Attention: The Priceless Commodity of Marketing

Attention MarketingI won a book, Attention! This Book Will Make You Money!. It’s a book about how to use attention-getting online marketing to increase your revenue, by Jim Kukral. I read it in a couple of hours and it held my attention throughout, which is a really good start for a book on this topic!

Jim tells a pretty neat story about his attempt to get the attention of a well-known wealthy guy you may have heard of before – Mark Cuban. It worked, and it’s one of dozens of great examples Jim uses throughout the book of how to seize the attention of your intended audience/reader/consumer. It occurred to me just how important attention is, not only for marketing and earning revenue, but for publishing any kind of message.

You see, if no one is listening, it doesn’t matter how great our message is. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, nobody really cares whether it makes a sound or not. We’re just glad we didn’t get smashed.

I’ve heard plenty of times, in connection with the church that we should be “entertaining” people, but the very word entertain simply means to hold someone’s attention. Brainstorm with me. How can we get attention in ways that are meaningful, positive, and ethical? For the gospel, for our message, or even for our product, what works? What’s acceptable?

I’m going to address these questions and more over a few posts, but wanted to hear your feedback first. So, how does the concept of attention marketing grab you?

When Love Comes to Town – Paul Louis Metzger on John's Gospel

Paul Louis Metzger on the Gospel of JohnI’ve preached through the gospel of John a couple of times in my ministry, and each time, I bought more commentaries. The Book of John is pure profundity wrapped in simplicity. It’s deeply complex and linguistically simple at the same time. Very few commentaries dive deeper than the simplicity of the text itself.

Paul Louis Metzger, however, has done an amazing job of probing not only the gospel of John, but the human heart as well in his new commentary, The Gospel of John: When Love Comes to Town (Resonate Series). From the very preface of the book, I was engaged. As I skipped along to sections covering my favorite chapters and portions, I was delighted by new insights at every turn.

A good friend of mine often says that everyone has a desire to be “deeply known and loved,” and Metzger makes the point that the incarnation of Jesus (the arrival of the God-man in flesh on earth) was God’s ultimate way of touching the very deepest needs in the human heart. John brings us to the culmination of this loving touch in the cross and resurrection, to which he surprisingly devotes half of his entire evangelistic record.

There are plenty of commentaries on John available, but what I yearned for in my own preaching were books that would help me connect the text to the lives of the people in the pew, and that’s what the Resonate Series seems to do. This is the first commentary in the series that has crossed my desk, but I’m definitely looking forward to more!

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Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The links above are affiliate links and I would earn a small commission from any purchases made using them.

Costly Grace: One of My New Favorite Books on Discipleship

Costly GraceI have well over 1,000 books in my library, but just a handful come to mind when I think of books that are able to define discipleship well. They would include Jim Berg’s Changed Into His Image, Clyde Cranford’s Because We Love Him, and of course, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Now, I’m adding another to that short list – Jon Walker’s Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

I suppose it’s ironic, first of all, that my short list of favorite books on discipleship includes works that probably contradict each other in many places. Jim Berg is methodical in his approach, presenting a great outline of a life of discipleship. Cranford is more poetic and philosophical while Rick Warren is extremely practical, real, and down-to-earth. It’s also ironic that I’ve never read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, which is the classic work that serves as the basis for Jon’s new book. The original was even listed by Christianity Today as one of the ten most influential books of the last century. Even without having read Bonhoeffer’s classic, I grew in my understanding of discipleship simply by digesting Walker’s observations and conclusions. For example…

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Life Is a Sacred Journey with God

The Sacred Journey by Charles FosterRecently, our small group talked about the subject of spiritual disciplines and we based our discussion on the book The Sacred Journey: The Ancient Practices by Charles Foster. Foster particularly addresses prayer and meditation, but avoids nailing life down to a few prescribed rituals.

I must admit that I had a difficult time connecting with Foster through much of the book, probably because of a weakness on my part. I’m a systems-oriented individual. I like outlines. I like formulas. I like simple math and neatly packaged answers. What Charles Foster offers, instead, is a far more abstract view of prayer. He likens the Christian life to a pilgrimage and that image becomes the basis for the rest of the book.

The fact that I have a hard time connecting with Foster’s writing style is probably indicative of a problem in our age. We don’t live like pilgrims. Pilgrims have few possessions, roots, or attachments. They’re mobile. The pace is slow. Their experience of the world around them is rich, undistracted by the hustle and bustle of modern life. I live in southern California where the pace is… shall we say break-neck? Freeways filled with fast cars get us to the next appointment and shopping malls abound, offering us quick and easy access to all the cool, glamorous, and entertaining “necessities” of life.

But God wants pilgrims. He wants us on a journey with Himself. He desires that we, at times, “be still and know that [He] is God.” (Ps. 46:10) So what Foster says about walking in a continual conversation with God is exactly what I need to hear at times. I still don’t have a great appreciation for some of Foster’s concepts that seem so abstract that they fail to offer an answer for what I’m to do next.

I think formulas and systems have their place in Christianity. James told us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only, so sometimes what we need is the next three steps. But some days… I just need life to be a pilgrimage – a journey with God.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The links above are Amazon affiliate links.

7 Ways to Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado
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I’ve just finished reading Max Lucado’snewest book, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference, and I feel… challenged! The premise of the book is that we have a choice to do things that will make an impact that outlasts us. Life is a temporary assignment, but the effects of our lives are permanent.

Lucado begs the question over and over again, what are you doing to outlive your life? What are you doing that matters in eternity? How are you investing yourself and giving yourself away? And as I read through each chapter, I was faced with new questions and new issues. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many ways to outlive our lives, including…

  1. Pray. A lot. Prayer affects eternity. As Spurgeon said, “prayer moves the arm that moves the world.” Do it without ceasing.
  2. Be hospitable and welcoming. Welfare and food stamp programs can help assuage the physical problem of hunger, but opening ourselves to others addresses much deeper issues.
  3. Stand up for Christ, even in the face of persecution and criticism.
  4. Loosen your grip on your goods. It’s not that you have to give everything away, it’s that everything needs to be available at all times since it all belongs to God anyway.
  5. Come out of your shell. It’s easy to pull a mental curtain around us so we can block out the images we see of suffering, but we need to open our eyes to the hurt and pain of the world.
  6. Always be investing in someone.
  7. You can dine in and give your steak dinner money to buy a meal for someone.

When it comes to helping people in need, we do all kinds of things to protect ourselves from having to open our eyes and our hearts. We have our stock answers ready… well we can’t help everyone… those people should help themselves… I’m not going to enable them… they’re probably criminals… But when Peter and John met the lame man at the gate called Beautiful, they didn’t run a background check. They also didn’t give him any money. They healed him, in Jesus’ name, and watched him leaping and praising God as a witness to other hopeless people.

This is a tough post to write. Why? Because I’m not doing enough to outlive my own life. So I’m taking a bit of a risk in having readers question me on what I’m doing, and I might very well come up short. But here’s the thing, I’ve never met a truly generous, giving person who spent time questioning the giving of others. Challenging others to give? Perhaps. But let each one of us look within and ask, what is God leading me to do to outlive my life?

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. And the Amazon links above are affiliate links. I would earn a small commission from any sales generated through them.

Jesus Manifesto, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Book Review)

About Jesus Manifesto

Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010

Video Review

Jesus Manifesto (Book Review) from Brandon Cox on Vimeo.

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have written an excellent treatise on returning to Jesus as the core of what life is all about. They move us away from thinking about methodologies and regulations and back to the idea of just knowing the Person of Christ.

One Big Takeaway

Jesus isn’t a cause; He’s a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned, and embodied.

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Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of Jesus Manifesto for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The links to in this post are affiliate links. I would earn a small commission if you purchased the book through a link.

Book Review (and Giveaway): Transforming Church in Rural America

I grew up in a small, rural community in a small, rural church. I’ve served as Pastor of small, rural churches as well. So to see that Pastor Shannon O’Dell had written a book on “breaking all the rurals,” he had my attention. Upon reading his work, I’ve been left uncomfortable and disturbed!

In Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon actually has the gall to challenge our longstanding traditions such as voting on everything and settling for the status quo. He calls on us to throw away our golden calves and personal preferences in exchange for a rather uncomfortable challenge – the challenge to embrace a vision for actually reaching lost people.

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