Posted in John C. Maxwell, Personal Development, Relationships, Sabbath, Theology, tagged Connecting, John Maxwell, Personal Development, sabbath, theology on June 23, 2010 |
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It’s been a little while since I’ve posted on John Maxwell’s Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. I really like this book; I find John’s teaching simple, common-sensical, and very applicable. This post is on connecting with folks and the energy that it takes to do so. Anyone who has ever met John, will attest that he loves people and loves to spend time with people. But even so, he needs rest and rejuvenation:
Even though I am an outgoing “people person,”I still require a lot of private time to recharge my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual batteries. I believe this is true for most speaks and leaders.
Maxwell identifies two ways to do this: 1) plug energy leaks, and 2) refill the tanks. For pastors, there are all sorts of tasks that drain them and pull them away from the more important aspects of ministry. Pastors: try to delegate those tasks. Everyone else: ask you pastor what you can do to relieve him of some tasks that sap his energy and can be done by someone else. Refilling the tanks is a different thing. Maxwell mentions that different folks gain energy differently. That’s true enough. I want to focus on the Sabbath. We need to learn to draw energy from the day of rest. Further, I think it a wise practice for pastors to have a day of rest. How can we expect them to work six days and then labor on the Sabbath, too? This rest/recharge/refill aspect is one of the glorious pearls of wisdom embedded in the Fourth Commandment. Let’s learn to refill ourselves more and more on the Lord’s Day.
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It’s been a while since I have posted on John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. It’s just been a little farther off my radar the past week… that’s all. Here’s a quote that I think is wonderful and gets at one way how some speakers are able to connect and other are not.
If communicators teach out of need, insecurity, ego, or even responsibility, they are not giving. The needy person wants praise, something the audience must give. The insecure person wants approval and acceptance, something the audience must give. The egotistical person wants to be lifted up, to be superior and just a little better than everyone else, something the audience must give. Even the person motivated by responsibility want to be recognized as the faithful worker, to be seen as responsible – something the audience must bestow upon them. Many communicators teach in one of these taking modes all the time and are not aware of it.
Then there’s the giver. This person teaches out of love, grace, gratitude, compassion, passion, and the overflow. These are all giving modes. In each of these modes of the heart, the audience doesn’t have to give anything – only receive. The teaching, then, becomes a gift. It fills and renews. Connect, 87
Some of that wisdom applies directly to preaching and teaching in the church. The minister ought to get out of the way. Laboring out of love, grace, gratitude, compassion, passion and the overflow (and responsibility, too!), he should “publicly portray Christ as crucified” when he preaches. He must give, pour himself out, until he’s exhausted.
Again, Maxwell: “That is the kind of unselfish mind-set a person must maintain in order to connect with others. It takes a lot of energy, whether one-on-one, in a group, or in front of an audience, but it pays great dividends. Connection always begins with a commitment to someone else.”
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The second proactive way to connect with people is to put energy into preparation. Maxwell has this happy little chain of reasoning. If you’re going to connect with people, you’ll have to know what you’re doing. To know what you’re doing, you’ll need clarity of thought, which will come as a result of preparation. He sees this preparation breaking down in three ways.
1) Know yourself – personal preparation: “Become comfortable in your own skin and confident in your identity. You are able to connect with others because you are willing and able to be open with people” (Connecting, 82). There’s a great kernel of truth in there, I think. If you’re personally confident, you’ll be willing to be open with people. People always respond to openness.
2) Know your audience – people preparation: If you know where audience is at, you’ll have a better chance to connect with them. Gotta know your peeps. If my goal is to communicate and add value to people, then “the more I know about them, the more clearly I can direct and help them.” The less a speaker’s knowledge of his audience (one-on-one, in a group, or with a large audience), the more he’s shooting in the dark.
3) Know your stuff – professional preparation: This goes without saying. No point in connecting with people and trying to communicate something to them that you don’t know.
When it comes to preaching, these areas of preparation are good. We need to put energy into them. Always, at the end of the day, the sovereign Spirit will use the preached Word how and when he wants. However, that is no basis for shirking our duties of preparation. Let’s put energy into preparation (not to mention energy into prayer) and seek God’s blessing on his Word, that his Kingdom should extend from the River to the ends of the earth.
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What’s meant by “Connecting Always Requires Energy”? It’s right to take it at face value. If you hope to connect with people, you’ll need put some spunk into it, baby. Maxwell does a good job explaining what he does and doesn’t mean.
When I suggest that energy is required to connect with others, I’m not saying that you must be a high-energy person to connect with others. Nor do you have to be an extrovert. You must simply be willing to use whatever energy you have to focus on others and reach out to them. It’s really a matter of choice. (Connecting, 78)
Maxwell enumerates five ways to use energy to connect with people. The first is to take initiative. You have to make the first move. Simply put, if you want something to happen, make it happen. This concept is embedded in evangelism. We don’t stand still waiting for the nations to come and be discipled. We GO and disciple the nations. There’s gospel initiative on the part of Christians. In a similar vein, whether we want to gain friends, build business, or organize a golf tournament, we’ll need to take the initiative in doing so. One cannot simply wait for other people. For “when it comes to interacting with others,” says Maxwell, “they often wait for the other person to take the first step. But all that does is lead to missed opportunities.” Missed opportunities are sad.
Now, taking initiative with people can be scary. It takes both confidence and willingness to make oneself uncomfortable to do it. Picture the new couple at church last Lord’s Day. It is so comfortable to talk with our friends instead of greeting that couple, but we need to extend ourselves. We need to think of how to minister to other people, and that’s often uncomfortable.
Initiating a conversation with someone often feels awkward. Offering help to someone means risking rejection. Giving to others can lead to misunderstanding. You won’t feel ready or comfortable in those moments. You just have to learn to get past those feelings of awkwardness or insecurity. (Connecting, 81)
Love of Christ and a heart to see him glorified and a desire to minister to other people should be enough for us to overcome our own feelings. After all, fear (for example, of rejection, awkwardness, pain) is only in one’s own head. Love for Christ and for other people must be a stronger motivating factor.
So, try it. Put the energy into overcoming your fears. Start small: meet someone you don’t know. Go introduce yourself to the visitors at church.
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...this maybe too much energy.
It’s common place to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” and that’s true as far as it goes. A slight modification might be, “Anything worth doing is worth doing energetically.” Maxwell, in his fourth chapter of Connecting called, “Connecting Always Requires Energy,” draws upon an undergraduate professor who taught what he called “the ‘Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator’: being unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting, or uncomfortable.’ Do you notice,” Maxwell comments,” the common denominator for three out of four of those ‘sins’? It’s energy. The first three are a function of effort. It takes energy to be prepared, committed, and interesting! That is true whether you’re speaking to one person or to one thousand. Connecting always requires energy” (Connecting, 76).
When you come to communicate something, you had better be prepared. If that’s true generally, how much more for preachers, who herald God’s Word? If you’re uncommitted to what you’re communicating, you’ll simply come across like a phone book. Commitment generates passion, which is so important to connecting with people and communicating to them. An uncommitted preacher of God’s Word is unthinkable. We must be committed not only to the God of the Word, but to God’s promise that his Word will accomplish exactly what he wants it to (Isaiah 55:11 & 2 Cor 2:14-17). The preacher must rest in God’s power, never his own skills. Nevertheless, he should be prepared and committed. If you care enough about a topic, you should at least be interested enough to communicate that interest. Now, the last ‘”sin” Maxwell calls being uncomfortable. I think this problem really is also one of energy (and selfishness). If a person intends to communicate something, he/she ought to think ahead of time of how what’s being communicated will benefit those listening. If the communicator’s uncomfortable, they’re simply thinking of themselves and not their audience. The man who preaches God’s word MUST seek first to please the One who’s called him to preach. Preachers are not people-pleasers, but God-pleasers. That said, the preacher should always be thinking of how to minister to those who hear God’s Word from his lips. Preachers don’t preach to hear themselves, but to minister the Gospel of life.
All of this takes a great deal of energy, both in preparation and in delivery. Preachers that want to discharge their duties well will need to pour themselves into the task. A preacher should feel like he’s worked a full day after he preaches a sermon. He’ll have to approach the task very much on purpose, or, as Maxwell says, “If you want to connect with others but are hoping you can do so without being intentional, forget about it. Connecting always requires energy.”
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Posted in John C. Maxwell, Personal Development, Positive Attitude, Preaching, Relationships, Theology, tagged Connecting, John Maxwell, Personal Development, Preaching on May 21, 2010 |
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This post will summarize Maxwell’s third chapter of Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. Maxwell says:
The art of communicating beyond words requires the ability to bring all four of those factors together – using the right words with the right emotion while being intellectually convincing and making the right visual impression. And all this needs to be done with the right tone of voice, the right facial expressions, and positive body language.
I know this sounds complicated. And it is. But it’s also intuitive. The best advice I can give is for you to learn how to be yourself. The best professional speakers know themselves and their strengths – often learned through trial and error – and they use them to their greatest advantage. … Each has his or her own style, but they all share the ability to connect visually, intellectually, emotionally, and verbally.
I think Maxwell is right when, upon analysis, he says that high-caliber public speaking is wildly complicated. I also think he’s right when he says that it’s intuitive. Everything’s that way. Flowers are wonderfully beautiful and simple. What could be more simple than a flower? But upon close examination, that same flower is mind-bogglingly complex. This is the nature of all created things, as they proceed from God, who is both simple (radically one) and complex (three Persons) at the same time.
Maxwell’s advice for public speakers seems quite level-headed and useful: Know yourself, learn from your mistakes, and pay attention to other public speakers. Preachers should certainly know their own strengths and weaknesses. A simple viewing of some video footage of oneself preaching ought to do the trick! NOTHING is quite so humbling as that. I think preachers should watch themselves preach regularly. That, all by itself, would do wonders for the preparation and delivery of sermons. Further, I think there is some wisdom in having the Session/Consistory of each church offer constructive criticism to the pastor on a regular basis. In these ways (and others) pastors/preachers could learn from their mistakes. Finally, preachers should watch other preachers regularly. I don’t think this happens very often. Preaching/pastoral conferences are a good way to gain continued exposure to preaching.
Reformed and Presbyterian churches have always placed a tremendously high premium on preaching. I think we should raise the standard for ourselves. We should never be satisfied with “good” sermons. We should strive for excellence in preaching, both in preparation and delivery.
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Words, like everything else in creation, are funny things. Communication consists largely of them (coupled with plenty of non-verbal stuff, too). Maxwell’s fourth aspect of connecting is verbal. He writes:
What we say and how we say things make quite an impact. People respond to the language we use. The words we choose to speak to our spouse or children can either build them up or tear them down. They can make or break a deal. They can turn a boring talk into a memorable moment.
I think every sentence of the quote above could be unpacked with great benefit, but I’ll content myself with just a comment or two on each. What we say and how we say it – it’s not just the words but how they’re uttered that makes an impact on people. Our utterances impact people. Haven’t you been shocked and scandalized by words? Haven’t you been almost uncontrollably drawn to a person by his/her words? Words and the way they’re said impact people. Language elicits responses from people. Words have the power to draw people out. Indeed, God draws us through language. Our language can build up or tear down. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Are we ministering life or death with words to those around us? This is especially true in our families. Are our words edifying to our husband/wife? Do we speak life into our children? Words and the way they’re said can certainly make or break deals. The right word in season can cement an agreement, but wrong word has the power to destroy the same. Finally, boring talks are so lame. To paraphrase Chesterton, there are no boring subjects, just bored people. If someone has something to say, let him say it with life and interest or keep his trap shut!
Let’s choose our words and the manner of their delivery so as to foster life and growth. Let’s make sure our language is seasoned with the salt of the gospel in order always to promote godliness. Words are powerful things.
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Posted in John C. Maxwell, Personal Development, Positive Attitude, Preaching, Relationships, tagged Connecting, John Maxwell, Personal Development, Preaching, Reformed, theology on May 19, 2010 |
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Maxwell notes four components of connecting: visual, intellectual, emotional, and verbal. I’ve already discussed some issues relating to the visual aspect. He has precious little to say about the intellectual aspect: know your subject and know yourself. Hey, who’s gunna argue with know thyself? Really?
What about connecting with people on an emotional level? Our pastor has spoken recently on emotions. It’s a touchy and difficult subject… people get emotional. Seriously, though, emotions are important in making connections. For example, I’ve been in all sorts of choirs – good, bad, and sideways. I’ve been in choirs that were technically excellent, but couldn’t connect with the audience. I’ve also been in choirs that were technically excellent that melted audiences. I’d listen to (or sing in) the second all day long and twice on every other Tuesday. The component that separated those two types of choirs was that the second communicated on an emotional level.
What’s true with music is also true with preaching. If music is an emotive thing, surely the souls of men are more so, as music comes from the soul of man. If a finely crafted song about deep friendship is cause to be moved, certainly the exquisite excellencies of Jesus Christ, that Friend who laid down his life for us, ought to make us sing out.
Maxwell located the ability to communicate emotionally not in personality, but in attitude and the effort to focus upon others. “Here’s the bottom line on charisma. You don’t have to be gorgeous, a genius, or a masterful orator to possess presence and to connect with others. You just need to be positive, believe in yourself, and focus on others.” If you do those thing, he argues, you make others feel what you feel and think what you think. In short, you’ll have communicated with them and made a connection. Again, “That is your goal anytime you want to connect with people. Help them to feel what you feel.”
What do you think? Is this too emotionally based? Is it true? What do you feel about this issue? That’s a bad joke; I’d rather hear what you think.
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Maxwell has a good deal to say about physical impediments to connecting with people. From my own personal experience I can tell that appropriate physical contact really does help break down walls. At very least, a firm hand shake with a nice broad smile will go a long way toward bringing people out of their shells.
When it comes to preaching, can you think of any significant physical barriers? Pulpit, anyone? Is the pulpit a good thing or a bad one? Maxwell’s thoughts smack of so much conventional wisdom on the topic:
Physical barriers are often some of the greatest hindrances to connection for someone trying to communicate. It took me years to figure this out and to become more effective in my communication. When I first started speaking to audiences, I usually stood behind a lectern and didn’t move. As a result, I felt separated from my audience. When I began to walk around the stage and got out where people could see me, my connection with people improved greatly.
I ask again, what about the pulpit? Is that huge thing really necessary? Well, no. It’s surely not necessary, and there’s really no doubt that the pulpit is a significant physical barrier. Further, it’s very easy to hide behind it. The preacher can make a great impression by stepping out from the pulpit from time to time, and he should.
However, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, well… never mind. But there are also some good reasons to retain the pulpit. First, it’s central to Protestant architecture. But, why? Because the ministry of God’s Word is central to Protestantism. The pulpit, large-and-in-charge, front-and-center, communicates the importance of preaching. Also, a heavy pulpit made of wood or stone communicates that the church is here to stay, while a lack of pulpit tends to communicate lightness and transience.
What am I missing here? What do you think about physical barriers and connecting in preaching? Are there any texts of Scripture that would apply?
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In Everyone Communicates Few Connect, Maxwell mentions a self-debriefing series of questions that he asks himself after every speaking engagement. I think this is a very wise practice for all public speakers, including preachers. Here’s what he says:
After I’ve finished speaking, I also take time to evaluate whether I connected with my audience and helped my sponsor. I do that by going through my Connection Checklist, which includes the following questions:
- Integrity – Did I do my best?
- Expectation – Did I please my sponsor?
- Relevance – Did I understand and relate to the audience?
- Value – Did I add value to the people?
- Application – Did I give people a game plan?
- Change – Did I make a difference
If I can honestly answer yes to those questions, I feel certain that my connection with the audience was good and I was able to reward them for the time they’ve given me. (pp. 52-53)
Now, the questions a preacher of God’s word might ask himself after a sermon will vary from that list, but his questions are a good start.
To round out this thought, I think that preachers would do well to spend more of their preparation time 1) making sure that their message is really scriptural and 2) making specific efforts to connect with the people listening to the sermon. Focusing on the second issue, planning to connect with people involves prayerfully considering the congregation and potential visitors, thinking of the sermon from their side of the pulpit, and then going back to the sermon to make necessary modifications prior to preaching it. Connecting with people is something for which we can plan. We cannot command the Spirit of God to give life, for the Spirit blows wherever he wants (John 3:7-8). We can, however, plan to be the best ministers possible, to be the sharpest tools available in the Master’s tool belt. Better preparation and thoughtful post-preaching analysis will sharpen us.
How much time do you spend prayerfully considering those who listen to your preaching? How often do you pause after a sermon to consider how well you connected with the people?
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