Memorable, Creative, Low-Budget Sermon Ideas

PROOF that effective communication and creativity don’t require huge budgets – just great ideas. Don’t think these are great? Ask yourself this: How many sermon illustrations do you remember? How many do you remember from 5 or 10 years ago? How many do you know from a church you’ve probably never visited or maybe even heard of? How many could you not wait to share with a friend (or someone couldn’t wait to share with you)? Years later… we’re still talking about these.

Here’s all 4 classic “Jesus Videos” from Vintage 21 Church – These came up in our small group last night as we began studying the Gospel of Mark – the discussion and these videos (from a 2003 sermon series) dealt with our misconceptions of Jesus and what it means to be a disciple…

If these offend you, you’re either missing the point or simply not the intended audience, the rest of us can laugh at the creativity in shedding light on our own issues (the joke is not on Jesus – it is on our own hang-ups) These still own me.

And one more video – after thinking about the “stickiness” of the Jesus Videos, the only other sermon illustration as memorable (but more powerful and worshipful) was also a super-low-budget idea in creative communication. Unlike Vintage 21’s Jesus Videos, this idea was copied by countless churches.

I’m also honored to say that Pastor Tommy Politz and his wife, Donna, are old friends of the family. I remember getting to the end of this video several years ago (2008), teary eyed, and then saying “That’s Tommy!” I hadn’t seen him since he moved to Texas to pastor Hillside. (Also the worship band sang John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves” – a song which changed the worship “scene”)

Miscommunication

Wow. What a Sunday. Ever wonder if what people hear is in no way what you’re saying? I’ve wondered this a lot lately as I’ve read various blogs and forums of people “hearing/reading” all kinds of different things from the same writer/pastor (including my own). How do some people hear the opposite of what someone else hears? This is critical question to ask as communicators, leaders, disciple-makers… Though we are not responsible for what people do with our message, we are stewards of that message – how we deliver it is important. So, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of what is heard, not just what we’re saying. It’s easy to get defensive or dismissive. But our goal is to communicate, not just write/speak.

Here are a few funny examples of gross misunderstandings from my family afternoon (Me, my wife, and our three crazy daughters):

Us: “What did you learn today in your class?”

Ella (3): “Jesus did not die on the cross.”

Us: WHAT?!?!?!

Ella: “The teacher was wrong. He said ‘Let my people go’ but the bad man said ‘no, no, no!'”

* I’m guessing one teacher said something along the lines of “today we’ll probably talk about how Jesus died on the cross…” But another teacher said “No, today’s Bible story is Exodus.” OR maybe even an attempt to explain that Jesus did not stay dead after the cross – He rose again on Easter. (???)

(Thanks Orthodox, Bible-Believing Church)

 

Later, Adalyn (5): “Dinosaurs lived a long time before people.”

Us: That’s right, what else do you know about dinosaurs?”

Adalyn: “I think God killed them.”

Us: WHAT?!?!?

Adalyn: “Or maybe they just died.”

(Thanks Christian Preschool)

 

Ella: “Yeah, like Curious George had blood in his eyes and mouth and people were dancing on his body.”

Me: WHAT?!?!?!?

Amanda: “Oh gosh. Yeah, you mean on PBS when they showed the cartoon about how your bodies work when George was sick and they imagined that they went inside his body to see everything and were dancing around with good blood cells and bad germs?”

(Thanks Educational Programming)

 

Closing example. While we were at Dairy Queen, eating our kiddie cones, I noticed this sign. Again, two completely opposite meanings could be conveyed from this overly simple graphic. Is this a kid running TO Friendly McHugger or FROM Scary McGrabber? Either way I understand that this is a safe place, but what is on that disturbing sign?

So is what you mean to say clear?

The Mission Book

I came across this site today built by my friends at DC for The Upstream Collective. Very simple idea: Create a website (that looks awesome) where people can share brief stories as missionaries and/or people living on mission to spread the gospel. Once enough stories have been collected, produce an eBook… The Mission Book.

A couple of heavyweights whose books on missional and house church planting movements helped shape my view of ministry, Alan Hirsch and Ed Stetzer, kick off the story time. Just pick a book from the virtual shelf or use the arrows to move to the next story. Great use of technology to gather information for the sake of transformation. I hope this site is a great encouragement to disciple-makers around the world… and that the stories keep spreading (to spread the glory of Christ in every nation).

So whatever you do. Do it for the sake of the gospel. Use your gifts and sphere of influence to make disciples and encourage other disciple-makers.

Click the image below to jump over to their site and start reading…

Helluva Brouhaha: Devil’s Advocate or Ally?

This week’s controversy over Rob Bell’s latest “teaching” has caused a virtual firestorm. No, not a new nooma video. A promo video for his forthcoming book: Love Wins. Before jumping on the heresy bandwagon without having even read the book (though let’s be honest, he does seem to be pretty clear about where he is going with this book) I want to pray that he is playing devil’s advocate and giving voice to the apparent paradox of a loving God and the reality of judgment in hell. My hope is that by stirring up such controversy that people both inside and outside of the faith will seek out the truth… hopefully in what Bell has to say (that he says the Bible has to say) about the true message of love, salvation through faith in Christ, the gracious character of God, and the reality of eternity. Perhaps, he’s willing to take the heat temporarily in order to open new eyes (and old eyes) to the reality of eternity… Lets hope. And either way, let’s seize this opportunity to springboard from this hot topic (no pun intended) into the Good News of an orthodox gospel. Let’s share the love of Christ, found in His life, death and resurrection, glorifying God and saving man from himself (not from God).

Ironically, I’ve been talking to my dad lately about our own increased awareness and sense of urgency concerning the reality of hell. He just finished teaching a series in his church. I’ve been working on a post for another blog (that post may or may not ever see the light of day now that it could seem reactionary) concerning the apparent lack of belief in the reality of hell among the church in America – if the gravity of eternal judgment gripped us as Christ-followers, it would radically change our lives. Not only our personal view of holiness, but our sense of urgency in taking the gospel to all nations – people both near and far – should be given the urgent priority it deserves. Im’ not talking hellfire and brimstone, scaring people into surrender. Not wanting to go to hell is not the same as following Christ in faith… it is still selfish ultimately. But we can square the holy judgment and, yes, wrath of God as part of what makes His grace such good news!  They are all good and loving, ultimately.

At the very least, it’s a great reminder of the power of words, questions, and what we communicate without coming right out and “saying” anything… And we are all accountable for every word that comes from our mouth, blog, book, video… you get the idea.

His official Vimeo account is embedded below:

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Shim it?

So, recently I’ve realized that it’s OK to admit that I don’t know what people are talking about and ask “stupid” questions. It’s been a major break though for me. I know, it should be obvious, but for me, this has been a big deal.

My recent exchange with Home Depot’s salesman in the door isle opened my eyes to a couple of things. 1 – it helped me laugh at my own hesitation to ask questions. 2 – it sparked a spiritual reflection (big shocker, right?)

ME: “So to install this entry door, I just pop the old one out and slide this one in?”

HD: “Yeah, you just slide it in, shim it, put the molding around it…”

ME: “SHIM IT?”

HD: “Yeah, real simple, just shim it.”

ME: “I’m sorry – what does it mean to shim something?”

HD: “You center it with a shim.”

ME: (laughing) “So… I still don’t know what a shim is whether you use it as a noun or as a verb…”

HD: “It’s a wooden wedge. A piece used to fill the gaps.”

ME: “Got it. Thanks.”

How many times do we as Christ-followers, ministers, leaders, or as organizations, churches, and ministries have “shimmy” communication? Are we using language that is meaningless to our audience – even in one-on-one conversation? We think we’re explaining simple truths (and we may be) but we’re using a vocabulary that has no context in their daily life.

I’m not suggesting that we dumb anything down, but we should be aware of what we’re assuming is common knowledge. This is the key – NOTHING IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE. At least not in terms of discipleship.

Don’t let people feel dumb and walk away intimidated, never intending to pursue this “Jesus thing” any further simply because you spoke to them in a way that made them feel inferior or at least like an outsider. Obviously the Holy spirit is ultimately the One opening people’s hearts and minds to the truth of the gospel, but as Christ-followers, we should be making disciples everywhere we go. (Matt 28:19-20) This means explaining and modeling truth in a way that helps people each step along the way.

Church “Branding”?

The term church branding may seem like a jarring blend of two worlds which don’t ever need to meet. “That’s what’s wrong with church culture today – commercialization,” you may think. True, selling out and bowing to the business idols of numerical and financial success is a major problem with the American church model, BUT branding can actually be part of the remedy. Too many churches and ministries suffer from a lack of clear identity, purpose, and voice… (aka branding). Without a clear brand, leaders and members alike are left wavering between what seems meaningful or appropriate in the moment. Measures of impact are unclear and therefore default to tangibles like statistics rather than intangibles like life-change. I’ve seen over and over that good intentions are simply not enough.

Your brand is everything associated with your image – everything communicated, intentionally or not. It is perception – understanding or misunderstanding of who you are and what you stand for. It’s not only what you say you believe, but more significantly, it is what people say and believe about you. If your brand is one of little or no value, pertinence, or credibility, then what you believe is irrelevant to the very people you’re trying to reach.  So, what is being communicated? How aware are you of your own image? Are you shaping your own brand?

I wanted to share a blog post from my friends at DC (Details Communication). This is one of the projects I’ve been working on lately for a church in Houston, TX – Copperfield Church’s new website. Brian’s entry is a great explanation and illustration of how a church’s “brand” is more than mere marketing to attract newbies or relay info to members.

This has been an exciting new venture for me in helping a church cast vision and rally their community with purpose – namely missional living.

Click the link below for the DC blog post on the philosophy and strategy behind church branding (Copperfield Church’s in particular) and one of the best church websites I’ve ever seen (DC’s creative director, Graham Yelton is a rock star). Check it out here: THE BEFORE AND AFTER OF A REJUVENATED BRAND

Here’s a sneak peak of Copperfield’s new look – Check out their new site next month (launching September 2010) at coppefieldchurch.org

Do.Dah.Dippity. (Does the Church have Soul?)

Am I the only one? Every time I pull up next to a Kia Soul at a red light or driving down the road, part of me expects to see Hamsters listening to hip-hop. There, I said it. Everything inside me tries not to look. My eyes are laser-focused straight ahead and my hands grip 10 and 2 on the steering wheel… but eventually I peek. And much to my disappointment and relief, it’s never a hoodied hamster. (yet another example of a wildly successful yet miserable failure of communication and branding)

Now, here’s what I wonder. As the (American) Church, have we invested so much of our time trying to project an image to the world (attractive, cool, relevant, friendly, even fun) that people are confused, surprised, or even disappointed when we try to be real?

Is there an identity crisis for people “inside” and “outside” of the Church as to what exactly we are supposed to be and do?

When the rubber hits the road (excuse the cheesy cliche’) has the American Church become a fad or series of fads with no true identity? Is it merely a string of failed or moderately successful marketing campaigns? Does anyone know what a life in community as God’s people even looks like? Is anyone interested in the real deal once they get past the initial hype?

Is the mantra of post-modern church culture: “You can go with this. Or you can go with that.” Do. Dah. Dippity.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

As I’m getting into this blog now for multiple reasons, primarily to provide an outlet and exercise that keeps writing fun and to keep my mind focused on the various messages swirling around us, I realize that there are certain principles to keep in mind, particularly for business/ministry (and if writing is my business/ministry, then I need to pay attention to these ideas).

Also, I’ve begun working with churches and ministries who are trying to figure out this social media thing, so here are some great tips below. Enjoy.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media for Business
Via: The Steel Method