I have always been fascinated with words and concepts. They are my stock and trade. Words are powerful. They are a gift that allows us to relate to each other with understanding. And understanding is the grand achievement of all communication from advertising to preaching. Without understanding, no objective that requires more than one to accomplish it is attainable. And understanding is also the hinge for wisdom. There is a reason the scripture tells us in Proverbs chapter 4, “Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Words are important!
Ideas are words on steroids. When we combine words into sentences that communicate ideas, we can teach concepts that can be embraced by others. As we do, we begin to see a community emerge with certain values, norms and tendencies; a society. Here we see words become more than just a message, they become a people. They become who we are over time as we embrace the ideas that they produce.
A Word About Values…
Jesus said that we are to be the “salt of the earth, and the light of the World”; to be game changers and global influencers. To do this we must build a community of influence. I believe that it is accurate to say, “Its not that God has a mission for His church in the World, but rather that He has a church for His mission in the World”. Christian Leaders then must become social engineers. Our goal is to build a community with missional purpose and the power of influence. Therefore we must introduce words that produce ideas and concepts that move the society we are building in a deliberate purposeful direction. These words become the channel for communicating what is important to us as leaders, our values.
Our values are the purposeful part of our ministries. They are what make our particular ministry unique. While as Christians we all value similar things, we each have unique emphasis and intensities. I have always taught that values answer “the why do we exist?” question, while our vision statements should be a simple summary statement of these values. Our mission statement answers the “what are we going to do?” and our strategic plan answers the “who, where, when and how?” questions. So the message we must constantly communicate with our members is “what are our values?” and “why do we exists?” Our values define our culture, establish the spiritual mores that govern our community, and give purpose to our activities.
Well, today I have three words for you that will help you understand how to effectively communicate your values and create a culture of power and purpose, a culture where your values are more than wall decorations and your mission statement is more than a filler page in the church brochure. They are ancient words from the arena of Philosophic rhetoric (don’t run yet, give me a moment).
In rhetoric there are three ideas that Aristotle used as tools of persuasion to effectively communicate an argument on a particular subject. They are Pathos (Emotional), Logos (logical) and Ethos (Character). I have found them helpful not only in the area of speech (art of persuasion) but also in understanding the process of community (church) development and transformation. Yes, the pattern Aristotle identified works for speech, but it also can be used to sustain an idea within the society until the people become the message themselves. Utilizing this pattern in a ministry setting can create a powerful ministry brand that is built around the central message of our values.
A Word About Brand…
Advertising experts define “brand” as “all the response generated by your presence in the marketplace.” It’s more than a logo and a color scheme. It is the feelings, ideas and reputation your presence has created and sustained within a group or culture. And this can be positive or negative. From a church/ministry perspective when your brand is positive, it becomes purposeful and powerful. When you add a strong “persuasion factor” that is clearly communicated, understood, easily experienced, repeatable and sustainable, your influence can create great gravity, giving it the power to draw and hold on to those who come.
So let’s look at each of these words and let me coach you on how to use the concept to create the community that you want.
Pathos in the Greek originally meant “suffering”. It came to mean “experience” that touched the emotions. In rhetoric it is the appeal of a message that connects to the emotions of the hearer and produces influence or persuasion. It is the portion of the message to which the hearer can relate. It ignites their passions because they have shared the experience described by the speaker or can relate to it through their imagination.
From a church growth perspective I define it as the common experience and passion shared by those who come to your church and are exposed to your value system. It is one to which they can easily relate, and that also connects to their emotions in a positive way. Hillsong, the famous church in Australia, places a high value on worship. And has, to a large degree, built their global influence on a consistent worship experience that attendees have when in a Hillsong service. They have also exported that around the world through various media outlets, through students they have trained and ministers they have produced. It is an astounding global ministry brand with tremendous gravity.
Our second word is Logos. In the Greek it means “word or reason.” It is the root word for logic or logical. In rhetoric it is the explanation of an idea through a rational, systematic form of logic that produces a persuasive argument for the speaker. It is the expression of the rational logic behind the idea.
As we offer our Bible based values in a relevant, clearly communicated way, our own set of word ideals and values begin to develop in the hearts of people who are members of our community. Over time our members begin to share a common language and lexicon. “Value Words” and phrases emerge that are frequently used and immediately understood by members. They start to become the message themselves. They begin to speak to others what they have heard us speak to them. At this point our ministry is multiplied as well as our impact and influence. Now instead of one voice communicating the message, we have many. And a movement is born with salt and light potential.
It takes both a strong Pathos and a strong Logos to build a ministry brand that will endure and create gravity over the long haul. And both our experience and our words should express our value system in a consistent manner. It is about balance here. Too much emotion and your ministry will lack credibility and substance; too much word (reason) and it will become cerebral and overly analytical.
Ministries who have a strong word connected to an emotional experience tend to grow rapidly and effectively. They effectively communicate a clear message delivered at the heart level. It will leave a lasting impression and one that people will share with others.
This seems to be the key to growth. The members of your church and ministry must be adequately stimulated emotionally to be motivated to share with someone the great spiritual things they are experiencing at your church.
This brings us to our last word, Ethos. Ethos defined in the Greek simply means “accustomed place”. It has come to be defined as the guiding beliefs, ideals or principles that characterize a community or ideology. It is what a particular community is known for, its reputation. For a company, it is the brand. In rhetoric it is the credentials and reputation of the speaker that provides persuasive power to his message.
For our purposes here I define Ethos as the sum of both Pathos and Logos. Ethos is the result. When we create a common experience that is tied to the emotions and build it upon systematic truth that is compelling, people are moved to act decisively and with conviction. They begin to share our system of values at the heart level. They become a society, a community. The general reputation, attitude and the atmosphere it creates becomes our ethos. Ethos becomes the credibility that gives us persuasive power to influence others.
Many churches today lack an authentic ethos because they have allowed themselves to be defined by someone else’s values, or have simply looked for something that will work, because it works, without it being born out of who they really are and what they are passionate about.
These three words represent concepts that when properly managed can serve as a simple road map to creating a ministry brand that is exciting, contagious and sustainable.
Now Let Me Coach You:
Focus On Your Experience…
The Pathos (experience) of your church/ministry starts with the values that drive your vision and identity. These values must be communicated and then experienced in service settings. The experience of these values must be strategically planned and emotionally charged. Getting the chemistry right is critical. I’m not talking about emotionalism for the sake of emotionalism, but rather connecting a message to the emotions of those present in a way that the experience leaves them inspired and ready to act. You should not only manage the message but also the environment. This includes the people who lead the service on stage as well as the atmosphere created by the lighting, sound, and music. This common experience (your pathos) should be one that reinforces your values; is consistent, inspiring and exciting. As it is experienced over and over again, your members begin to become synchronized with the experience. It becomes more and more a part of them. They take ownership of it. It becomes your ministry Pathos.
If you’re not strategizing and then managing the emotional stimulation of your ministry settings you should. Ask yourself these questions:
Do our services inspire and excite the emotions of those present in an appropriate and strategic way?
Is there a place in the service that allows for a clear emotional connection?
Is there a passionate “values” theme that is consistent in our ministry settings?
Do each of our ministry activities reinforce our values and beliefs on an emotional level?
Do we have an effective team of communicators who can interpret the experience for the audience in a way that inspires them to act in a decisive manner?
Your Logos… From a church growth and development perspective, your Logos are the ideas, values and vision expressed in words that stimulate the mind to draw a conclusion. While your ministry experience (Pathos) stirs the emotions of your members, your Logos stimulates the mind with a reasonable logic that persuades them to believe, want to be a part and to act. Emotional experiences without reason will loose their impact over time. But when we connect an idea to the hearer in such a way that it becomes a shared value, the motivation becomes internalized.
Your values, vision and strategic plan should make sense. They should be clearly communicated consistently and creatively. Look for opportunities to reinforce them during services through testimonies and media. And remember only about 15% of communication is verbal. The rest is through the other four senses. Stimulate them all if you can. Your values should be seen, touched, etc.
When trying to define your ministry Logos, listen to yourself. Listen to your words and ideas… and ask:
What are the ideas that keep coming up again and again in our services?
What themes and messages am I so passionate about that I frequently preach, and could be considered as a life message?
What ideas or concepts would best define what is most important to us?
Finish this statement: “People who know me know that when it comes to church I ______________…”
Now Your Ethos… Managing your (ethos) reputation and credibility has never been more important than it is today. You already have a reputation and are continuing to build it whether you know it or not. The part you control is the experience that people have when they attend your services, and the tools and manner you use to communicate a clear message of your values and vision. Make sure that what you control is excellent, honest, consistent and current with your values and identity. Tell people what they are going to experience and why. Don’t over sell, but don’t under sell either.
Your media, advertising and marketing efforts should be constantly examined against the template of your values as well. Make sure that what you advertise is what the people are going to experience when they arrive.