In today’s Use Your Words BlogTalkRadio show I got kind of riled up. Passionate. A wee mite upset.
So listen in! It’s a 30-minute radio show that is totally free to listen to! Here’s the gist of it: I think we are far too focused on imparting information than we are on actually inspiring change.
I was reading in my devotions today about wisdom in Ephesians 5, and the book I was using as a guide said this:
A fool is not a fool because of what he knows. He is a fool because of what he does.
That’s so true! In Proverbs, when God talks about what a fool is, it’s someone who actually does something stupid. It’s not someone who believes something stupid (although our actions do stem from our beliefs); it is the actions that matter.
Yet what do we focus on when we speak and write? I have heard far too many talks that are focused on getting people more information, but information is not what we need. We need to be encouraged, inspired, exhorted to change. We need to be invited to go deeper with God. Part of that involves teaching from Scripture–and all of our talks must be rooted in Scripture. But I fear that a big reason that the church is losing so many people is that we are not focused in making God real in our lives; we are focused in making sure people believe a certain way or know a certain amount.
Knowledge is important because it leads to action; it’s not an end in itself. Information is not life-changing; God is life-changing. We need to teach so that people know how to get in touch with God and understand what God wants. But if our teaching is just so they know more ABOUT God or know more ABOUT the Bible, but they don’t do anything, then all we’re doing is contributing to the noise.
I’ve talked a ton on this blog and on my radio show about how to grow word of mouth for your ministry. But I really should have started at first principles, which is what I’m trying to do today:
Word of mouth will only grow if people have had a real encounter with God through listening/reading you. And then you will stand out, and they will want to share it.
So if you want to stand out, here’s how:
1. Encourage Change and an Encounter with God
When you speak, don’t only teach. Don’t tell people the 15 things they need to understand about the book of Ruth, or what all the fruits of the Spirit are. Show them how to get those fruits of the Spirit. Show them why they should want to. Show them what the Holy Spirit can do for them. Show them why living as they are, without fruit, is horrible. Lead them to a change where they go deeper with God. That, in and of itself, makes you different, because the majority of Christian teaching in North America today is predicated on the belief that if we just tell people enough stuff, they’ll change. No, they won’t. Our church loses young people faster than children go through Hallowe’en candy, because we’re not authentic and we’re not real. We’re just engaging in an intellectual and emotional exercise, and they know there’s more to it than that. Be part of that “more to it”.
2. Be Transparent
People also yearn for authenticity. They want to know, not just what God says, but how you have walked the walk. How did God work in your life? Did you wrestle with this? Did you ever resist God? How did God bring you around?
When you are transparent and share your story, rather than just spout facts or Scripture indiscriminantly, you have authority to teach. So be transparent!
Remember 1 Peter 3:15, which says in part:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
We are to give an answer about OUR hope. We are to make it personal. Do so, and you will stand out from the crowd because you are authentic.
3. In your writing, teach a skill, don’t just give information
We live in an information overload world. And sadly, when speakers sit down at their keyboards and try to update their web presence, they tend to contribute to this. We think that if we simply write out on our web pages and our blogs all that we know about a certain subject, then we show that we are knowledgeable and important.
But do people even care about posts like that anymore? The web is full of posts that answer the questions “What” and “Why”: what God wants in marriage. Why you should submit to your husband. Why you need to forgive. Why bitterness is bad. What God wants from a mom. These posts tend to be quite dry and rather depressing. You read them and it’s all a list of why we should be perfect and why everything we’re doing is wrong. And they don’t stand out, because this is the vast majority of posts on the internet. It’s explaining what God wants.
That’s not enough. If you want to stand out, don’t JUST answer “What” and “Why”, but concentrate first and foremost on “How”. It’s the “How” posts that get shared on Facebook: How to make worship part of your everyday experience; how to speak more gently to your toddlers; how to find God in housework; How to rejuvenate a dying marriage; How to find more friends.
People want to know how to actually do something. Tell them that, and you will stand out. They will want to share what you have written.
I can write on and on about specific ways to build word of mouth, like writing newsletters, recording yourself, putting up videos, starting a Facebook Page, and I have done all of this. Just click on the marketing category on the right and you’ll find lots of practical posts. But remember: you can’t build word of mouth for something boring or not really useful. Word of mouth only builds if you actually are useful and if you invite people to have a real encounter with God. Do that, and put your marketing plans in place, and people will come. Try to just teach and impart knowledge, and you will bore people.
God is not about just teaching people things; He is about teaching them so that they change. Our role on this earth is not to learn everything about God; it is to learn how to serve Him. In your ministry, are you teaching stuff about God, or are you teaching people how to follow Him? That makes all the difference.
Listen in to this radio show right here!
And if you’re afraid you don’t know the difference between teaching to impart knowledge and teaching to inspire change, check out my download: Crafting an Effective Signature Talk!