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Archive for the ‘John C. Maxwell’ Category

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.

Energy Needed

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.

Know Thyself1) 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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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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