Links I like

RIP idiot Dads

This Cheerios commercial gives me hope that “dad as incompetent boob” marketing might be coming to an end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GYxH2-WeZY

Why Collectively Ignoring Mark Driscoll Isn’t an Option

Richard Clark hits the nail on the head:

You can mark me down on your list of people who have, in some way, gawked and marveled with morbid interest at the inward and outward controversies surrounding that infamous Seattle pastor and his church. For those invested in the broader evangelical landscape–and any parachurch organization or outlet must be, these events are inescapable. Driscoll’s missteps inevitably reflect not just on his own church, but on the evangelical church as a whole.

But really, that goes for any pastor. Any time any pastor of a church is caught in controversy or scandal, those happenings are reported breathlessly by local news outlets, and then–if they’re just scandalous enough–by national news outlets. And it’s not like we can blame them. After all, the moment “Christian Pastor Acts UnChristianly” ceases to be news-worthy, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with than a bad reputation.

Great deals at Westminster Bookstore

Westminster Bookstore has some pretty phenomenal deals on a few books about preaching (focusing both how to preach and how to listen to a sermon). One of the best is the current special on David Helm’s Expositional Preaching—get this for $8 (or $6.50 per copy when ordering five or more). They’re also offering four-volumes on practical shepherding by Brian Croft for $32.

Grace And Identity

Tullian Tchividjian:

A few years back I was driving one of my sons home from his basketball game and he was crying. He’s a great basketball player but had a less than stellar performance and he was, as a result, crushed. After doing my best to comfort him by listening to him and reminding him that his game was not nearly as bad as he thought it was and that even the best basketball players in the world have an off game here and there, I asked him why he was so upset. He told me plainly, “Dad, I played terrible.” I said, “I know you don’t think you played well but why does not playing well make you so sad.” He said (with tremendously keen self-awareness), “Because I’m a basketball player. That’s who I am.” Somewhere along the way he had concluded (due to success on the basketball court over the years) that his self-worth and value as a person was inextricably tied to his achievements as a basketball player. If he was a good basketball player, then he mattered. If he wasn’t, he didn’t. So a bad game was more than a bad game. It was a direct assault on his identity. I realized in the moment that any attempt to assure him that he was a great basketball player wasn’t going to help him because basketball wasn’t the issue–identity was. He was suffering an identity crisis, not a basketball crisis. A basketball crisis is easy to solve–a little more practice and a lot of encouragement typically does the trick. But an identity crisis is deep. It’s an under the surface problem requiring an under the surface solution.

Can There Be Thrills in Heaven?

Randy Alcorn:

A sincere young man told me that no matter what I might say, Heaven must be boring. Why? “Because you can’t appreciate good without bad, light without darkness, or safety without danger. If Heaven is safe, if there’s no risk, it has to be boring.”

3 Ways NOT to Share Jesus

Chris Martin:

One of the first posts I wrote here on the blog was on three ways to reach Millennials. There’s no silver bullet for reaching young people, everyone knows that, but you can seek to be wise in doing so. If and when you have the opportunity to share Christ with a Millennial, here are three ways you should NOT answer the question, “So why should I believe in Jesus?”

Does your slogan say what you think it does?

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Whether it’s on our signs, our websites or on the lips of our congregations, every church has a mission statement or slogan that people rally around—something that articulates the vision of what we’re all here to do.

At least, we think it does. But maybe it doesn’t.

One of the challenges of church marketing (yes, I used the “m” word) is seeing our mission statements and slogans from an outside perspective, carefully considering what they communicate, intentionally or otherwise, to people who aren’t us. We’re all blind to our own blind spots, and without good council and perspective, the message we’re sending may be the opposite of what we’re attempting to.

This is what we see in so many of our church slogans. Here’s one example:

“A church for people who aren’t into church.”

What does this actually communicate? Let’s think about it from a couple of perspectives.

This slogan is birthed out of the seeker sensitive mindset of the 1980s and 1990s; the idea most churches using a slogan like this is trying to get across is that it’s a place where non-Christians will feel safe to explore the Christian faith at their own pace.  They’re trying to say they’re welcoming and inviting.

But what does a Christian attending a slightly more theologically conservative church take away from it? In my town, it’s a safe bet a church using this type of slogan:

  • Has topical “talks” instead of expositional preaching
  • Has a low-level of commitment from congregation members
  • Has a low-level of biblical literacy
  • Has high attendance turnover

(I say this from experience, not to be a snarky, divisive jerkwad.)

At best, to this sort of believer, it comes across as trying to be “relevant” to the culture in the negative sense, and perhaps a few steps away from abandoning the gospel at worst. (This, again, is something I’ve seen from churches using this exact slogan.)

Just as importantly, what does this slogan say to its intended target—the non-Christian?

Not much.

The difficulty here is the idea of being a church for people who aren’t into church is those people aren’t into church. There is nothing you can do to be a church for them except to not be a church! It’s like saying a banana is a banana for people who aren’t into bananas—if someone doesn’t like bananas, there’s nothing you can do to make them want to eat one, even if you claim it’s not like any other banana they’ve tried.

The fact is, there are only a few things that lead a non-Christian into a church service:

  • The work of the Holy Spirit
  • alleviating familial pressure (Easter and Christmas visits)
  • baby dedications (sometimes)

Being a church for people who aren’t into church isn’t likely to do that.

Whether we like it or not, marketing is a part of ministry. We need to think carefully—from a theological and practical perspective—on what we’re saying, considering whether or not the message we’re conveying is true and clear and God-glorifying. If we don’t, our attempts at marketing might be doing us more harm than good.


photo credit: deadwords via photopin cc

Book Review: Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Title: Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
Author: Guy Kawasaki
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin

Working in marketing, I have the privilege of reading a fairly diverse set of books. It’s not all old dead guys and theology at the Armstrong house. (Just, y’know, mostly.)

Anyway, marketing and leadership books are strange animals. Some are great and others make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork. Almost all, though, usually fall into one of two categories:

  1. How to develop a large and successful business; and
  2. Why all marketers are liars

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki is neither of these; instead, it’s a book about one thing:

Influence.

“How can I influence others without moral compromise?” is the question at the heart of Enchantment. And  it’s an important one. There are a number of easy cheats to convince people to follow your leadership (carrots and sticks) or to buy your product or join your cause (incentives), but eventually those things always fail.

Why? Because they’re disingenuous. They don’t tap into people’s passions. They don’t move the heart.

And without that happening, whatever impact you have is fleeting at best.

The “pillars of enchantment” Kawasaki puts forward ones you’d be hard pressed to disagree with:

  1. Be likeable
  2. Be trustworthy
  3. Have a great cause

In other words, be someone you’d actually want to spend time with and offer something that matters. These seem like concepts that should be met with a resounding, “well, I should hope so.” I mean, this seems to be common sense, doesn’t it? That’s thing about common sense, though. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, it’s not that common sense has been tried and found lacking, it’s that it’s been found difficult and left untried.

Unless you’re likeable, it’s extremely difficult to be found trustworthy. And unless you’re trustworthy, no one will rally around your cause, no matter how good it is.

Whether you’re in the for-profit or non-profit world, whether you’re in some form of vocational ministry or working for a huge conglomerate, who you are impacts everything you’re involved with. Our character can be the scent of life or the stench of death, and we would all do well to remember that. [Read more…]

Get to the Point

For a little over two years, I’ve been a “professional” writer.

For about a year, I’ve actually been good at it.

I’m always curious what other people are doing, because it gives me an opportunity to learn. As I’ve been learning to do my job better, one thing has become shockingly clear:

Marketers have a hard time getting to the point.

Think about this. Pick a corporation. Pick a charity. Pick a person. Read a couple pages of their websites.

Have they said anything at all? If they have, do you understand it?

Last week, Seth Godin made a great point on his blog about this very issue. He writes, “Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?”

His advice to marketers is simple: “Write nothing instead. It’s shorter.”

It’s good advice.

Brevity isn’t merely important, it’s essential.

If we can’t get to the point, and can’t do so in a way that everyone will quickly understand, then we’re doing a terrible job in our marketing.

So how do we uncomplicate things? How do we get to the point?

Probably the best advice on this I’ve read is found in Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath. This is what they refer to as the SUCCESs model, particularly the principle of simplicity. They write:

Simplicity isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about prioritizing. (Southwest will be THE low-fare airline.) What’s the core of your message? Can you communicate it with an analogy or high-concept pitch?

We need to, in whatever field we work, get to the core of our message. To figure out what’s most important and talk about that in a way that makes sense.

For those of us in the church, it means maybe we need to take a look at our published mission statements.

What’s our purpose?

Why do we exist?

Do they make sense to anyone except the person who wrote it?

Do they make us sound more like a life-coaching organizations rather than messengers of the gospel of Christ?

Are we getting to the point?

Good Marketing Doesn't Take Itself Too Seriously

Toyota hired some great people to work on the new campaign for the Sienna. The concept is actually pretty clever and executed quite well. Check out the video for the “swagger wagon:”

There’s an important lesson:

Good marketing doesn’t take itself—or its audience—too seriously.

Sometimes you need to have a little bit of fun with your audience.

What are some examples of “fun” marketing that you’ve seen recently?

Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2009, part one

I love books, and this year I’ve probably read more of them than I ever have in years past. Out of 60+ books, some have been good, others not-so-good. Others still have been excellent—and I want to share ten of these that I’ve found to be the most helpful, meaningful and enjoyable.

Here are the first five in no particular order (probably):

Just Do Something
by Kevin DeYoung

The question of discovering God’s will for our lives is one that plagues the majority of us. But, pastor and author Kevin DeYoung argues, that’s in large part because we make following God’s will far harder than it needs to be, because we’re looking for the wrong thing. Instead of looking at God’s revealed will of decree (meaning that what He ordains will come to pass) and His will of desire (what He desires from His creatures), we seek to divine His will of direction.

Read the review | Order a copy

Buy•ology
by Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom spent 3 years and 7 million dollars in an experiment known as neuromarketing–trying to understand how the brain responds to the stimuli provided by advertisements, what works and what doesn’t. What he found absolutely destroys much of what we’ve believed about what attracts and repels us to products and brands.

Buy•ology a game-changer for marketers and one of the most worthwhile marketing books I’ve ever read.

Read “Brand-olatry” | Order a copy

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
by N.D. Wilson

Perhaps the most delightfully peculiar book I’ve ever read. Author N.D. Wilson invites readers to join him as he attempts to describe the indescribable: God speaking Creation into being, ex nihilo (out of nothing). With a quick wit and sharp tongue, Wilson engages and entertains readers while reminding us that we live in a world filled with wonder and beauty—and none of it is by accident.

Read the review | Order a copy

Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion
by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck follow up their first book, Why We’re Not Emergent, with Why We Love the Church, a passionate, biblically centered, God-honoring look at the Church—and why, for all her warts, we need to love her as much as Christ does.

Famed evangelical scholar J.I. Packer’s endorsement brought a smile to my face: “Bible-centered, God Centered, and demonstrably mature… As I read, I wanted to stand and cheer.”

Read the review | Order a copy

Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem
by Brent D. Peterson & Gaylan W. Nielson

Fake Work is what you think it is…and so much more. With this book, authors Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan W. Nielson are drawing a line in the sand. The working world is broken and needs to be fixed. What we don’t need to do is create cool, hip workplaces, to make going to the job more comfortable.

What we need to do is focus on transforming how we work and the work we do. Because real work is about results.

Read the review | Order a copy


Join me for the second half of the list tomorrow.

Books as Compensation? Considering the Hubbub with the FTC

Monday night, I read a very interesting article on edrants.com, an interview with the FTC’s Richard Cleland. The interview follows Monday’s announcement that effective December 1, 2009, bloggers are expected to disclose any tangible connections. Basically, if I read the FTC’s policy correctly, the big idea is that if you review a book from a publisher’s blogger program and keep it (particularly if that review is positive), the book could be considered compensation. Essentially, you’re being paid with a book to give them a good review.

I’m sure the gang at Thomas Nelson would be disappointed with my last couple reviews then [insert canned laughter for unfunny joke].

Here’s a particularly interesting bit from the article:

“The primary situation is where there’s a link to the sponsoring seller and the blogger,” said Cleland. And if a blogger repeatedly reviewed similar products (say, books or smartphones), then the FTC would raise an eyebrow if the blogger either held onto the product or there was any link to an advertisement.

What was the best way to dispense with products (including books)?

“You can return it,” said Cleland. “You review it and return it. I’m not sure that type of situation would be compensation.”

If, however, you held onto the unit, then Cleland insisted that it could serve as “compensation.” You could after all sell the product on the streets.

In the article, Cleland goes on to say, “If there’s an expectation that you’re going to write a positive review…then there should be a disclosure.”

Now, I have no problem with adding a disclosure to any review I write on a book received through a blogger program or at the request of a publisher, but I do find the idea of returning a book to the publisher a bit… silly. [Read more…]

Brand-olatry

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of these commercials just like this one over the last few years. And laughed. And possibly laughed some more.

Then, when you were done laughing, you maybe cried a little bit (but only on the inside so your coworkers wouldn’t laugh at you) as you went back to work on your PC.

Apple’s been, quite honestly, doing a terrific job making enjoyable, entertaining ads for their computers. Apple computers, after all, are hip and cool, and if you buy one, you too can be saved from the functional hell of using a Windows-based machine (like the—ugh—Dell I’m writing on at this moment; my wife’s on our Mac).

Now, I’ve heard more than one pastor make a clever remark about how the whole Mac vs. PC thing is a form of idolatry. But did you know…

They’re right?

[Insert ominous music here] [Read more…]