Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Contrasts: Luntz and Lies



Luntz, Frank I. Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business form Ordinary to Extraordinary. New York: Hyperion, 2011. 300 Pages. Cloth. $25.99. www.hyperionbooks.com (N)

Wright, Bradley R. E., PhD. Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010. 253 Pages. Paper. $14.99. www.bethanyhouse.com (LHP)

A Contrasts Review is where we contrast different kinds of material
to better understand each better.

Frank Luntz's Win  is about communication and properly stating information. Bradley R. E. Wright's Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites is about correcting miscommunication and misinformation. 



You probably know his name from his voter focus groups and "dial" from the Fox News Channel. We thought it would be interesting to see what a messaging expert had to say that might be of interest to the Church.

From the New York Times bestselling author and top pollster Dr. Frank Luntz comes an unprecedented examination of communication excellence and how top performers win in all areas of human endeavor by utilizing superb communication skills. From Mike Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger to business icons Rupert Murdoch, Steve Wynn, and Fred Smith; to the CEOs of MGM Resorts, J. Crew, and Gibson Guitar; to legendary sports superstars like Larry Bird, Jimmy Connors, and Mike Richter; to media legends Roger Ailes, Don Imus, and dozens more, Luntz tells their stories—in their own words—and demonstrates how their style of operation and communication is absolutely essential to their success. Luntz makes it clear that following the rules of effective communication is indispensable in any successful human endeavor.

Dr. Luntz offers more than seventy new “words that work” for private one-on-one meetings with your boss, for public presentations to hundreds of colleagues, or for television appearances that reach millions. There are more than three dozen specific lessons and recommendations—and each one directly illustrates the nine essential action-oriented principles of winning at every level: People-Centered, Paradigm-Breaking, Prioritizing, Perfection, Partnerships, Passion, Persuasion, Persistence, and Principled Actions.

Do you have what it takes? Win is an unprecedented examination of the art, science, and language of winning, and a must-have for people who want to understand and emulate the winners of today.

THE DEFINITION OF WINNING
– The ability to grasp the human dimension of every situation;
– the ability to know what questions to ask and when to ask them;
– the ability to see the challenge, and the solution, from every angle;
– the ability to communicate their vision passionately and persuasively;
– the ability to connect with others and create an enduring chemistry;
and 10 other universal attributes of winners.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN?
DO YOU KNOW THE WORDS THAT WORK?
FIND OUT MORE INSIDE. 

(Publisher's Website)
I am not, nor have I ever been, a proponent of Church Growth principles. I do find it interesting that Dr. Luntz knows the power of words. Could his insights help People of the Word?

Luntz writes in the world before Charlie Sheen changed the connotation of the word "winning" in popular culture. His nine P's of winning are:
  1. People-Centeredness
  2. Paradigm Breaking
  3. Prioritization
  4. Perfection
  5. Partnership
  6. Passion
  7. Persuasion
  8. Persistence
  9. Principled Action
Luntz is in tune with American culture. After all, he wrote a book on what Americans really want. People want to know that you care about them. When I preach, I must pay due attention to the Biblical text and the congregation hearing that particular sermon.  What could be more paradigm-breaking than the two scandalous mysteries of Christianity, the virgin birth and physical Resurrection of Christ from the dead?

His chapter on Prioritization has some very interesting stats on Public School Education (111). That list alone may be worth the cost of the book. Want to know how Amazon developed the Kindle? See page 118. Communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully and clearly must be my priority as a preacher. He is the only Perfect person ever. How we communicate that is not always perfect, but it should be user friendly (cf. 143, the iPod). How can confessional liturgical Lutheran Christians have a worship resources (bulletins and hymnals) that are user-friendly and help a person worship in Spirit and in truth? How about using only one numbering system throughout an entire hymnal? How about using a "tab" bulletin where the outline is printed on the right three inches of a legal-sized sheet of paper (and the remainder is folded to the size of a folded letter-sized bulletin).

Getting things done in a congregation or Church bureaucracy takes partnership. Everybody needs some skin in the game (cf. 174). Leaders need to show Passion. Preachers proclaim the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Christ. It takes real skill to make the Gospel boring! The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod has a new memorable emphasis for the Church: Witness, Mercy, Life Together (cf. 181). Preachers will also benefit from showing passion in the way they present (201). 

Persuasion is an art of Rhetoric, one of the parts of the ancient Trivium (and the traditional seven liberal arts). Luntz helped me understand persuasion as a spectrum (216ff, 222ff). No, I am not going to be able to rationally convince someone to become a Christian. That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. Yet, if I am better aware of common rational objections so that I may do some pre-evangelism apologetics, isn't a field more fertile with better soil, and fewer stones and weeds? Lutheran Christians are well-poised to be the stable, predictable, insightful, reliable Christians in the public square that America needs (237).

Finally, the author calls for principled action. Here repentant and forgiven Christians should be at their best. We can handle the charges of hypocrisy (both true and imagined) and continue to point to Christ. No, Frank Luntz did not set out to write a book to help servants of the Word to choose their words better, but he did.


Speaking of hypocrites, author Bradley Wright tackles myths that you've been told.



There are things that sound so right that they have to be true, right? 

Would you like to reconsider your answer?

What if all the bad news you've been hearing about Christians isn't true?

Here are some facts that may surprise you:
  • Evangelicals are more respected by society today than they were twenty years ago.
  • Divorce rates of Christian couples are lower than those of nonbelievers.
  • The percentage of young people who attend church has held steady over the past twenty years.
All these statements are true, yet we've been told the opposite time and time again. Why is the church being misled? And what is the true state of Christianity in America today?

Sociologist Brad Wright shatters popular myths by sifting through the best available data. He reveals how Christians are doing when it comes to everything from marriage and morality to church growth and public perception. While not all the news is good, it turns out there is a wealth of encouraging information that we're not being told.

Get the truth behind the statistics you've been hearing and how the numbers are being manipulated, and discover what is really happening in American Christianity.

Recipient of the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award (Christianity and Culture)

(Publisher's website)
I was taught that statistics were another form of lies. It was a joke, but unfortunately, not far from the truth. 

No, we're not missing an entire generation from the church. People do tend to come back to Christianity, if not the same home congregation and church body. Besides, families are much smaller in the last couple of generations than they were for most of American history. Read Chapter 3 (57ff) and be shocked in a good way. Consider the map of religious adherents as a percentage of all residents (92) and be encouraged.

Active Christians have a very, very low divorce rate. The rate among infrequent church-goers (cultural "Christians") is significantly higher than that of the regular population. Yet, statistics can be manipulated to say just about anything...bad about Christians. "Christians are exposed to many inaccurate statistics about Christians" (18). Why? Sometimes the messenger wants to make a specific point. Statistics often tell only part of the story, not the whole truth and nothing but. The media wants news that makes headlines. Pious Christians don't make for very exciting newscasts.

The author covers six areas:
  1. church growth
  2. what we believe
  3. participation in church activities
  4. family and sexual issues
  5. how we treat others
  6. how others see us
I heartily recommend this book to every Christian pastor, if nothing else to have another resource to combat the false "common sense" everybody seems to know and believe about Christians and the future of their congregation, as well as to be better informed about the statistics broadcast by media (especially online).

If you hear any statistic about Christianity:
  • Question whether it's accurate
  • Question the motives of the person writing
  • Disagree with the conclusions
  • Judge the statistic in light of your own experiences
  • Not believe it for any reason, including just being in a cranky mood (221)

These two books encouraged me in my vocations as a husband, pastor, headmaster, and citizen/taxpayer. I pray they will be of benefit to you.



Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.