Church Marketing

I like the definition Richard Reising offers in his book “ChurchMarketing 101”,

“Church Marketing … is ‘the sum’ of all your church does to connect Christ with your membership and the outside world. It is ‘the sum’ of things that done (including all that defines your product, place, etc.) to engage someone to respond positively to the very thing your are promoting…it is your challenge to reach people where they are to create the atmosphere of love and joy that people hunger for. Your challenge is to relate to people wherever they might be in life and to relevantly connect them to Christ and His kingdom”.

As a rector, his definition is leading me to reflect on what I have been doing and leading and what I need to make response to this new (at least for me) definition of church marketing. May God guide our ministry.

Learn to keep your counsel

In his book, “How to Think Like a Cat”, Stéphane Garnier advises us, “Learn to keep your counsel. learn to no longer be the center of everything at every moment through talking. Listen in order to learn, and know when to keep quiet so as to have more impact when you speak”.

When I was younger, I always liked to “be the center…through talking”. Now I know it is wise to listen and learn at first.

We need to assert ourselves

Stéphan Carnier’s book “How to Think Like a Cat” is not about cat but us. I appreciate his reflection on being assertive, “Many of us find it hard to assert ourselves in front of other, either out of shyness or lack of confidence…if other people take up more space than you, it’s because you let them do so…Cats take the space that is their due, without crushing their neighbour, but they do not tolerate any encroachment on the space. They assert themselves quietly. They don’t play the tyrant, but neither do they accept a walk-on part”.

I have learned the need to be assertive the hard way in the past years of working as a priest/pastor. Trying the please everyone, keeping my reputation to be a nice guy and avoiding (& being afraid of) conflicts are the main reasons causing me feeling hard to be assertive.

Asserting ourselves actually is being authentic, being honest to ourselves (and others) and the way to take care of ourselves. Then we learn how to respect others’ space and boundary. In the end, we all grow (together).

Our worst enemy

In his book, “Ego is the Enemy”, Ryan Holiday points out the following truths for us:” Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego…It is that petulant child inside every person, the ones that chooses getting his or he way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility – that is ego…but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle, from why we can’t win to why we need to win all the time at the expense of others. From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better…we live inside our own fantasy…what we have is not confidence but delusion…ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it…”

Yes, I realize that my battle with my worst enemy has not yet finished. I believe I am alone and helpless in this battle. Christmas reminds me that Christ has come to help us to fight and win this battle.

The Soft Overcomes the Hard

In his book, “The Tao of Daily Life”, Derek Lin points out that “in our conflict-oriented culture, we have a tendency to counter force with force. If someone yells at us, we yell back louder. When we feel disrespected, our first impulse is give that disrespect right back…the conventional approach is all about confrontation and clashing. It is the ‘hard’ path to traverse through life because it focuses on the external manifestations of power. Its method is to pump up the self by diminishing others”. Have you seen and experienced what Lin describes in your life & world? Yes, I have…

Lin offers us the Tao approach that “isn’t about confrontation and clashing. Instead, it is all about redirecting and channeling. It is the ‘soft’ path because it focuses on internal strength. Its goal is to improve oneself so that everyone can win…when you make a gut-level decision to commit yourself to this teaching, to be like water and allow the soft to overcome the hard … that is when your world, your life, and your fate will undergo a startling transformation. When you improve your character and elevate your spiritual understanding by utilizing the Tao approach .. that is when your destiny will never the same again!”

As I am getting older, my internal strength and confidence are getting stronger, I have more power to love, let go and forgive. That is the way of Tao.

Embrace the groundlessness of our situation

In her book, “Living beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”, Pema Chödrön profoundly points out that “As human beings we share a tendency scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground – something predictable and safe to stand on – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for this is freedom…”

To have freedom, we need to leave the “prison” of our mind. We often feel insecure and we think a solid ground is the solution; then consequently we act to put ground (we think it is solid) under our feet. Unfortunately we need to keep find another ground and we feel suffered …until we are awaked spiritually.

Are you still in your journey of finding the solid ground?

Our Most Valuable Currency

In her book, “Fierce Conversations”, Susan Scott points out that “Our most valuable currency is not money. Nor is it intelligence, attractiveness…Our most valuable currency is relationship. Emotional capital…we behave emotionally first, rationally second. No matter how logical we claim to be, our emotions are the most powerful factor in how we respond and interact with others…Life is about making connections, most importantly, a deep connection with people; otherwise, we do not know what it means to be human.”

As what John Donne said, “no man is an island”, no one is truly self-sufficient; everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others in order to thrive. From now on, cherish and make investments on those people/relationship so that you are not going to be an island your journey of life.

Michael Jacques’ book, “Can’t Read, Can’t Write, Here’s My Book”

Michael has autism and an intellectual disability. Even though he can’t write, he uses his iPad’s speech-to-text function to write (that is why reading the book feels like someone talking to me about his stories). Even though he can’t read, he “can remember each story I wrote by looking at the pictures” (that is why the book has many small pictures).

Michael’s book is down-to-earth collection of compelling life stories and discoveries that teach us how to embrace and celebrate our differences. The book covers topics such as learning, inclusion, advocating, independence, and the power of perseverance.

In the followings, I like to share few of his messages inspired me a lot:

“…even though a person may have some difficulties, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve what they set out to do. Sometimes it might take a long time, but that is OK…When I was finally diagnosed in grade one, my mod told me that she cried, but that was the last time she did, because she knew that I would be amazing. These words were said many times throughout my life…Everyone needs parents who listen and ask lots of questions, who speak up for their children and let them find their voices…there are different ways to learn. I realized that I could focus on my strengths and use my voice to speak up…Now I would like to talk to you about the stages of bullying. The first one is physical…The second one is mental…it was the third kind: exclusion…It was sometimes frustrating that people didn’t understand me…true friend is not about focusing on what people cannot do, but instead focusing on the thing we’re good at and the things we like…All you have to do is believe in yourself and not be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and hopefully we all have people who believing in us…Everyone’s different, so everyone has to find their own voice and learn what is right for them, and if something isn’t working, there’s always another to do it…everybody can find a way to be good at something…never discredit yourself and never sell yourself short. Always look for different ways to do things if you can’t do it the exact same way as others…not just see me as a person with a disability…see me as someone who is deserving of the same opportunities in life as those without disabilities…Focus on your strengths and find ways to make it happens”

His book is not only for the disability but for everyone. I have been touched deeply with smiles and tears while reading his book. Thank you, Michael.

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism

According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute (The Priority and Practice of Evangelism – Canadian Church Leader Perspective in 2021), 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.

According Thom S. Rainer, the top fifteen reasons our churches are less evangelistic today are:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

In his book, “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism”, Mark Dever reminds us that “according to the Bible, all believers have received this commission”. The Commission he talks about is the Jesus Great Commission (Matthews 28:18-20).

Mark points out that “We can all contribute to evangelism simply by building up the local church – helping to organize or lead it. We may teach and equip. We may provide hospitality and encouragement. We may pray and serve and show mercy and give. But we also all have a responsibility to speak of God and the good news both insider and outside of the church…God calls all Christians to share the good news. Our churches need to make sure that we know the good news and to make sure that we can all express it clearly. And we should work to train each other in having the kind of Christian lives and clear understanding that will help us to share the gospel’.

I agree with him that “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explain what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism”.

I think Mark has given us a very concise and precise conclusion on evangelism, “a God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive (a desire to obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God) We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God…The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions, but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray all Christians say “yes” to the call to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ,

Freedom in Commitment

In his book, “the subtle are of not giving a fuck”, Mark Manson, who visited fifty-five countries, made dozens of friends, and found himself in the arm of a number of lovers, talk about what he has learned from/after his journey of seeking freedom and adventure. He wrote, “…after the years of excitement, the biggest lesson I took from my adventuring was this: absolute freedom, by itself, means nothing. Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person. To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There is a certain level of joy meaning that you reach in life only when you have spent decades investing in a single relationship….there is freedom and liberation in commitment…Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant…Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goal and achieve degree of success you otherwise would…rejection of what does not align with our most important values…”.

In fact, the learnings Mark Manson has shared with us are applicable to many areas of life. The question is if we know what our important values are and what we want to be in our life. Do you know,,,?

The Anglican Vision

When I was considering to become an Anglican years ago, James E. Griffiss’ “The Anglican Vision” helped me to understand the origin of Anglicanism, Anglican belief and practice.

For someone like me coming from non-liturgical Christian background, his explanation on “the church as sacrament” dispelled my misunderstanding. He wrote, “In our prayer book sacraments are defined as ‘outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace’…The witness of the Bible, the doctrinal tradition of councils and creeds, the discipline of prayer, worship, and action, and our communion with one another and with God – all of these essential components of how the church is the sacrament of God’s presence. They are our heritage in the catholic faith mediated to us and brought to life in the particular historical condition o four church community. By the grace of God, we believe, the Word of Truth will be present with us in the process of our hearing and speaking.”

According to his description, are you and I the sacraments? As a priest, have I been with my “church” experiencing His presence among&in us? May God help us.

Self awareness, questioning yourself

In his book, “the subtle of art of noting give a fuck”, Mark Manson had one chapter to discuss his version of get to know more about ourselves. At first, he helped us to be humble about our knowing, “As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn”.

Furthermore, he pointed out that “As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last ones to figure it out. And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armor of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves”.

Thus, self awareness does not mean that we know yourself in 100%, but we are aware that we are still in the journey of learning about ourselves.

How do we have “crucial conversations”

In the book, “Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high”, the authors has offered us guidelines on the followings: 1) we need to focus on what we really want; 2) learn how to notice safety is at risk; 3) learn how to make it safe to talk about almost anything; 4) learn how to stay in dialogue when we are angry, scared or hurt; 5) we need to speak persuasively; 6) how to listen when others blow up and clam up and 9) we get to turn crucial conversation into action and result.

To have effective crucial conversations, with our goal in our mind, we need to take heart, take guts and take actions.

“Crucial Conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high”, the book you may need

Many people including Christians ourselves expect that we Christians should be nice persons. People also expect clergies must be nice persons. I believe that Christians including clergies have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, enabling them to bear fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It does not means we are not going to have any tough conversations.

The authors of this book rightly points out that “What makes each of these conversations crucial – and not simply challenging, frustrating, frightening, or annoying – is that the results could have a huge impact on the quality of your life… Despite the importance of crucial conversations, we often back away from them because we fear we’ll make matters worst. We’ve become masters at avoiding tough conversations”.

Are you a master at avoiding tough conversations?

The authors of this books also points out that “the key skills of effective leaders, teammates, parents, and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues”,

I have learned the hard way (actually with tears and sleepless nights) that we need to have crucial conversations whenever it is necessary. This book is one of the resources for our learning to have crucial conversations.

Jim Fisher’s “The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership”

Jim Fisher is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. In this book, Jim Fisher teaches leaders to simultaneously, consistently, and coherently manage, direct and engage their followers. He provides a model of integrative leadership and explain each components and their relationship clearly: Managing (plan, organize, control), Directing(vision, alignment and motivation) and Engaging (values, clarity and involvement). I suggest to have the photocopied Figures 3.1,3.6,8.1 and 9.1 on hand while you are reading the book. These tables/matrix/diagram will help you to understand the model Jim Fisher has offered in this book. As a rector, I believe the model and the principles Jim Fisher has offered in this book is applicable to parish leadership. I also believe this model is able to help me (and those are willing to learn from the business leaders and experts) to be a more effective priest/rector.

Brian Tracy’s “Just shut up and Do It! “

The title of the book really attracted me and I thought it’s a book teaching me to say “shut up and do it” to people in an effective way (yes, many people pay lip services). Instead, this book is to help us to get things done and consequently we will feel fulfilled and even happy as we are “moving step-by-step toward the accomplishment of something”. I am not going to introduce his 7 steps to conquer the goals (it is better for you to buy and read it yourself) here, instead, I like to conclude my short reflection with what he wrote, “There is very little that you cannot accomplish if you are clear about your goals, develop written, plans, and then work on them until you achieve them. You are in complete charge of your own life. You are responsible…The secret of success has always been the same: get started and keep going”.

My friends, have you gotten started the way to achieve your goal? Do you have a goal?

Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life”

In this timeless book, Fr. Nouwen again insightfully guides me (I hope it helps you too) on a journey to discover the rich and the depth of the Eucharist through the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. When I partake the Eucharist, I come in my brokenness before God, heard the Word and the profession of faith, and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

What has impacted me the most is his reminding us of the end of communion, “Communion is not the end. Mission is …We recognized him, but that recognition is not just for us to savor or to keep as a secret…It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference…”

Even though they faced difficulties, challenges and persecutions, the first disciples carried on the mission and lived out their eucharistic lives faithfully. Their witnesses have been inspiring me (I hope you too) to live out the missional life in the midst of pandemic.

Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life”.

I love to read Sister Joan’s books. This book is one of books in The Ancient Practices Series (I love them all) by Thomas Nelson. This is one of the books helped me to discover and enjoy the rich and the meaning of The Liturgical Year when I came to Anglican from another Christian tradition 8 years ago.

In the beginning of the book, Sister Joan wrote, “every year is a distinct growth point in life… Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us…The way we define our years determine what we think our lives are meant to be about and how we will live because of it…”

Then she wrote and explained “The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.”

Her writing has inspired me the most is this, “Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth”.

I have been thinking, as a priest, have I helped my parishioners to experience and cherish the rich and the profound meaning of the liturgical year? How can I have more and mover people journey with me in the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life?

Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”

In this book, Don Miguel Ruiz offers us practical guide to personal freedom based on ancient Toltec wisdom. In my journey of experiencing the power of his guide, I have been learning to change the way to deal with myself – no more harmful way going against myself. I have been learning and experiencing to live my life “without the fear of being judged by others…no longer rule my behavior according to what others may think about me…no responsible for anyone’s opinion…no need to control anyone, and no one controls me, either”. These disciples have been setting me free.

I have been also practicing: 1) don’t take anything personally and 2) don’t make assumptions.

As a priest, I love what he wrote, “God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, ‘I love you, God,’ is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, ‘Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now…”

Once we have freedom, then we will have true happiness and love.

Joe Calloway’s “Keep It Simple: Unclutter Your Mind to Uncomplicate Your Life”

Cluttered processes and over-complications are the enemies of control in our life. In this book, Joe Calloway offers us two powerful tools to streamline our life, reduce stress, and achieve our goals: simplification and focus. Joe wrote, “Focus means clarity. Clarity means knowing what is most important…Getting focused is the path to simplicity, and simplicity is the path to success and fulfillment”. As what Jessica Jackley said, “You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate delay or skip the rest”. But at first we need to determine really does matter most for us. Do you know and are you doing the most important things?