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I just finished a book title “Contagious.”  It was written by Jonah Berger and it is all about the power of word of mouth.  Oftentimes word of mouth is more powerful than visual advertising.  Here are some things that really stood out to me from the book.

One example Berger used to illustrate the power of word of mouth is a hot dog diner in New York.  This looks like a regular diner.  In the back corner there is an old-fashioned telephone booth.  If you go in this booth and dial a 2 on the rotary dial phone, the back panel opens and you enter into the “Please Don’t Tell” bar.  This bar has no visual advertising.  You might think that they have no business, but no.  They are reservation only.  They open over the phone at 3:00pm for reservations, first come first served, and they are booked for the evening by 3:30pm.  That’s pretty powerful word of mouth.  How effective are our churches at using word of mouth?  Do we focus on visual advertising too much?

Another important thing to remember:  “When we care, we share.”  If you want your thought or product to be contageous, it must be emtional.  It must make people care.  In a study that Berger did he found that “awe-inspiring article are 30% more likely to make the Most-Emailed list.”  What is more awe-inspiring than the Gospel?  When marketing messages, we should focus on feeling, not information.  It’s like the 180 Second of Vision blog post I reblogged the other day.  Instead of just standing up on Sunday mornings and giving all the information of the announcements, we should tell people why the announcement matters, make them care about it.  Berger goes on to say that “activating emotion is the key to transmission.”  Think of how many more visitors or people you will have attending different events if you make them care about it.  Then they will be more eager to share it and bring more people.

These are just a couple of things that I drew from the book.  It really was a great book to draw practical examples from of how powerful word of mouth can be.

 

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My Religious Communicators Council in Indianapolis last week was inspiring.

I have so many new ideas for this blog.  I’m thinking of a rebranding strategy.  I’m working on outlining it, planning it, and setting some goals.  So all you readers out there, be looking for some major changes!

I want to hear from you! What would you like to see from this blog?

Luke 24: 1-12, 36-43, 50-51

At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared.  They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in.  But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of Jesus.

They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this.  Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there.  The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship.  The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?  He is not here, but raised up.  Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?”  Then they remembered Jesus’ words.

They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, they thought they were making it all up.

But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb.  He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all.  He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.

….

While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.”  They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death.  He continued with them, “Don’t be upset and don’t let all these doubting questions take over.  Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me.  Touch me.  Look me over from head to toe.  A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.”  As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

He asked, “Do you have any food here?”  They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked.  He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

He then led them out of the city over to Bethany.  Raising his hands, he blessed them , and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.

 

Matthew 27: 27-53

The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun.  They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga.  They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head.  They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter.  Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence:  “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said.  “Bravo!”  Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick.  When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him.  Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.

Along the way they came on a man from Cyrene named Simon and made him carry Jesus’ cross.  Arriving at Golgotha, the place they call “Skull Hill,” they offered him a mild painkiller (a mixture of wine and myrrh), but when he tasted it he wouldn’t drink it.

After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes.  Above his head they had posted the criminal charge against him:  THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  Along with him, they also crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left.  People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament:  “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself!  If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”

The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him:  “He saved others—he can’t save himself!  King of Israel is he?  Then let him get down from that cross.  We’ll all become believers then!  He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him!  He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?”  Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark.  Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.”  One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink.  The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry.  Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom.  There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces.  What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised.

The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death.  They said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

John 13:1-17

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father.  Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end.  It was suppertime.  The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.

Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God.  So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.  When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!”

Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”

“Master!” said Peter.  “Not only my feet, then.  Wash my hands!  Wash my head!”

Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe.  My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.  So now you are clean.  But not every one of you.”  After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.

Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so.  That is what I am.  So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet.  I’ve laid down a pattern for you.  What I’ve done, you do.  I’m only pointing out the obvious.  A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer.  If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

 

Matthew 26: 26-29

During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples:

                Take and eat.  This is my body.

Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them:

Drink this, all of you.  This is my blood, God’s new covenant poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.

I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that new day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.

Me-Myself-and-BobI just finished reading the book Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer.  If you do not know, Phil Vischer is the creater of VeggieTales.  This book tells the story of the rise (and fall) of Veggie Tales and Big Idea.  I had not realized this before reading the book, but Big Idea went bankrupt after the Jonah VeggieTale movie bankrupt.  I highly recommend this book, especially for the veggie lovers out there!

At the end of the book, Phil Vischer reflects on everything he learned through the experience.

I cannot help but since the Veggie Tale song:  “And so what we have learned applies to our lives today and God has a lot to say in his book!”

Vischer went through a lot of emotional, and spiritual ups and downs along with the ups and downs of his company.  He had a huge dream and vision for VeggieTales and Big Idea.  He got to experience his dream being given to him, and then taken away.  As he reflects on this, he uses thoughts from many different authors and speakers.  Two thoughts that stuck out to me in particular.

The first was that sometimes in the Bible, God takes away your dream, or threatens to, in order to see if you will still choose him.  Think Abraham and Isaac.  Abraham had dreamed of having a son, well any child for that matter, and just when he thought it was hopeless, there he was.  There was his dream, in his arms, and God asked him to sacrifice it.  Abraham showed God that he would still choose him over his dream.

The other thing that one speaker had said that really stood out to Vischer, and myself, was this:  Christians should not have vision, they should have revelation.  At first I was not sure how I felt about this, and to tell you the truth I am still wrestling with it, but it does seem to make sense.  Vision is what we want to do, even if it is for God’s kingdom, it is still our dream.  Revelation comes from God.  If find this thought very interesting, and honestly hard for me to deal with.  It makes me wonder, what dreams or visions do I have for the future that are not revelations from God.

Visher says that at one point after bankruptcy someone had asked him where he hoped to see himself in 5-10 years, the stereotypical interview question.  They had asked him for his vision, and since he had just wrestled through this vision/revelation idea, he answered with, “Living in the middle of God’s will.”  I think that is an awesome answer to that question and leaves it all up to God to reveal his plans for you.  And this way, whatever God reveals cannot get in the way of your own dreams, so you are free to follow him.

 

 

I recently finished “You Lost Me” by David Kinneman and the Barna Group.  For those of you who do not know about the Barna Group, they do researches about Christians and then draw conclusions based upon that data.  This book was about young adults leaving the church.  David Kinneman outlines the research and what it shows us, and then also gives suggestions for what the church can do to keep young adults in the church.

One of his suggestions that stood out to me the most, as something much needed, is mentors.  How much more of a rich environment would our church have if adults were being mentors to the younger generation?

As a young adult, I think I would have benefited greatly from someone taking the time to mentor me.  While I did have adults who were invested in my life and who I had a good relationship with, the book talks specifically about adult Christians mentoring young adults with the same career pursuit in mind.  I think this is especially helpful, especially for the majority of young adults going into a secular career.  It would have been very helpful to have a Christian mentor to advise me about my career, and counsel me on how to live out my faith within a secular environment.

As we continue in our churches, let us remember what an important influence we can be in the lives of the younger generations.  Let us focus on meaningful, intentional relationships and mentoring.

Currently at our church, the sermon series is spiritual disciplines.  We have gone through scripture reading, prayer, and this last Sunday was fasting.  This has been a good series because it has made people think and if people take the things that are being talked about and put them into practice, real growth can be made.

Matthew 6: 16-18
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

What strikes me when I hear or read this verse is the word when.  Jesus assumes that we will fast.  I have never been very good at fasting, from food.  I get very bad headaches when I do not eat regularly, so oftentimes I let this stop me from fasting.  However, our minister pointed out that you can fast from many other things besides food.

And it is important to remember that you cannot just go without something, you must supplement it with something else.

Ephesians 4:28
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Fasting is usually supplemented with prayer.  When you think about wanting food for example, that is when you pray.  When you are tempted to want whatever you have given up, use that as a reminder to pray.

Another example that was given is you could fast from fast food for a week and use the money that you do not spend to give to the poor.  There are many ways to fast.  And this is something that I had forgotten.

I wanted to share this with you because this sermon pointed out something I need to do more often.  And I am just one of the congregation.  If we all act on this it can be an amazing opportunity for growth.

Personal growth almost always leads to growth within the church.

1I recently was at a bible study where I heard a wonderful message from the following text:

Jeremiah 29:4-7

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give you daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Ever since Adam has been in seminary, I have seen us in a transition period.  It can sometimes seem that this is a means to an end.  Even though Adam and I have only been in this stage of our lives for less than a year, I have viewed this as a stepping stone to the future.  I have been saying “I wish…” or “I can’t wait until…”  This verse is an important reminder to be present HERE in this stage of our life.

I need to invest in my life and the community I am in NOW.  I need to be present here and now and not only think of the future after Emmanuel.  And honestly, we’ll probably be here another three or so years just so Adam can finish his degree.  And wishing my way through those years would be no way to live.

God is telling the people not to be stagnant.  Prosper.  Grow.  Exile is only for a time:  don’t become out of practice.  I think it is important to remember that I need to be an active part of this community here.  I need to do my part to see this community prosper in Christ.

This was just an important reminder to engage in your life and community wherever you may be.  Even if you feel like you are in exile or that this is just temporary, flourish and grow where you are.  Be a part of your community, be hospitable.  Don’t just sit around and wait, ACT.

This is also important to remember with our churches.  If our church is really going to grow and prosper we must pray for the church.  We must also invest in the church and set down roots.  Even if we think we are in the area temporarily we must get involved in God’s community so we can grow and flourish spiritually as well.  We also need to put away the mindset of: “things will be better when…” or “just wait until…”  We must be involved in our church right now.

Just think of the amazing, God-given growth a church would experience if we were intentional and invested in our community.

Well, I’m sad to say that I have still not been able to find my notes on that book that I read to share with you, but I’m planning to do some cleaning and organizing this weekend, so hopefully they will turn up.

I wanted to share this really neat opportunity I have with you and ask you to pray about it with me.

A former professor of mine recently passed on a scholarship opportunity that she thought I would be interested in and recommended I apply, and I was very interested in this opportunity.

There is a group called the Religion Communicators Council (which I never knew about before but wish I had).  They are an interfaith group of professionals in the field of religious communication, which is exactly what I hope to be doing with my life long term.  Every year they hold a national convention, this year it is in Indianapolis.  One of the things that they do for this convention is give away a scholarship to an undergraduate, post-undergraduate, or graduate student who is interested in pursuing a profession in religious communication.  The scholarship includes free registration for the convention, the hotel, travel, and food money, and membership fees in the council for two years.

Needless to say, I am very excited about this scholarship and being able to attend the convention this year.  I am currently working on the essays for my application and I am getting more and more excited every time I work on them or think about it.  I just hope I’m not getting my hopes up for nothing.

This would be an amazing opportunity to learn and dialogue about religious communication.  So what I wanted to ask you, is to simply pray about this opportunity for me.  And know, that if I get to go, I will bring back everything that I learn to share with you.  They are supposed to let the applicants know their decision on February 15.  So here’s hoping.

 

P.S.  I also started another blog.  If you’re interested, check it out here:  http://atwentysomethingme.wordpress.com/