You have 7 seconds . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4

I am 31 years old today. As my good friend Karla says, “I am celebrating another 29th birthday!” ha! It did hit me hard last night when during our Foundation Red Band Picnic one of the players prayed this for me, “Lord, be with Johnny as he has to travel in a band with guys who are all a decade younger than him.” Ha!

Today’s post is about knowing who you are and what it is you do. You would be surprised how many competent trained professionals simply miss opportunities because they can not master this simple idea.

During a meeting at work today I stated that the President of the United States only gets 7 seconds to make a point so why should we think we will get any longer. I was challenged on this statement by some around the table. Think about it. It is true. The president may speak on the White House Lawn for an hour. Unfortunately, what you will end up seeing is footage of him talking while the media gives their editorial. This is usually followed by a 7 second clip of the President speaking. Because advisor's know this they routinely practice what is called a “sound bite”. A sound bite is a concise and intentionally worded 5-7 second impression of their position on any given topic. Ultimately, this sound bite is the impression much of America has to base their perception upon.

I see this play out all of the time in Directing the Jr High Believe Tour. In any given trip I meet numerous potential artists to partner with on the Believe tour. A good friend of mine, Tim Grable, works for National Speaker’s Bureau. It is not uncommon for Tim to bring talent to talk with us about our theme and a partnership of some kind. This past fall we were looking for a Painter to come on the Believe tour. I am not talking about Rick Alonzo painting with neon colors to Carmen songs here folks! This is Believe. I wanted to kick it up a notch. We had visions of painters repelling from the ceiling and using mops, brooms, paint ball guns. Our vision for this element was highly engaging, teetering dangerous.

I must have met 5 painters at Youth Specialties last fall. I couldn’t get one of these folks to tell me in 30 minutes what they did. When Tim and I tried to let them in on our vision there was a fog over their face. I could read through it clearly, “I’ve never done that before”, their blank looks told me.

Enter Eric Timm. Eric told me in 5 seconds who he was and what his passion was. Sure he risked not being bland and covering every base. There was a great chance that our interests would not have matched up. After explaining in 30 seconds what we wanted to do on the Believe tour Eric responded enthusiastically. Eric is on our tour next year. Check out http://www.no1underground.com/ to learn about Eric!

Point: Do some soul searching to find out who you are and what you are passionate about. Learn how to communicate that to others. Stop caring if they accept it or not. If they are not interested it will save you, them and the local church we are called to serve lots of time!! Eventually you will find people you can serve with!

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Kurt Johnston said...

Johny...I think you are on to something really important and interesting. It hits me for two reasons:
1) If I can't verbalize it quickly and easily, I probably don't know for sure what I'm about! If I don't know what I'm about, how do I make wise decisions when opportunities come my way....just because it's a good oportunity doesn't mean it's a good opportunity for ME, but I won't know that unless I know what I'm about.

2) We totally live in a 'sound-bite' culture. People are only going to give you so much of their attention, so I need to make the most of it.

Thanks for making me think!

Gman said...

Just look at it this way - you are 30yrs younger than my Mom exactly. She is 61 this year on May 11.

Brent O'Connor said...

Interesting... I guess I've really never thought about it in that way. Seems like there is a lot of truth in what you say.

Nate said...

Hey Johnny--

I just wanted to say thanks for bringing Eric on the tour. His art is awesome and he actually did a painting of "Live with Passion" for our youth group after the conference was over. He and his wife were really cool to work with. Thanks for sharing him with us!

Theo said...

Um, I don't know you very well, but I feel like I should help you see a different perspective on this. Just because you can't say it quickly doesn't mean it's not worth saying or that you don't know what you are talking about. Sometimes big ideas take longer to explain. The sermon on the mount was longer than 7 seconds! I'd have a hard time telling Jesus to make it quick.

I think it would benefit you to dig a little deeper on this issue. Several years ago Neil Postman wrote a book called "Amusing Ourselves to Death" in which he lamented that people were becoming dumber because of 7 second sound bites with no depth. In more recent years, Robert Webber in "The Younger Evangelicals" noted that young post-modern (and post-post-modern) Christians are searching for a meaningful worship experience, not just quick and easy. He notes that there is a return to emphasis in some form of liturgy in evangelical worship. You might also benefit from reading Marva Dawn's book "Reaching OUt Without Dumbing Down." She is a Lutheran worship guru with a lot to say on the issue.

Interestingly, the most successful contemporary churches are also disagreeing with what you are saying. If you go to hear Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, you're going to hear him preach for an HOUR. They have something like 7 services at their church on the weekend, and have added three or four campuses now. Thousands come every week to hear him preach and many more thousands download his podcasts every week. You know what's more interesting? They're saying that the average age at his church right now is 18-25. Younger kids sitting longer listening to straight up expository preaching and scripture exegesis. The format of the messages is usually narrative and that is what draws attention. Listen to Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church, he preaches for an average of 45 minutes a Sunday and people all over the world are listening. These guys are reaching young audiences, too.

Ironically, it took me a lot longer than seven (or even 30) seconds to read your post. If you are correct that you should be able to say whatever you need to say in less than 30 seconds, why did you write so much? Why not just say "keep it short, stupid"? I'll answer that--because if you did, no one would know what you meant. You had to give a context for the statement to have meaning, which took time and thought to articulate. My guess is that even the guy who could explain his idea in 30 seconds will need to take more time later to explain to people how it will actually work. In reality, you don't even believe what you are saying. If you don't practice it when describing a philosophy like this, why apply it to anything--especially when related to theological matters? Doesn't Jesus deserve more than seven seconds of peoples' time? Is it realistic to think you can adequately discuss him in that much time?

Just trying to help,