It’s Catching

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Eddie Perez was an incredible ballplayer. He could hit a single to advance runners or hit grand slams to clear the bases. More impressive than his hitting, though, was his catching. He was the NLCS MVP in 1999. Greg Maddux was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, and Perez caught more games for Maddux than any other catcher. His catching allowed Maddux to consistently post low ERAs. In September of 1995, when Eddie was called up to the big leagues, catchers O’Brien and Lopez and coach Pat Corrales told him, “This guy [Maddux] is smart. Whatever he wants to do, let him do it.” Eddie listened, and about forty days later, he was the owner of a World Series Championship ring. He was behind the plate learning from Maddux for 121 career games. He knelt behind home plate for ten years in the majors, supporting Hall of Fame pitchers and throwing out Hall of Fame opposing team runners.

Before a recent Atlanta Braves game, I watched Bullpen Coach Eddie Perez warming up with Christian Bethancourt. I can imagine the advice that Perez can offer to Bethancourt, who was born the year Perez was beginning his fifth year in the minor leagues. Perez is now the teacher, because he listened and learned.

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The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. (The words of Jesus as recorded by Luke.)

There are people who have knelt before Jesus much longer than we have. We have the opportunity to catch what they know. We have the opportunity to listen and learn, and in time, be like our Teacher.

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Looking Good

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There are seven “Woe to you” statements in Matthew 23. Jesus was warning the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees not to focus on outward things. Of the ten trees we had removed from our property this week, we knew that one was damaged. An arborist saw the spot where it had been hit by lightning. We hadn’t seen it. Other than that one spot, the tree looked healthy. When it was cut down, we realized how unhealthy it really was on the inside.

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The tree was empty in the center. It looked okay on the outside, but it took all of its energy to produce what we saw externally. It had nothing inside, and one storm could have taken it down. If you spend all of your energy and resources on what people see externally, don’t be surprised if a storm takes you out. Jesus defined hypocrisy as “everything they do is done for people to see” (Matthew 23:5a). He encouraged us to work on what was inside, and then what is on the outside will be good as well.

Two Became One

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We had some sweet gum trees removed from our property today. When I saw this one, it was apparent that it originated as not one, but two trees. At some point, the two became one.

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“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (The words of Jesus as recorded in Mark 10.)

From the outside, it looked like one tree. On the inside, there was a line of bark delineating where the two trees used to be separate. This picture of a tree is a picture of marriage. Though we begin completely separate lives, we are united by God in a way that we become inseparable.

God Changed My Mind

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For several years, I blogged here about creative communication in the church. I enjoyed blogging about ideas that fit into that box, but anyone who knows me knows that I don’t fit well into any box. I’ve worked with communications in the local church. I teach communications (and other classes) to college business majors. I write. As a student, a teacher, and a pastor, I continue to be passionate about communications. However, the thing I most want to communicate is bigger than any of that. I’d like to communicate how God wants to show himself to us. I see him in everything, and I’d like to use this blog to occasionally share a few of the ways that he shows himself to me.

God has changed my mind. He is the source of right thoughts. He is the source of creative thoughts.

Right Thoughts + Creative Thoughts = Right Brained Thoughts

Peanut Butter and a Quiver of Arrows

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On Sunday, Mark Eiken, Central Campus Pastor at 12Stone Church, preached a wonderful message entitled Grit or Quit. I highly recommend that you listen, as it is a wonderful example of peanut butter communication: sticky and spreadable.

Sticky
When you are planning your communication, think about what ideas you want to stick with people.  What are the most salient points, and how will you communicate in a way that they will stick beyond Sunday’s sermon?

Spreadable
When you are planning your communication, think about how the ideas can spread.  12Stone creates small group leader curriculum based on the weekly sermons, extending the life of the ideas in the weekend messages. They make the video of the services available online during the week, and the audio is available via podcast for years. A brief outline of the message is often posted by the church on facebook, but quotes from the message are often posted by the members on Instagram and Twitter.  The church posts its social media information on the message notes, and often incorporates hashtags in order to track these congregational posts.  There are myriad ways to help the congregation spread the message.

What ways are your church making the message easy to spread?  Can people spread it to others, and can they spread it out over other areas of their life?

What did you want to stick with your listeners this week? What did you do to make sure it stuck?

My Peanut Butter
When teaching about grit, Pastor Mark used 2 Kings 13:14-19 to encourage us to not give up.

“Shoot the arrow!” Elisha ordered. As soon as the king shot the arrow, the prophet exclaimed, “You are the Lord’s arrow, with which he will win victory over Syria. You will fight the Syrians in Aphek until you defeat them.” Then Elisha told the king to take the other arrows and strike the ground with them. The king struck the ground three times, and then stopped. This made Elisha angry, and he said to the king, “You should have struck five or six times, and then you would have won complete victory over the Syrians; but now you will defeat them only three times.”

This week, I am overwhelmed. I have several part-time jobs, am in two doctoral classes, am about to begin taking two online classes (required for one of my jobs), and am (supposed to be) writing my dissertation. I haven’t exercised as much as I should, but this morning I dragged myself out of bed and took a walk around the neighborhood.  If I go around the circle and down every street in my subdivision once, I’ve gone 2.5 miles.  If I pass my house and go around the circle one more time, it’s 3.1, which is a 5K. This morning, I knew when I got to my house I would be tempted to stop and go inside, knowing how much work was waiting for me.  But I also knew that it would only take me 8 more minutes to go around the circle and complete the 5K. An internal debate went on in my mind for a moment, and suddenly I realized I needed to shoot one more arrow.  I can stop at 2.5, but then I’ll lose the battle to stay healthy (physically and mentally). When I want to quit, I know I can just shoot one more arrow, and get closer to my goal.  And I have a whole quiver of arrows – so I don’t have to just apply this to exercise – it works at school, work, and home.

What makes this thought not only sticky, but spreadable, is that I remembered it, I plan to apply it to all areas of my life, and I’m spreading it to you.  That’s peanut butter communication – how will you use it this week?

Run the good race . . . and communicate the journey well

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I’m training for a 5K on Saturday, leading up to the 10K Peachtree Road Race on July 4th. Though these races don’t require as much training as a marathon, as I’ve been hitting the the trail (and the treadmill), I have been reminded of the importance of preparation in all aspects of life. Two years ago I wrote a series of blogs on how communications is like a marathon. In case you missed it, here are the top five lessons I learned about communications:

Run your own race

Figure out what matters to your audience

Consider the implications

Know where you are going

Listen, read, watch: Prepare

I’m WEIRD (and if you are reading this, so are you)

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Research has shown that most social psychology* research has studied WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan).

As our country becomes increasingly cross cultural, so must our communication become increasingly aware that the American church is WEIRD, and our assumptions about people and about communication do not always translate.

Recently, a pastors’ roundtable I attended included a Latino pastor and his wife, who both almost exclusively communicate in Spanish. They brought a young lady with them to translate. A group breakout assignment was given, and the young lady was very quietly studying the document. After a moment, she apologized for not being able to translate the instructions to the pastor. She was hung up on the first question, “What are the hot potato issues in the church?” A literal translation, “¿Cuáles son las cuestiones de papa caliente en la iglesia?” was not helpful to the pastor. We, as WEIRD Americans, use language that we understand, and assume it translates across cultures. We use words, images, and gestures that mean something to us, but something different to others. We understand time differently. We hear music differently. We relate to others differently.

The interesting thing about Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan’s research was that WEIRD people, including WEIRD kids, are just about the least representative people on which you could base generalizations about the human race. So, we’re the ones that are different; we’re the ones that are weird!

When you devise your communication, especially that which travels outside of the walls of your church (online sermons, billboards, mailers, invitations, signage, etc.), do you consider what it might say to a person who ‘isn’t from around here’? Click here for a great tool to discover the cultural demographics around your church (Thanks, Church of the Nazarene!)

Here are some statistics for a five-mile radius around my home church:

Top 10 languages spoken in the home:
Chinese: 1,462 (0.6%)
English only: 169,352 (71.0%)
French: 2,263 (0.9%)
French Creole: 1,009 (0.4%)
Hindi: 1,386 (0.6%)
Korean: 7,033 (2.9%)
Russian: 735 (0.3%)
Spanish: 32,814 (13.8%)
Tagalog: 713 (0.3%)
Vietnamese: 4,533 (1.9%)

Top 8 foreign born population:
Colombia: 3,130 (1.2%)
El Salvador: 1,716 (0.7%)
Haiti: 1,603 (0.6%)
India: 3,383 (1.3%)
Jamaica: 2,494 (1.0%)
Korea: 6,400 (2.5%)
Mexico: 10,127 (3.9%)
Vietnam: 3,392 (1.3%)
Total Foreign Born: 58,033 (22.5%)

How would you communicate differently if you understood that not everyone in your church’s five-mile radius was WEIRD?

 

* Social psychology is “the scientific study of how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others” (Allport).

Allport, G. W. (1985). The historical background of social psychology. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The Handbook of Social Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0999152X