Archives For Phil Cooke

Arm WrestlingI have to admit that I’m growing weary of the “Is it better to be relevant or obedient” arguments. Frankly, it’s wasting a lot of time and energy, plus, it’s causing division and isn’t helping the cause. Here’s why:

1. We’re not even using the word correctly.  By definition, “relevance” isn’t about popularity, being cool, being liked, or by extension, compromise. Relevance is about the right thing at the right time. It’s about being connected to the matter at hand. It’s about the right tool, strategy, message, or idea that fills a need. What could be more important in sharing the gospel? By misinterpreting and condemning the word “relevance” we’re closing the door on important and critical ways it could be used to reach this culture with the gospel.

2. Relevance and obedience actually work together.  Using the word correctly, if you’re obedient, then you’re relevant. In our obedience, God uses us to be the right answer at the right time. Anything else is disobedience and irrelevance.

3. The relevance versus obedience argument is a slippery slope.  It can too easily imply our superiority and godliness, and minimize other’s efforts to share…

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KillerLife can throw us a lot of curves. Our childhood, our parents, physical challenges, early experiences on the job, all indelibly imprint us with bad behaviors that are hard to shake. A woman abused as a child, a man whose father told him he’d never amount to much, a person who lives with insecurity. Big or small, they damage our relationships, the quality of our work, and our chances for success. But there are three specific personality “quirks” that really set people back from achieving all they could become in life. I’m not a psychologist, and don’t have all the answers for fixing these problems, but I’ve discovered that if we can take a frank look at ourselves, and at least recognize the limiting behaviors, it helps us get started on the road to freedom.

Take a hard look at this list, and if you suffer from any of these types of behavior, stop blaming others, and put some effort into making real adjustments. Trust me — everyone else knows you’ve got it, so you might as well fix it.

1. Insecurity. Maybe you felt belittled or unworthy as a child, or fear…

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Businessman taking oath.For hundreds of years as missionaries took the gospel to the ends of the earth, depending on the culture they encountered, the Christian community allowed them enormous latitude into how they chose to present the message. For instance, when a missionary worked in a culture steeped in polygamy, he didn’t start by teaching what the Bible said about “one husband and one wife.” He knew the key to changing embedded cultural behavior wasn’t immediate confrontation; it was the sometimes long process of winning trust, developing relationships, and earning the right to be heard.

From Sati (widow burning) in some Asian cultures to slavery and tribal warfare in Africa, missionaries understood that it may take years before they were trusted enough to speak against values and customs that had been part of a society for generations. Legendary Baptist missionary Lottie Moon is credited with helping to end the practice of foot-binding in China. Changing this commonly accepted but crippling practice was a massive shift for influential Chinese leaders at the time. But it was only Lottie’s deep and long immersion into that society which earned her enough authority to speak…

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TargetWe’re seeing a lot of criticism recently of pastors, writers, speakers, filmmakers as well as others about how they share the Christian message with the outside culture. Some are criticized for making it too easy – they lead with the “grace” message, and are hesitant to talk about tough issues like sin, hell, or punishment. On the other side, those who preach a more serious message about tough subjects are labelled as “out of date,” “insensitive” and “hard core.” I know the debate well because over the years, I’ve had friends and clients on both sides of the argument. But here’s the problem: It’s the wrong argument, and here’s why:

Today we live in the most distracted culture in the history of the world. There’s more competition for people’s time and attention than ever. Which means that if you have an important message, your FIRST priority is to get that message heard.  I’ve said many times that no matter how great your message, if no one’s listening, you’ve failed. Getting a person to walk in the door of a church, turn on a radio or TV program, buy a book, or find…

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BooksWhen most pastors write books, you can bet they’re compiled from sermon notes and manuscripts. Preach a series on fear, and they end up with a book on the subject. Same with marriage, prophecy, grace, epic Bible stories – whatever. I don’t discourage that, but don’t think for a minute that’s a serious book. Writing is different than speaking, and editing sermon notes into a readable manuscript and then calling it a “book” isn’t very impressive. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, here’s what I recommend:

1) Go ahead and do these books I call “pastor books.”  After all, content should be maximized, and when you preach, that should be available  online, through radio and TV, podcasts, and other places – including book form.  But understand where these books line up on the food chain. These are books that will mostly help your congregation and other members of your social media or broadcast tribe. These books can often be good, but rarely make a big impact.

2) Next, focus more on your life’s work, or what I call your “One Big Thing.”  Every 3-5 years, create a book that you pour your life…

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Rebranding ChurchAt times, we all get frustrated or just plain tired of the way we do things.  Maybe it’s repetition, maybe it’s competition, or maybe the culture or markets have changed.  But chances are, as I discuss at length in my book, “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media,” you’re simply not telling your story well.  In that case, a “re-brand” or “brand refresh” might be in order.  But don’t just leap off the branding cliff or hire a costly agency.  Before you do anything drastic, start with these five questions.  They’ll help you determine if it’s really time for a re-brand, or if you just need a vacation:

1) What do you really want to change?  Do you need a simple “refresh” of the look, or a complete re-think of your identity and perception? Make sure you know the difference.

2) Is my logo simply out-dated?  First of all, a logo isn’t your brand – it’s the visual expression of your brand story. Maybe your perception and “brand” are fine, but it’s just time to update the logo.

3) What is your current perception?  What do people…

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UniqueI love creativity and think we should all be more creative. Some people think they simply aren’t creative, but the truth is, we’re all born with wonderful imaginations. Just put a group of toddlers in a room and you’ll see they’re all wildly creative. So everyone is born creative.  But something happens around elementary school that starts pushing that creativity to the back of the room.  But the more important question for today is, considering the millions of writers, artists, inventors, and filmmakers that have gone before us, can we actually be creative or original in the sense of being true innovators?  How often can we actually be the first to come up with an idea?  Creativity is a wonderful thing, but can we really be original? How many times can we actually do something that hasn’t been done before?

Mark Twain said that Adam was the only person in history who when he said something, he knew it had never been said before.  So true originality isn’t the real issue.  The real issue is to think less about creativity and more about being yourselfWriting great stories, preaching powerful sermons,…

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Noah

You’ve probably heard the controversy about the upcoming Paramount Pictures movie “Noah.” In the last few weeks, I’ve seen numerous blogs, social media posts, and commentaries on the movie – usually criticizing it and detailing how far it strays from an accurate Biblical portrayal.  But I’m one of only a handful of people who’ve actually seen the movie. Which is probably why I’m a bit bothered at the condemnations and protests from Christians who have never actually watched it. That’s why I felt compelled to write this post. Is the story an exact Biblical representation? No. For one thing, the Noah story in the Bible is remarkably short. We don’t know what happened inside the ark during the voyage. We don’t know what Noah was thinking. We don’t know the family dynamic. So the filmmakers added to the story. And honestly, there are “extra-Biblical” elements in the film. These are things that don’t line up with the Biblical account at all. If I had directed the film, I wouldn’t have added them, but this isn’t my film.

Last week, at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, three people who have seen…

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Video Camera

As a media consultant, I have the opportunity to help some of the largest churches and ministries in the country create effective, high quality media outreaches. In most cases, they are experienced, committed Christian leaders who understand the value and the power of the media.  But I also have the opportunity to spend time with less experienced pastors and ministry leaders who feel just as called to use media in a meaningful way, but have serious questions like:

“Will it compromise my message?”
“Will it be too expensive?”
“Will my preaching or teaching ministry really work on television?’
“I only have 100 people in my congregation, can I still use the media?”
“Is it an effective use of our money?”

There are many questions, and many options as well. Perhaps you’ve wondered about many of these issues before, or listened to Christian radio or watched Christian television late into the night thinking, “I could do that” but just have no idea where to start.  I feel your pain.  But the good news is yes – even if you have only a handful of people in your congregation, you can use the media. I’ve taught media classes and workshops…

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MegachurchAs the saying goes, “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”There’s never been a greater challenge for world evangelism, there are plenty of social problems like hunger and homelessness we face here in the United States, Christians are being marginalized more than ever, religious persecution is rampant on a global basis, and that’s just the beginning. But what are we still debating in the Church today?

Megachurches.

Hard to believe but I sometimes think we Christians spend more time criticizing large churches than anything else. Are there problems in 2,000+ member churches? Of course. But I work with churches of all sizes for a living, and I can tell you that for every case of shallow teaching, bad theology, leadership failures, financial improprieties, or whatever the criticism du jour happens to be, I can point to a long list of 50+ member churches guilty of the same things.

From the perspective of a person passionately interested in how Christians engage today’s culture, here’s some reasons I think it’s time for a moratorium on megachurch criticism:

1. You had a bad experience at a megachurch? Grow up. There are plenty of bad experiences to…

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