And then we’re able to work it out in the next adventure. I have no doubt that later in his career, David, while negotiating treaties with rival kingdoms, kept Goliath’s enormous sword on display—not just to intimidate, but to remind himself of what God did that day. Ultimately it was about God’s power, not his; and isn’t that the intended lesson we strive to get across on Sundays? These repeated self-revelations of David shaped the greatest king of Israel, and defined the character of a man who was after God’s own heart. By the way, these moments in stories—where the main character discovers something about himself that he didn’t know at the beginning of his journey—are usually emotion-filled moments. They have been for me. When I am confronted with my own failure or how much I’ve disappointed

someone I love, it hits me like a freight train and slams me back. It is sobering and emotional. In your messages, does that emotion stop your congregation in their tracks? Does it compel and force them to confront their own failure? In other words, is how you tell the story powerful and compelling? Great stories ask great big questions that the heroes struggle with on their journey. For me in producing the movie X-Men, the questions were developed in the comics, but we worked hard to bring them to life in the movie. Questions such as: How do I fit in with everyone else? Should I fit in with the crowd? Or should I stand apart? Essentially, is there a place for me? These are timeless and profound questions that apply to all of us, from 14 year olds to retirees. Perhaps the most important thing we can remember is that great stories are not about providing answers, but about asking the right questions. Jesus was a

master at answering a question with a question. He understood that the most powerful way to connect with people was by allowing them to discover the answer. In the last 2,000 years, that hasn’t changed. Today in movie theaters across America, the audience still wants to figure it out. They want to be part of the process. Our best movies don’t give easy answers; they give the audience the formula or a roadmap to discover the answers for themselves. As storytellers, we give them 2+2 and let the audience figure out the answer along the way.

May // June 2013 MinistryToday   51

A cAll for the AfricAn AmericAn church to support


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Pastors need to help their churches recognize lifechanging stories, says producer Ralph Winter

Ultimately my goal as a movie producer—and your goal in sharing the gospel—is to make your point stick in the audience’s mind. My friend, respected researcher George Barna, says that just two hours after a sermon, most people can’t remember the theme of the message they just heard. But years after seeing a movie, the audience can quote dialogue verbatim. When you have to process the question yourself, work at understanding the formula, and make an emotional connection, the message has a much better chance of sticking. In my opinion, the film that should have won this year’s Oscar for Best Film is Les Miserables. Early in the movie (and the book), the confrontation of the bishop with former prisoner, Jean Valjean, is a classic and has been told and retold for 150 years since Victor Hugo wrote the original novel. The bishop forgives him for stealing from him, loves, protects, challenges and sends Jean Valjean on the greatest journey of his life. And very simply, the words of Va ljea n’s response show the gospel in action. Pastors, tell that story; use a video clip if necessary. Les Miserables is a timeless story t hat ha s capt u red what forgiveness and redempt ion rea l ly look like and mean, and is a clear sign post to what Christ has done for us. As storytellers of the greatest story, we need to help our congregation recognize these kinds of compelling and life-changing stories in the culture today. We need to embrace the way stories are told and develop the moments that ignite their thought processes and emotions. In many ways, you as a pastor and me as a movie producer are no different. We need to be interpreters and ambassadors for great and life-changing stories. And along the way, perhaps we can show the church how the gospel is truly at work in the world.

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Ministry Life: c u lt u r e

By Jonathan Bock

See a Movie, Change the World Simple ways your church can impact Hollywood

Much of our failure with Hollywood is due to a severe lack of relationship. We demand changes, issue threats and dismiss a whole industry as evil, all without ever trying to build any trust or friendship. It’s like a stranger telling you you’re fat and demanding that you go on a diet. They might be right, but how would you feel? Grace Hill Media, the company I founded 13 years ago—it wasn’t even a company then, just me—has been trying to change that one project at a time. We’ve worked on more than 350 movie and TV projects now, including Les Misérables, The Hobbit, The Blind Side, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Bible series, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Walk the Line, Man of Steel and 42, to name a few. Our goal is to extract spiritual lessons from secular films, highlighting for the faith community entertainment that shares in our beliefs, explores our values and enhances and elevates our view of the world. But it’s time for a grander vision for the world’s 2.2 billion 52 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Christians to change the future by looking to our past. There was a time when the Church was a patron of the arts, where we worked in concert with the great artists to create timeless, transcendent beauty. We wanted great art, and we were willing to pay the best artists to make it. I dare you to walk in St. Peter’s Basilica and not be awestruck. Or stand in front of Michelangelo’s Pietà and not be moved by the sacrifice of Mary. I dare you to visit Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” fresco at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and not be lured in by the startled reactions of the disciples when Jesus announces that one of them would betray Him. But the definition of “patron of the arts” has changed over five centuries. No longer a rich aristocrat, a “patron” today is the audience, the ticket-buying consumer. And that’s how we can forever alter the cultural landscape. Christians are a huge demographic in this country and around the world. If only a tiny percentage of us decides to act in unison, we can make any project we want a hit—any time we want. We can turn the game of Hollywood on its ear by making ourselves a desirable, bankable audience. If we support movies that spotlight and reinforce our biblical values—as we did with the excellent, Oscar-winning Les Misérables—Hollywood will make more. That’s how the industry works; it chases money and momentum. In fact, already in the pipeline are projects like Noah, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and a retelling of the story of Moses being developed by Steven Spielberg. And there are countless others in development: Paradise Lost, Pilate with Brad Pitt, Cain and Abel with Will Smith. The list goes on and on. Each time one of these projects gets made, it also gets marketed with tens of millions of dollars, both domestically and internationally. That’s a free global advertising campaign for our faith. That means the Bible becomes a staple in pop culture. The gospel gets preached worldwide. When that happens, we’re looking at another Renaissance. And isn’t that a lot more appealing, and eternally significant, than another boycott? J o n a t h a n B o c k is the president of Grace Hill Media and the founder of

MinistryResource The website features numerous resources for using the power of film to drive home a message, including sermon illustrations from movies, free movie clips for sermons, small group Bible studies, and movie reviews.

© istockphoto/Deklofenak


s a Christian who works in Hollywood, nothing frustrates me more than seeing the vast chasm separating those two worlds from each other. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. For too many generations, we who claim the name and the cause of Christ have ceded pop culture to others, walking away years ago in a well-intentioned but ultimately selfdefeating attempt to lodge our displeasure. We have all too often allowed ourselves to get involved in harebrained, quixotic efforts (boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, etc.) that have amounted to little more than making us look like a bunch of whiney chumps.

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Ministry Life: M U LT I - E T H N I C


Today’s Invisible Church

By Scot t Hagan

Do you and your church have a multi-ethnic vision? Change by Example

For churches to brea k the color barrier, we as leaders of the church must model our own personal necessity for multi-ethnic friendships. Otherwise, our congregations will see our attempts as mere token experiments to grow a struggling church. Unless the Holy Spirit is allowed to perform a personal miracle of love

A Miracle of the Heart

What we’ve learned since then is that breaking the ethnicity barrier first requires a “miracle of the heart”—an inner awakening that changes your core attitude and thinking about yourself and those who are culturally different. In the early church, Peter and Cornelius were the first to experience this miracle of the heart (see Acts 10:3411:18). It had been 10 years since the day of Pentecost, yet the church was still oddly exclusive. Having never captured that spirit of Jesus which made “whosoever will” feel as though they “belonged,” the church after 10 years primarily was all about converting Jews and few others. But the Holy Spirit revealed to these two men that something was desperately missing in their lives and in the church. The chasm between the Jew and the Gentile needed healing, and it needed to happen now. 54 MinistryToday May // June 2013

in your heart, then both you and your church will be pulled back toward your comfort zones of including only people just like you. Even after the miracle of the heart that occurred in the house of Cornelius, many in the church went right back to their comfort zones. Today, many of our churches are doing the same, convinced they’re best equipped to reach only people like them. Thankfully, some in the church recognized the need: “But some of them ... spoke to the Hellenists [or Greeks], preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). Like the early church, every newly planted church in America today must have a strong sense about its multiethnic mission or it will remain unnoticed by its community. Those pastors

and leaders who press in and develop strong, healthy multi-ethnic ministries will be the leaders and influencers of this generation. The Road Through Samaria

Because I now seek to experience God’s completeness for the church, I want next-door neighbors and working relationships with friends of diverse ethnicities. Without those kinds of relationships in my life, I would again feel incomplete, a condition that for me is now totally unacceptable. As long as we remain insensitive and obstinate in our denial and continue to walk “around” Samaria instead of being like Jesus who wa lked “throug h” Samaria (John 4:1-26), then nothing will change. Because they avoided Samaria, it took the Jews three extra days on foot to get from Judea to Galilee. Jesus would have had to go out of His way to not reach the Samaritan woman. It took more effort to avoid than to love. By connecting, He gave her—a nd her cit y—a renewed dignity because He carefully chose His road. And that road is still the one worth traveling.  S c o t t H a g a n is a church planter at heart, having planted several churches, including the one he and his wife, Karen, currently lead in Sacramento, Calif. He is a regular columnist for Charisma and Enrichment Journal and author of They Walked With the Savior and They Felt the Spirit’s Touch.

MinistryResource Mark DeYmaz’s Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church offers a biblical mandate for the multi-ethnic church, as well as seven core commitments required to bring it about.

© istockphoto/Yuri_Arcurs


n 1990 my wife, Karen, and I began an endeavor that would forever change our lives. What began as a church plant became a radical reordering of our personal priorities and approach to ministry. We became painfully aware during our early days as church-planting pastors that we were far off course from God’s heart toward people of different ethnicity than us. We slowly realized our ignora nce of the da ily issues that affected people of color. We also became aware that our day-today lives were void of any genuine friendships with non-whites. We, of course, “loved everybody.” The problem was you couldn’t tell it by our lifestyle or relationships. I began to ask, “Why don’t our churches look like heaven?” Out of that question rose a powerful new quest in our lives.


SCHOOL OF KINGDOM MINISTRY in honor of Jack Taylor

Ministry Leadership: P e r s o n a l

ch a r ac ter By Robert Crosby

David’s Mirror

The fruit of a king’s distracted thoughts—and what it means for your leadership today


ave you ever thought about the fateful night, this time the king wasn’t son’s victims (2 Sam. 13:10-15). His sin fact that the biggest giant David meditating on God’s Word, as was his affected and horridly infected his family ever faced was not on the battle- frequent practice: “My eyes stay open (Num. 14:18). ● David apparently became yet field but actually the one in the mirror? through the watches of the night, that In an idle, unguarded moment, the “man I may meditate on your promises” (Ps. a not her d isi nterested fat her a nd after God’s own heart” left his spiritual 119:148). No, this night was different. Absalom, his son, a murderer (2 Sam. mindset to pursue “forbidden fruit”–if David was different. 13:23-29). ● Absalom turned on his but for a f leeting moment. That’s all it took. The luster of indifferent father and sought to his kingdom would be forever steal his throne and destroy him tarnished. David’s biographers (2 Sam. 15). ● David f led his throne have used different phrases to describe the consequences of in fear for his life (2 Sam. the king’s fatal attraction to 15:13-37). ● Absalom was tragically Bathsheba: ● Charles Gulston observes, killed (2 Sam. 18:1-18). ● David’s son, Solomon, mul“he fell a great distance.” ● F.B. Meyer considered it tiplied his father’s sexual sins. “the sin of his life.” You a nd I ca n’t look in ● Chuck Swindoll called it David’s mirror today as leaders, “the most distressing episode in but we can look closer into our David’s life.” own. David was about 50 years old The 19th-century Scottish and had been king for approxipastor and Bible character mately two decades when he biographer, Alexander Whyte, fell. This king, poet, musician R o b e r t C r o s b y is an author, speaker and team develop- offers this challenge: and warrior possessed many ment specialist. He serves as professor of Practical Theology at “When you become a man godly characteristics, but on Southeastern University and is a columnist at in the books you read, and in the horizon of his life lurked Crosby writes for Christianity Today and several other publica- the matters of your own heart; a little fox poised to ruin the tions. He has a new book coming out this fall called The Team- and especially in the superlavine: “In the spring, at the time ing Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration. tive deceitfulness and desperwhen kings go off to war, David ate wickedness of your own What was going through his mind? heart, you will stop all your childish sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. ... But David Was David’s masculinity in question? exclamations over David, and will say remained in Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 11:1, Was he wrestling with getting older? to yourself, I myself am David; I myself Was he regretting that there were few am that self-deceiving man. ... NIV). Seems strange, doesn’t it? That at enemies left to conquer? Maybe he just “Self, that utterly ungodly, diabolical, inhuman, inconceivably wicked, “the time when kings go off to war,” did not feel like worshiping God. The consequences of this sin of a nd detestable t h ing t hat wa s so David “remained in Jerusalem.” Had David’s were astounding and worth strong in David and is so strong in you he taken a closer look in the mirror, David may have seen that he made two remembering: and in me. He who watches the work● David was rebuked to his face by the catastrophic mistakes that set him up ings of self in his own mind and heart, for his fall: he will not be (prone) to throw a stone prophet Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-14). ● David’s relationship with God was Mistake No. 1: He pulled back at David. He will not be surprised at from the battle. apparently shallowed (2 Sam. 12:15-23). anything he reads about David or any Mistake No. 2: He traded challenge He seemed to lose much of his “heart other man.” for comfort. for God.” God, keep us as leaders looking hon● David’s son, Amnon, became a rapRising from his bed and walking estly into our own mirrors and passionaround on the roof of his palace that ist and his daughter, Tamar, one of his ately toward Your face.

56 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Ministry Leadership: a d v e r s i t y

By K im Dor r-T il l e y

Leadership Lessons From Hollywood

A talent agent and pastor shares insights for the difficult times of ministry

“From this place of obedience, my identity was not based on how I felt or how the world measures success, but on earnestly knowing myself before God.” time. In short, God found me, claimed me, saved me—and then asked me to become a talent agent. Through the hardknock years of this profession, I’ve learned some lessons that have played dual roles in my life as a Hollywood talent agent and an associate pastor. The plans God has for us and our ministry usually don’t align with our desires. I had been a casting director, a buyer of talent, for about nine years when God revealed His vocational plans for me. To say the least, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this call. Buying talent is much different than selling talent. Buyers get to say “no” and slam the door. Sellers live in constant humility, often mindful of the seeming futility 58 MinistryToday May // June 2013

of their efforts. Such was the path to which God called me and thus prepared me in unexpected ways for ministry. The harvest of humility is authenticity. It doesn’t take long in sales before you can feel as if dignity has been crushed out of you like juice from an orange. After all, it was Willie Loman who said, “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away; a man is not a piece of fruit” (Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, Act 2). That’s one of the first things I encountered when I became a talent agent—feeling like a thrown-away peel. I poured my energy, my resources and relationships into developing careers for actors only to have the success of that endeavor result in that actor rejecting me to move to a larger, more powerful agency. After one too many times of saying to myself, I can’t take this anymore—what’s the point?, I had to ask myself if I was OK with being humbled if it was the Lord’s will. The answer was “yes.” Paul’s words in Philippians 2:8 (“He humbled himself and became obedient”) deeply resonated with me. Beyond the humility and the exhaustion were the authenticity and integrity of knowing that whatever small “suffering” I encountered in this profession meant nothing as long as I knew I was where God asked me to be. From this place of obedience, my identity was not based on how I felt or how the world measures success, but on earnestly knowing myself before God. The futility of our efforts is God’s greatest glory. We can work ourselves to death sometimes—just burn out. I think the only place it might happen more often than sales is in ministry. As a talent agent, I invest in people whom I believe have potential. This cosmic roulette wheel might seem like a great game of chance. But I know it is the place of divine mystery—a place of celebrated miracles and dedicated perseverance. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that our efforts are futile. Know this: When you invest in people, something will come of it. After a few years of being a talent agent, God called me to ordained ministry. And while I thought that surely He would phase out the talent agent to usher in the minister, I’ve found that He has retained and nurtured both in me. One informs the other. He’s given me a ministry in two worlds that somehow I know He intends to make one. I serve Him in the secular and the sacred. There is, to be sure, a holy calling in both. K i m D o r r - T i l l e y serves as associate pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles and is co-owner of Defining Artists Talent Agency.

© istockphoto/adventtr


’ve been in the business of buying and selling talent (a nice way of saying “actors”) for about 30 years now. When I came to Hollywood in 1984, I was blissfully ignorant to the structures of power and fear that are so often the foundations of the entertainment industry. I was also blind to the fact that God loved me and had a plan for my life in Jesus Christ. All these things would be revealed in

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Ministry Leadership:

c o m m u n i c at i o n

By K yle Searcy

Pastor in the Cockpit

The non-negotiables of navigating and landing a unified leadership team

60 MinistryToday May // June 2013

causing a much more turbulent flight than any of us wanted to experience. I realized I had to do more than fly. I had to effectively communicate with the crew!

out one person to receive credit or blame. I find that if I frequently and honestly share what is and isn’t working, leaders become “less touchy.” Also, if they feel like they have a safety net underneath them rather than fearing someone will tea r down their character and efforts, they will want and value my evaluation. Clarity: W here a re we? How fa r along the journey are we toward our goals? Are we on track? Will we even be able to reach our goals? Communicate the answers to these questions with specific examples of the next steps to take.

K y l e S e a r c y has a passion for developing a new generation of leaders. He serves as senior pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Ala., and Norcross, Ga. Learn more at

Below are three proven ways you can regularly communicate with your leadership. Staff members, elders and ministry leaders may need specific information modified for their roles, but to unite the leadership team under one purpose and mission, each team member should consistently hear from you in these areas: Authent ic feedback: How a re we doing? Our team learns a great deal from our victories, defeats and struggles along the way. We must communicate with leaders openly about our journey. This process becomes most useful as people own the victories and defeats as a team instead of singling

Vision: Where we are going? The vision must remain pure and emphatic in all you do. I help my team to look beyond the intricacies of ministry activity and see the big picture. I try hard to paint a picture that evokes a clear image. Keep vision casting simple, but be creative with it. Have your team share the vision back to you in their own words or break them into small groups to brainstorm how to share the vision in the most creative way. Taking time to help the team catch and embody the vision enlarges the vision beyond my inability to be omnipresent! Landing your church or ministry on a united mission will require effective delegation and communication. As the senior leader of your church—and the vision—aviate and navigate, but by all means, don’t forget to communicate.

MinistryResource In The Secrets of Biblical Wisdom: Unleashing the Power of Heavenly Insight in Your Life, Kyle Searcy shares the secrets to unlocking the power of wisdom to help solve the majority of problems in our lives.

Imagine Photography


bout 20 years ago, you might have seen me with a cape and a huge “S” on my chest that stood for “Superpastor!” Well, maybe not literally, but you might have wondered if I thought I could run meetings faster than a speeding bullet, preach more powerfully than a locomotive and leap ministry issues with a single bound. You probably know the routine: Our church had plateaued at a few hundred people, and I was the reason. I did almost everything: counseling, coordinating, leadership of all meetings, etc. If our church was to change, I needed to change. Since I have my pilot’s license, God used that to teach me my primary role in the church. Simply put, He focused my attention on three aspects of flying: 1) communication with the controller; 2) navigation of the plane; and 3) speed and altitude. Similarly, as a pastor, I needed to 1) keep in touch with “the controller” through prayer and study; 2) prayerfully and creatively navigate our direction through the grid of the church’s vision; and 3) strategically determine the pace and spiritual altitude of the congregation. As God gave me this parable, I was immediately cured of “hero-itis.” I identified leaders to take on some of my responsibilities and gave each person clear guidelines for proper decision-making. Once the tea m was developed, I thought flying the church forward would be easy. Within months, however, we began to take a nosedive. Eventually, I discovered a huge disconnect between the church’s key leadership and myself. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see what I saw. Then I realized they didn’t have my vantage point. My cockpit view and f light instruments gave me clarity on where we were and where we were going. But my team did not have the same insight,

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Ministry Outreach:

communit y eng agement By Kristen Tarsiuk

Everything Communicates

Three proven keys to engaging your community


verything communicates. What people experience in your church has the power to propel them toward Christ or push them away. What we do matters, and doing it well is essential. From your website to the parking lot signage, more than likely your first-time guests have gotten an earful before they’ve even heard the first word of your sermon. Here are a few time-tested proven how-tos for engaging your community:

2. Provide a great experience. Let’s say God has called you to reach young families. How can you provide them a great experience when they just had to get two children under the age of 3 ready, in the car and through your doors by 9 a.m.? Save them a spot. Have reserved parking closer to your building for young families and pregnant moms. ●

Have friendly and knowledgeable volunteers waiting to help escort families to the kid’s area, answering their questions along the way. ●

Let the new mom (who is about to hand over her pride and joy to complete strangers) know that you care about what she cares about. Post signage about wellness policies, use of non-toxic cleaners and healthy snacks. ●

Use every opportunity to communicate value and care to the people God has called you to reach. People are your most effective communication channels.

62 MinistryToday May // June 2013

K r i s t e n T a r s i u k serves as the director of communications at Oasis Church in Los Angeles. She shares her passion for building the local church at and on Twitter @KristenTarsiuk.

MinistryResource Drawing on wisdom from 60-plus leading experts in church communication, Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication, edited by Tim Schraeder, shares how the church can leverage new media to effectively connect people with the gospel.

© istockphoto/Photomorphic

1. Know whom God has called your church to reach. In marketing, we call this our target audience. Companies spend millions of dollars researching the behavior and needs of their target audience. Everything is built around them: the product, the price, the promotion and the distribution. Become great at knowing whom God has uniquely equipped and anointed you to reach. This information will help guide you and your team as you develop effective ministries and communications that reflect your heart and vision. While on Earth, Jesus had a target audience: the Jewish community. Paul had one, too: the Gentiles. If you’re not sure who your target is, look at your circle of influence and see whom you attract naturally. At first glance, you might think you reach all types of people but take the time to find the common denominators. When defining your God-ordained target audience, be specific. Are they married or single? Are they aged 18-25 or 35-45? Churched, unchurched or non-believers? Do they have kids, and if so how old? Defining your target forces you to ask the question, “Are we effectively engaging the people God has called us to reach?”

3. Join the conversation. Today’s culture loves to share their experience. They tweet where they’re going to eat, “check in” on Facebook, instagram their meal and then write a review about the restaurant on Yelp. One of the top referrers to our website is Users rate their experience (1-5 stars) and write a review. People now review churches like they do restaurants. The brutally honest reviews provide opportunities to improve. Good or bad, people will share their experience. Make every effort to join in the conversation. If reviews of your church say it was hard to find your building, respond and improve your signage. If someone tweets it is their first time at your church, offer to meet them in the lobby. Having a Twitter account or Facebook page is not the key to effective communications. However, it is a great way to connect with people, engage your community and let them know you’re listening.


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Ministry Outreach:

fa c i l i t i e s

By Jack Graham

The Excellence He Deserves

Why and how to assess first-time guests’ experience at your church


xcellence in all things and all them to make this church their home. It bushes overgrown and unkempt? Is the carpet frayed and stained? Are the wasn’t opulent, but it was excellent. things to the glory of God. At Prestonwood Bapt ist We’ve learned that excellence starts walls dingy? Do paintings hang crookChurch, you’ll hear this phrase often. long before someone gets to one of edly? When someone walks through Everyone on our ministry team and our worship services, beginning with the doors, what do they see first? What staff take it to heart because it isn’t just the church website. No doubt, this is a do they smell? what we do; it’s who we are. We serve a mighty God who deserves The Worship Experience all of us and the best of us. Beyond the website and buildHis very name is described as ing, evaluate your worship expeexcellent in Scripture: “O Lord, rience. Train volunteers to greet our Lord, how excellent is Your every guest and help direct them. name in all the earth” (Ps. 8:1). As people enter the sanctuary or And in Isaiah 12:5, the prophet worship area, make Bibles and calls salvation “excellent”: “Sing to pens readily available for anyone the Lord, for He has done excelwho may not have a Bible. The worlent things.” ship guide or bulletin should be So from janitorial to ministewell written and error-free. Durrial, we strive for excellence. In ing the service, make the lyrics for ministry, just as in life, there must worship songs easy to read on the be a commitment—to rise above screens, and provide notes on the the mediocre, to ascend above the screens that complement the mesaverage, to soar like eagles. We can sage so that first-time guests can flock and honk like geese through easily follow the teaching. life, or we can soar like the royal Our mission at Prestonwood eagle in the heavens. is “to glorify God by introducing J a c k G r a h a m is pastor of the 32,000-member Jesus Christ as Lord to as many Prestonwood Baptist Church, with campuses in Plano, people as possible and to develop C r e a t i n g a C o m p e l l i n g Dallas and Prosper, Texas. He also is the voice of Guest Experience them in Christian living using the PowerPoint Ministries, the church’s international radio most effective means to impact the To us, excellence in all things is and TV ministry known worldwide. Follow him on world, making a positive differabout paying attention to detail. Twitter @jackngraham. ence in this generation.” The little things mean a great deal. media-savvy world, and it’s our responThe most effective means for us From the moment visitors arrive at your sibility to engage the culture and comincludes ever y thing ava ilable that church building until they leave, do municate effectively. Is your website will help support and strengthen our they experience excellence? Is there a reader-friendly? Do you keep people church as we share the love of Christ winsome feel to your church and worengaged through Facebook, Twitter or ship services? I don’t want anything and proclaim the message of salvation about the worship experience to take other social media? to a lost and hurting world. As His From your website to your parking church, we should proclaim Him with away from the mission of the church, lot, excellence should be a value for the excellence He so richly deserves. which is to proclaim the gospel. When we started our North Cam- you, your staff and your church. MinistryResource Try this exercise with your team: Ask pus, we met in a high school. Our them to spend the week visiting the church members took great pride in In Culture Wise, Jack Graham equips the “set up and tear down” that helped church website and looking around readers to navigate seven prickly transform a school into a warm and church grounds. Then get together and cultural issues—such as same-sex engaging service each Sunday. We did discuss these questions: Was it easy marriage, abortion and capital little things such as placing signage to find service times and direction on punishment—with grace throug hout the school welcoming the website? Does your church parking and compassion. people to Prestonwood and inviting lot have potholes? Are the trees and

64 MinistryToday May // June 2013

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p a s t o r ’ s

h e a r t

By Ron Carpenter

Communication Awakenings

Are you thinking more about your message than the people who are hearing it?


he had all the answers. But once he arrived there, he “sat among them for seven days— deeply distressed” (v. 15, NIV). He began to get a heart for those to whom God had sent Him. Have you studied your audience? Are you acquainted with their needs, hurts and passions? To be relevant to people, we must care about them. This is the key to relevancy.

“Have you studied your audience? Are you acquainted with the needs, hurts and passions of your congregation and community?”

Communicating a relevant message requires me knowing and caring about my audience. I think back to Ezekiel and his charge from God to communicate His Word to the exiles at Tel Aviv. Scripture says he went to them “in the heat of my spirit” (Ezek. 3:14, NKJV). In other words, Ezekiel thought

MinistryResource God intended for every enemy to be your footstool for promotion. In his recent book, The Necessity of an Enemy, Ron Carpenter offers this insight and numerous others for finding meaning and purpose in all of life’s trials. 66 MinistryToday May // June 2013

Communicating a relevant message requires me thinking about everyone who’s listening. I had the honor of speaking at Ed Young Jr.’s C3 Conference this year, where Ed talked about the “three chairs” we as pastors must keep in mind. The first chair, he said, is occupied by the visitor who has no knowledge of the gospel. The second chair is occupied by the new believer. The third chair seats the seasoned Christian. We must prepare our messages in such a way that we keep all three chairs in the front of our minds.

Communicating a relevant message requires transparency. Recently, I stood in the pulpit with tears running down my face and spoke honestly of our family’s struggle with our oldest son’s drug addiction. Afterward, thousands of teenagers responded to the altar call and accepted Jesus as their Savior. And we heard from many parents who, feeling like failures because of their children’s lifestyle decisions, were freed of guilt. It was one of the most transparent days of my life. I gave my congregation insight into my real pain. “Getting real” allows us to become touchable and makes our faith more authentic. No one living in our culture today would argue that this is a different day. People are bombarded with information. But when it comes down to it, communicating a relevant message reflects our heart for God and for people. May we always have a heart that thinks first about those we’re teaching and allow that to shape how we communicate an eternity-altering story.

R o n C a r p e n t e r is senior pastor at Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C. Connect at

Stephen Boatright

ecently, I’ve been “reinventing” myself and re-evaluating my methods after 22 years of pastoring the same church. I come from a deep heritage of Pentecostal preachers, where fiery, Holy Ghost, sweat-filled sermons are the cure-all. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible makes it clear in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (NASB). But is the gospel really communicated only through me? And does effective communication rely only on my preparation and my delivery? Not long ago, I was challenged on this by a very successful pastor who attended one of our services. He told me, “You muscle everything! Everything that has to be communicated, you communicate by yourself, in the pulpit, with no support.” He said that at his church, the messages are communicated by everyone from staff to parking lot attendants and by multiple vehicles such as T-shirts (on the parking attendants), video screens and banners. His insights really opened my eyes, and I immediately began reallocating funds to staff these areas of support. Since then, I’ve discovered some key principles for effective communication, which center less on me and more on the people I’m teaching. Here’s what I’ve learned about driving home a relevant message:


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Ministry Today May/June 2013  

Serving rising leaders within the church by empowering them with effective tools for Spirit-led ministry. Guest Editor: Phil Cooke, a media...

Ministry Today May/June 2013  

Serving rising leaders within the church by empowering them with effective tools for Spirit-led ministry. Guest Editor: Phil Cooke, a media...