Infographic Analysis: Another Reason Why MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Was So Powerful, by Maria Popova

The poetics of presenting, or why beautiful metaphors are better than beautiful slides.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech before 250,000 civil rights supporters. It would go on to reverberate through the nation, reaching millions more, and through history, inspiring generations and forever changing the course of culture. But how can sixteen minutes of human speech have the power to move millions and steer history?

That’s exactly what presentation design guru Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences (public library), probes as she analyzes the shape of Dr. King’s speech and what made it so monumentally impactful — a modern-day, infographic-powered version of Kurt Vonnegut’s iconic lecture on the shapes of stories exploring oration rather than narrative.

The Speech

Click to listen to 5 minute clip from climax of the speech.

Duarte’s Analysis

Duarte notes the Dr. King spoke in short bursts more reminiscent of poetry than of long-winded lecture-speak and highlights his most powerful rhetorical devices — repetition, metaphors, visual words, references to political documents, citations from sacred texts and spiritual songs — in a fascinating visualization of the speech, demonstrating how it embodies the core principles of her book.

Duarte followed up Resonate with Harvard Business Review’s HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, offering more specific strategies for honing the power of presentation, where she places special emphasis on the far-reaching power of metaphor and writes:

Metaphors are a powerful literary device. In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, about 20% of what he said was metaphorical. For example, he likened his lack of freedom to a bad check that America has given the Negro people … a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” King introduced his metaphor three minutes into his 16-minute talk, and it was the first time the audience roared and clapped.

Pair with five things every presenter should know about people and some timeless advice on how to give a great presentation.

Read more great content on Brain Pickings 

Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks | TED Talk |

VARIETY: Larry Poland Builds Bridges Between Hollywood and Evangelicals, by Brian Lowry

Kudos for Larry Poland from Hollywood’s #1 weekly magazine, Variety. Subscribe today.
Artwork by Joel Kimmel for VARIETY
Artwork by Joel Kimmel for VARIETY

Despite his cheerful demeanor, Poland isn’t a Pollyanna about the gap separating media culture from evangelicals. There’s a reason he titled his recent book on the topic “Chasm: Crossing the Divide Between Hollywood and People of Faith.”


Variety TV Columnist 



Master Media's Prayer Calendars help Christian pray for America's leading media influencers
Master Media International’s Prayer Calendars helps Christians pray for America’s leading media influencers

Hollywood and evangelical Christians don’t exactly have a harmonious history. So it’s always something of a jolt to be reminded that a group of the latter schedules regular prayers for specific showbiz leaders and media influencers — including, in what’s left of June, Warner Bros.’ Sue Kroll, FX CEO John Landgraf, actress Anna Kendrick, and the ubiquitous Kardashians.

The “prayer calendar” (and yes, it’s organized alphabetically) is just one of the innovations arising from Mastermedia Intl., which seeks to engage the entertainment industry and effect change through what amounts to constructive engagement. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the group is led by Larry Poland, who has spent the past 35 years conducting this sort of missionary work, although the mysterious tribe he oversees drives around in expensive cars and tosses around words like “synergistic.”

Kudos for Larry Poland from Hollywood's #1 Weekly
This article originally appeared in the June 22 issue of Variety.

Having “flunked retirement two or three times,” Poland is again seeking to engineer a transition in day-to-day management, one that will position Mastermedia, he says, for the next 30 years. Yet whatever the organization’s future, its past and present under Poland has generally operated in stark contrast with Christian groups that pursue a more confrontational approach — using “anger strategies,” as Poland calls them, like boycotts and protests, which he considers counterproductive.

“I knew instinctively that was not the right way to go about it,” Poland says. “The best way to change content is not to scream and yell at the people who produce it.”

In such a polarized political environment, Poland’s attitude feels particularly refreshing, and it has helped keep doors open that might otherwise have been shut. Part of Mastermedia’s outreach has involved conducting corporate seminars, seeking to educate decision-makers about the spending power of the evangelical market and ways to address the faithful without casually or inadvertently insulting them.

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Get your own copy of Larry’s Media Leader Prayer Calendar


Youth and Evangelicals Outstrip All Other Movie-going Audiences, by David Kinnaman

The Future of Faith in Film and Television: O Crap! The Theatre is Full, by Actress McKenna Elise

The Future of Faith-Based Filmmaking: What is a Christian movie? by Screenwriter Mike Rinaldi

Current Films by Act One Graduates Reveal Strange Dichotomy in Box Office Mojo’s ‘Christian Movie’ Category

Why Most “Christian” Movies Suck, by Screenwriter Brennan Mark Smith

Christians in Hollywood: A Mission Impossible Writer Offers a Treatment, by TV Writer Ron Austin

The Blind Side Leading the Blind: Better Faith-Based Filmmaking by Living Better Stories, by Gary David Stratton

Remembering Ten Black Christian Leaders, by Clarence B. Jones

Clarence B. Jones is the former personal counsel, adviser, draft speech writer and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. His personal, insider’s account of the 1963 March On Washington, Behind The Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation, was released last January by Palgrave Macmillan. Originally published in The Huffington Post.

by Clarence B. Jones

The Azusa Street revival under the leadership of William J. Seymour helped birth a worldwide spiritual awakening

In commemoration of Black History Month, I want to share my thoughts about the historical influence of major black religious figures on the movement for freedom and participatory democracy, without regard to race or color, in our own country.

What’s the relevance or connection? The movement for transformative change of those institutions and policies in our country supporting racial segregation was fueled by young people with core values and ideals of freedom and democracy. The same core values for participatory democracy and equal access to opportunity motivating the youth in the Middle East.

Black and white young people, principally college students, in the late 50s and 1960s in our country did not have the benefit of instant communication with one another by use of the internet and companion social network technologies of Facebook, Twitter, and smart phones. The tools of communication they had were only television, radio, and next-day newspaper reports by journalists on the scene reporting their stories.

The determination and persistence of their non-violent peaceful protests opposing racial segregation or the War in Vietnam were influenced by the religious teachings of their “elders”: persons who formed the basis or backbone of the protest religious theology. A theology that constituted the philosophical foundation of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in our country.

As our nation commemorates Black History Month, it is fitting that we pay tribute to contributions of such “elders” to our own nation’s struggle for participatory democracy and the influence such philosophy and political doctrines had not only on the youth in our country, but also on those university students, especially English speaking and reading young people, in the Arab world.

Bishop Richard Allen

Widely considered to be the “Father of the Black Church”, Richard Allen (1760-1831) founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).

Born into slavery in Philadelphia, Allen was allowed to buy his freedom at the age of 20. Ordained a Methodist minister in 1784, he became increasingly put off by the racist segregation of the white Methodist community. He responded by founding the AME, first as a local congregation and then uniting with a group of churches from surrounding cities to form the first black denomination in the United States. Elected as the institution’s first Bishop, Allen was a major influence in the development of black cultural identity and an inspiration for future generations of leaders who would use the church as major force for organization and unification in the black community.

Bishop William J. Seymour

From 1906 to 1909, William J. Seymour preached his radical form of Christianity from a run-down building in Los Angeles. His church was the host to thousands of visiting ministers, many of whom incorporated Seymour’s teachings about experiencing the Holy Spirit when they returned to their own congregations. The event became known as the Azusa Street Revival and is largely credited as the origin point for the modern Pentecostal or charismatic movement.

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Can a church be too big to fail? by William Vanderbloemen

No matter what you think of the personalities involved in the latest headlines, they highlight the need for leaders thinking about transition.

“True leadership is measured by what happens after you die.” – Dr. Myles Munroe

By William Vanderbloemen • The Washington Post

Mars Hill Church, then led by Mark Driscoll, held its Easter service at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash. on April 24, 2011. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Greg Gilbert)
Mars Hill Church, then led by Mark Driscoll, held its Easter service at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash. on April 24, 2011. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Greg Gilbert)

The designation “Too Big to Fail” usually makes us think of large banks, propped up by taxpayer funds during the 2008 financial crisis. But the central questions it raises—When do we have a responsibility to save an institution? And who should be on the hook to save it?—apply beyond the finance industry. Each of us has our own ideas and interpretations of which institutions are the most valuable to society, and what the possible failure of an institution would mean in our daily lives.

For me, that resonates nowhere more profoundly than with our country’s churches. Megachurches, those with over 2,000 regular attendees, are a large piece of the American religious landscape. And as the big get bigger, they also have farther to fall.

Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of megachurches in the United States. According to Hartford Institute, now there are 1,300 churches in America with more than 2,000 weekend worshippers, and 50 churches with more than 10,000 weekend worshippers. Those numbers appear to only be growing.

We recently got a sense of their massive influence by witnessing the reaction when two major pulpits were vacated. Dr. Myles Munroe from the Bahamas Faith Ministries International died recently in a tragic plane accident. And Mark Driscoll, who led the multi-site megachurch Mars Hill, resigned over a leadership controversy—leaving behind a weekly attendance of over 12,000 people.

So what happens when these charismatic pastors, who galvanized their congregations’ growth, disappear?

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William Vanderbloemen is the author of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works and President and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

Spirit-empowered Leadership and the ‘Dangerous Unity’ of Prayer

Kingdom Prayer and the Work of the Holy Spirit

When is the last time you heard of a church or college in the United States devoting an entire day to prayer and fasting together?

by Gary David Stratton, PhD • Senior Editor

Why is the power of the Holy Spirit so evident in some communities and so absent in others?  Why are some leaders so directed and effective in their callings, while others faithfully program and preach with so little sign of God’s presence? Why are some campus ministries effective in helping students come to faith, while others are so ineffective?  Why do some churches deeply impact their culture, while others merely grow more conformed to its image?  Why are some cities and campuses so full of God’s presence and others so empty?

Pastors Jack Hayford, Kenneth Ulmer, Lloyd Ogilvie in Prayer gathering at the Rose Bowl
Jack Hayford, Kenneth Ulmer, and Lloyd Ogilvie at Rose Bowl prayer gathering.

The first time I lived in Los Angeles, Presbyterian Lloyd Ogilvie and Pentecostal Jack Hayford teamed up to gather hundreds of leaders from around the city to gather for half a day of prayer every month. It started with a handful of their ministerial friends who were willing to spend long periods of time together in focused prayer (and even fasting.) They then invited other ministers to gather monthly, and gather they did. As a young campus minister, it was a life-altering experience to gather with more than 500 city leaders willing to give up a day of their busy schedule to seek God’s face together. Not only were they  powerful times of prayer, they were times of prayer for God’s power. God seemed to answer the prayers of that era with an increase of the Spirit’s work all across the city. When the gatherings stopped, the vitality and influence of the church across the city seemed to falter.

A coincidence?  Maybe. Anecdotal evidence is often used to support nearly any theology, and certainly there were a number of complex factors involved in that unique era of L.A. history. Still, the entire experience left me wondering: Is it possible God that releases the ministry of his Holy Spirit on earth primarily when and where his help is specifically requested by His people?  Consider the case from the Old Testament.

Spirit-Empowered Leadership and Prayer

Othniel, by J James Tissot
Othniel, by J James Tissot

Throughout the Old Testament, it is the Spirit of God who empowers God’s people to do his will. [7] In the power of the Holy Spirit anointed leaders delivered Israel from their oppressors,[8] performed supernatural feats,[9] prophesied the word of God,[10] judged Israel’s affairs,[11] built the tabernacle,[12] and received God’s plan for the Temple.[13]

The prepositions “among” and “upon” are of particular significance in describing the Spirit’s work in the OT. This work of the Spirit is primarily “external” in the sense that the Spirit does not dwell within OT saints as in NT believers.[14] The work of God is often accomplished by the Spirit “coming upon”,[15] or “lifting up”[16] a leader or prophet.[17] In Judaism the Spirit of God is especially the “Spirit of prophecy,” [18] and the NT affirms that the prophets “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.[19]

The Spirit dwells “among” the people of God, through these Spirit-empowered leaders[20] who comprise a mere handful of the people of God: primarily judges,[21] prophets,[22] and kings.[23] This work of the Spirit seems to be closely related to anthropomorphic descriptions of God’s actions—the hand of God,[24] the finger of God,[25] the breath of God,[26] “the word of God.”[27]

Throughout the Old Testament prayer plays a significant role in the release of the ministry of the Holy Spirit on earth. [28]  One of the more remarkable examples is found in the third chapter of the book of Judges, when the cry of the people of God for deliverance from their enemies is answered by God putting His Spirit upon the Othniel to deliver them:

“When they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them.  The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave the king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.” -Judges 3:9-10

This pattern is repeated throughout the Old Testament as God answers the cries of his people by giving them Spirit-empowered leaders. [29]

What is more, the Old Testament prophets foretold of a day when the empowerment of God’s Spirit would be available to all God’s people.[33] Joel 2:27-28 and other passages prophesy a coming Messianic age of the Spirit that will be marked by an outpouring of the Spirit coming “upon” all of God’s people not merely a limited set of leaders.[31] When the kingdom of the Messiah breaks into the world, both the external “empowering” work of the Holy Spirit, [32] and the “internal” purifying work of the indwelling Spirit would distinguish the people of God from all other peoples. “I will put my Spirit in you (all) and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws” (Ezekiel 36:27).[34]

So why aren’t believers today experiencing the kind of empowering and purifying work of the Holy Spirit that marked the lives of most Old Testament leaders?  Perhaps it’s because we don’t pray like they did? For instance, King Jehoshaphat and his followers prayed (and fasted!) for an entire day before the Lord answered.

“All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel …as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you…” -2 Chronicles 20:13-15

When was the last time you heard of a church in the United States devoting an entire day to prayer and fasting together? Would we even know how to wait together–men, women, and children–until the Spirit of God gave an answer? Maybe not. But certainly we can learn. Our busy modern lifestyles might mitigate against our gathering the entire church to pray, but it might be possible to start with the leaders.

Gathering Campus and City Leaders to Pray

Gary, Greg, Leo, and Gordie at the Campus Transformation gathering 20+ years after their 'dangerous unity' at Michigan State.
Gary, Greg, Leo, and Gordie at the 2012 Campus Transformation Network gathering 20+ years after their ‘dangerous unity’ at MSU.

When my wife and I served as campus ministers at Michigan Student University we were specifically warned against developing ‘dangerous unity’ with the leaders of the two largest competing campus ministries: Leo Lawson and Greg Van Nada. Fortunately, biblical convictions and past experience won out over administrative caution. Leo, Greg, local college pastor Gordie Decker, and our staff teams soon joined in evenings of united prayer for God to work through all the campus ministries at MSU. While we never really saw the kind of campus-wide spiritual awakening we were asking from God, many students did come to faith, and much more importantly, we learned to seek God for his agenda and just to be in his presence. The experience helped birth a vision in each of the hearts of those leaders that burns to this day. Leo, Greg, Gordie, myself and many other MSU leaders of that era continue in campus ministry and continue to pursue the work of God across our campuses and cities.

Later, while serving as a college pastor on the north shore of Boston, I was invited to join the steering committee for the Boston Ministers Prayer Summit. The leaders of the church in the city believed so strongly in prayer that we would carve three days out of our busy schedules just to wait on the Lord together. Some of our gatherings were like days of heaven on earth. And perhaps it is not surprising that while the Prayer Summit remained strong, the church in greater Boston experienced what became known as the “Quiet Revival.” One of the most “unchurched” urban centers in America witnessed the birth and renewal of hundreds of thriving churches, and many campus fellowships began to experience unprecedented growth.

Is it time to once again gather the leaders of our campuses and cities to seek God? All anecdotal evidence aside, I suspect that the writers of the Old Testament would answer, YES!

Next:  With Prayer in the School of Christ: Higher Education and the Knowledge of God

For Jesus prayer and education were inseparable, because education and the knowledge of God are inseparable.



[1] Grudem, 1994, p. 634.

[2] John 6:32,46;13:3;15:26; Acts 2:33; Rom 1:7; 1Cor 8:6; Jam. 1:17.

[3] Rom 5:10; Heb. 1:2; 1John 4:9.

[4] Neh 9:30; Ezek 11:24; Matt 12:28; Mark 11:36; Rom 5:5.

[5] Blomberg, 1996, p. 344.

[6] Kaiser, 1997, p. 1076-7; Simpson, 1988,  p. 600.

[7] Kaiser, 1997, pp. 1075-6.

[8] Judges 3:10

[9] Judges 14:6

[10] 2Chr 15:1; Ezek 11:5; Isa 59:21

[11] Num 11:17f

[12] Exo 31:3; 35:31

[13] 1Chr 28:12

[14] Grudem, 1994, p. 637

[15] 1Sam 11:6; 1Chr 12:18; 2Chr 20:14; 24:20; Ezek. 11:5; Isa 59:21

[16] Ezek 3:14; 8:3; 11:24

[17] Blomberg, 1996, p. 345.

[18] Schweizer, 1986, p. 381

[19] 2Pet 1:21; cf. Isa. 59:21; 2Sam 23:2; Neh 9:30

[20] Isa 63:11   Hag 2:5

[21] Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:6,19; 15:14

[22] 2Chr 15:1; Ezek 11:5; Isa 59:21

[23] 1Sam 10:6,10; 11:6. See also, Kaiser, 1997, pp. 1075.

[24] 2Chr 30:12; 2Kgs 3:15; Ezek 33:22

[25] Exod 31:18

[26] Ps 19:1; 102:25

[27] Kamlah, 1978, p. 692; cf. Ps 33:6; 147:15,18.

[28] Kaiser, 1999, pp.3-7

[29] Judg 3:10; 6:34; 9:23; 11:29;13:25;14:6;14:19;15:14;

1Samuel 16:13; 1Kings 18:45; 2Kings 3:14

[30] Psalm 51:11

[31] Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Zech 12:10. See also, Pach, 1954, 34-36.

[32] See Fee, XXXX, . Also Kaiser, 1997, p. 1076; Blomberg, 1996, p. 344; Grudem, 1994, p. 637.

[33] Ezek 36:27; cf. 11:19; 37:14

[34] See also, Ezekial 11:19; 37:14.

Compassion Scams: Do Child Sponsorship Programs Work? by Kristen Castillo

University of San Francisco study explores if Compassion is really fostering a future generation of leaders?

Flicking through television channels late at night, we have probably all at some point found a small child with an extended stomach asking you to sponsor a child. But does it help?

By Kristen Castillo • Media Planet

urlYou’ve seen ads encouraging you to financially sponsor a child in a poor country. But does sponsorship work?

“Yes,” says Bruce Wydick, professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, who studied the long-term impacts on sponsored children. Wydick and his study co-authors Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota Paul Glewwe and lead field researcher and doctoral student Laine Rutledge, found that sponsorship does help children break the cycle of poverty.

Sponsorship impact

“Sponsored children complete one to one and a half years more schooling than non-sponsored children,” says Wydick, noting sponsored children are more likely to become community leaders and church leaders as adults. Wydick’s study looked exclusively at Compassion International’s sponsorships in six countries – two in Latin America, two in Asia and two in Africa, comparing data on sponsored individuals and their unsponsored peers.

“With sponsored children, we find the children have higher aspiration levels in terms of education and employment,” says Wydick. For example, there’s a 35 percent increase in a sponsored child growing up to have a white-collar job, such as a nurse or a teacher.

Best practices

Screen shot 2013-04-03 at 5.27.01 PMSponsorship programs that focus on the development of children work well. “What adolescents need more than anything is to feel they can master something,” says Dick Roberts, Chairman of the Sally & Dick Roberts Coyote Foundation, who coordinated after-school programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District before retiring in 2007.

Roberts says “peer to peer programs,” where youth learn about important matters such as substance abuse, HIV, teen pregnancy and other issues that they face, are successful. “Learning something that has an impact on their lives and then sharing that knowledge helps build life skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, empathy, and effective communication.”

Youth projects provide adolescents with a “pyramid of support,” from caring adults to their peers, says Roberts. “It really gives kids in slums and poor villages a chance,” he says.

Investing in youth

Investing in at-risk youth around the globe is also a priority for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “To the extent we can reduce violence in other countries, we can reduce violence in the U.S.,” says Mark Feierstein, USAID’s assistant administrator. USAID’s focus is strengthening education for at-risk youth. “If you can provide youth with positive alternatives, education and jobs, they’re less likely to engage in crime.”

Bruce Wydick, PhD professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco.
Bruce Wydick, PhD, professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco.

Sponsored children tend to have higher self esteem and hope for the future.  Dr. Bruce Wydick, a professor of Economics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, set out to explore if child sponsorship really works. After interviewing more than 1,800 formerly sponsored Compassion children, he found that:

  • Children in Compassion’s programs are much more likely to stay in school longer.
  • As adults, formerly sponsored children are more likely to hold steady jobs and overcome poverty.
  • They are also more likely to become leaders in their communities and churches!

Read the entire report here

See also:

Leadership Integrity: An Interview with Compassion International President Wess Stafford

Rebuilding Haiti One Child at a Time

Buried in Haiti rubble: 64 Hours of Unshaken Faith

DeVon Franklin and Gary David Stratton at Princeton Theological Seminary’s ‘Morality in Media’ Conference

DeVon Franklin

Next week Hollywood and the Ivy League join forces at one of the nation’s oldest graduate schools of theology. DeVon Franklin, Senior VP of Production for Columbia Tristar Pictures (Sony), a bunch of very cool panelists, and Two Handed Warriors Senior Editor Gary David Stratton will be speaking at Princeton Theological Seminary’s ‘Morality in Media’ Conference on February 19th.

In many ways this could be a historic event in the journey toward the Protestant church in America fully embracing its artists in general and filmmakers in particular. The way the Lord used Scarlet Cord Entertainment Founder Carla Debbie Alleyne and Princeton’s Association of Black Seminarians to help make this happen is truly remarkable.

We’ll try to get another post up this weekend, but we thought this would be a good start for those who might want to attend (and/or pray) for the event.


Download: Princeton Conference Flyer

See also:

‘Produced by Faith’ Website/Video,’ by DeVon Franklin

‘Connecting to God in Hollywood, the Ivy League, and Beyond,’ by Gary David Stratton



Leadership Integrity: An Interview with Compassion International President Wess Stafford, by Amy Larson

“If you lack integrity you lack everything. If you cannot be trusted you have nothing to offer.”                            – Wess Stafford

Under Wess Stafford’s leadership, Compassion has grown to helping over 1.2 million children in 26 countries and earned a top 1% rating from Charity Navigator.

Wess Stafford is president and CEO of Compassion Internationala child advocacy ministry committed to releasing children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty. Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries. (For more on Compassion, view Wess Stafford’s video: The Lie of Poverty.)

Compassion’s unique strategy of locally-directed child sponsorships enables them to target over 80% of all donations directly to on the ground humanitarian relief. Compassion believes that the best people to spread the gospel or carry out programs in the field are the natives of that country. The vast majority of Compassion’s 3000 employees are nationals not Americans.  Their efforts have earned Compassion four-star rating from Charity Navigator: putting them in the top 1% of all international relief agencies.

That kind of integrity demands constant vigilance and extraordinary leadership, and Wess Stafford is deeply committed to providing it.  Amy Larson recently interviewed Wess as part of an assignment for one of my at Bethel University.  Compassion granted us permission to post it here.

Interview with Compassion International President Wess Stafford

by Amy Larson

Amy Larson:  What have you learned about leadership in ministry?
Wess Stafford: I think you can learn an awful lot about leadership from executive models and the secular world….. all truth is God’s truth.
First of all, I think leadership that is not servant leadership…. is not really leadership at all.   Leadership is not an end to itself.   You can’t aspire to lead…. you have to ask yourself deep in your heart “what do I really care about and what moves me deeply to tears”…If you don’t you are not fully alive and shouldn’t be leading anything.  Now it could be tears of victory or sorrow in that area, but leadership without passion and people aspiring to lead is too vague.  If you lead something that doesn’t move you to tears in 30 seconds, then you probably shouldn’t be leading and leave it to someone else.
Many people, who aspire to leadership, aspire to it due to the trappings and salary and notoriety.  But that is not a lasting satisfaction.  The buck stops here, the pressure, recognition and accolades become pretty shallow.
There are two kinds of power; prescribe power and ascribed power. “Prescribed power”, the power of “because I said so” comes with the office.  It’s not very good power and easily abused….it’s even lazy power.  There’s a more powerful authority that is “ascribed power” that is given to the leader by the people who choose to follow.  This is the gift of leadership by those who agree to follow.  That is ascribed power vs. prescribed power.
Wess toured Haiti shortly after the devastating 2010 earthquake assessing damage to Compassion and international church partner facilities.
You have to use both powers, but you can’t use the prescribed power often….maybe 5% of the time.  I use “prescribed power” once in a great while just to remind people I’m still here and to remember that I’m still in charge.  But  ascribed power should be used about 95% of the time.   It’s a lot more work, but it keeps leaders on their toes and is much less lazy.
Another key principle to leadership in ministry is that there is a triangle of power.  In most secular organizations the president is usually at the top of the triangle of power, then vice presidents, then managers, then finally at the bottom are those who are actually doing the work…..but non-Christians use that pyramid.
I believe in a Christian pyramid….where the president is actually at the very bottom and the most important people at the top are those who actually do the ministry.  At Compassion there are two pyramids:  one represents those who touch the life of children and the other one is those who touch the life of the sponsor.  The management at Compassion is just a bridge between the sponsors and the children.
When I was in Haiti, I was doing the mission and touching the lives of children and at the top of the pyramid.  Now I’m at the other end of the spectrum and the most removed from the day-to-day ministry.  Sometimes I look at my calendar and there is not one activity that directly touches the life of a child and it’s hard to want to get out of bed.  But then my wife reminds me that I have to do what I do, so those in the field can do the ministry.  We all share in the same mission and I am excited about what happens as the result of our mission.
All of us in management are the supporting cast to those who work with the sponsors and/or children.


Amy: What is your definition of leadership?
Wess: I’d have to say, “Using your passion and vision to inspire others to reach their full potential to accomplish a very important cause or mission.” Everybody deserves a right to be in the right job.  If you know you are in the right job and you are using your natural giftedness and talents….doing your job should be a natural outgrowth of your heart, your passion, and your talents.
The most important thing I can do as a leader is surround myself with people who are in the right job.   You give them vision and passion and my job is let them do their job and get out of their way.
Wess’s book “Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most” makes a compelling case for global child advocacy.
If they are in the right job, you owe them the tools to do their job right: the right work environment, the right computer, the right tools etc.  You owe them your commitment to their success…balancing excellence and stewardship. Everybody needs to stretch and grow.  They don’t need to move up the org chart, but they do need new challenges; whether it be another degree, a new project, etc.  ….no one should be allowed to become stagnant!
Everybody deserves the right to be known and therefore loved.  Ministries often reflect their leaders.  I always meet with the new employees; giving them an opportunity to be known and loved as I ask them go around and introduce themselves and tell me something about themselves. They have the assurance they will be treated fairly and heard…it’s amazing how they will reach their potential.
I learned that from the school of hard knocks.
Amy: What do you see as the key principles in succeeding as a transformational leader in ministry?
Wess:  First, make sure what you are leading you really care about, either get a passion for it or get out of the way…..anything worth doing is worth doing well
Click on image to join Compassion’s #ItsAboutGiving Christmas Campaign
Second, understand your role as the greatest servant in the organization not the most important person in the organization. The organization is only as great as the what the organization produces…need to have measurable outcomes to show you are succeeding in your ministry.  In child development you have donors not customers; it requires more excellence than any for profit enterprise.
Third, the younger generation are not givers, they are investors…so you better demonstrate why your ministry is important and why it matters.  You can’t just say God loves the poor so you should too.  You can’t use pictures of guilt to produce pity.  The poor deserve to be presented with dignity.  You have to make the case why helping children in poverty matters.  You have to be very professional
Finally, if you lack integrity you lack everything.   If you cannot be trusted you have nothing to offer.  Integrity is everything…it means more than just funds.  Your marketing better be accurate and what you say your values are, you better be living it.  Deeds must match words.

Join Compassion’s #ItsAboutGiving Campaign for Christmas

See also:

Rebuilding Haiti One Child at a Time

Buried in Haiti rubble: 64 Hours of Unshaken Faith

4 Keys to Finding The Perfect Mentor You’ve Always Wanted

A good mentor is hard to find. Here’s where to start your search.

by Margaret Feinberg

Over the years, I’ve found some incredible mentors in my life—people who have spoken words of wisdom and guidance into our marriage, finances, personal life, and ministry. These people have left me wonderstruck by the richness they’ve added into my life.  But to be honest, finding such people hasn’t been easy. At times, I’ve reached out to people I hoped would become mentors who didn’t respond, didn’t have time, or didn’t particularly connect with the idea. Other times, I’ve waited for people to reach out to me, even dropping hints along the way, but the relationship never developed.

Here are four keys I’ve discovered to finding the perfect mentor…

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*Photo courtesy of here


Friday Video: Joshua Medcalf @Pepperdine University – How Sports Psychology Can Change Anyone’s Life

Joshua Medcalf of Dream Sports Academy and Train to Be Clutch consulting is one of the more remarkable young men I have met in Hollywood. Watch these two videos and tell me if you don’t agree.

Joshua Medcalf @Pepperdine University from Dream Sports Academy on Vimeo.

Dream Sports Academy Journey from Dream Sports Academy on Vimeo.

For booking contact Joshua at

Follow Joshua on Twitter @JoshuaMedcalf

Blue Ocean Summit 2011: Hearing from God in Prayer and Society, by Dave Schmelzer

One highlight of our recent trip to New England was the Blue Ocean Summit in Cambridge, MA., where I was pressed into service on a couple of plenary panel discussions.

Stanford anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann, PhD, started the week off with a remarkable report on her study of the impact of kataphatic prayer (prayer where God talks back to people). It ended up shaping the entire conversation of the conference.

I will post more later, but here is conference organizer Dave Schmelzer’s summary of the week. Enjoy!


How I Spent My (Blue Ocean) Summer Vacation

by Dave Schmelzer (Adapted from Not the Religious Type)

This year’s Blue Ocean Summit took on a bit of a big-picture theme, with Tanya Luhrmann painting a picture of an experiential connection with God presenting a unique opportunity in a secularizing world, followed by our culture panel taking a pass at how centered-set faith makes a unique offer in many spheres of the wider world (Hollywood, publishing, academia, finance).

One of the more-intriguing themes at the recent Blue Ocean Summit was the thought that the sort of spirituality we talk about here might, in some ways, boil down to “Can we just skip the middleman?”

When God Talks Back

Tanya Luhrmann, a Stanford anthropologist, talked about her astounding multi-year study of people who talk to God in hopes that God will talk back to them.  I asked her before her talk: has anyone in human history done an anthropological study like this one, of the actual dynamics of what happens when people try to “relate” to God?  She hemmed and hawed for a moment and then said, “No.”

After hearing Tanya’s utterly provocative talk on what she learned, one implication we talked about was: is there a case to be made that we just bring this relational dynamic with God to anyone we meet who might like it?  Or do we need to take an intermediate step where we briefly change terms?

Do we need to tell our non-churchgoing friends, “Wow, your life can change if you learn to interact with this invisible but seemingly-very-real God and I’d love to teach you how to do it.  But first I’d like to offer you historical proofs that Jesus is the Son of God and, who are we kidding?, God himself.  And then I’d like you to sign off on that and pray a prayer to that effect.  And then we can get down to business about this change-your-life-by-interacting-with-God stuff.”  Maybe, we hazarded, we can just jump to that last part and see what happens?

Cultural Implcations

And then we enjoyed a really provocative “culture panel” with the following people: Jill Lamar (editor-in-chief of Henry Holt publishers), Peter Eavis (recent Wall Street Journal banking columnist), Brian Odom (Northwestern faculty in physics) and Gary David Stratton, PhD (moderator of the Two Handed Warrior online community and recent head of Act One, perhaps the largest gathering-point/training institution for Christians in Hollywood).

And we asked the question: is this sort of faith relevant primarily to people who go to churches?  Or is it directly relevant to the financial and publishing and Hollywood and academic worlds?  That gave us about an hour of things to talk about together.  But most-assuredly the upshot was, yes, take this to the larger world and get moving as quickly as you can pull this off.

Taking it to the Streets… I mean, Pub!

An intriguing capper came just after the summit finished, on Wednesday night.  Tanya joined about thirty folks in a nearby pub for another of our summer “Meaning in a Pub” gatherings, composed of about a third churchgoers and two-thirds folks from either other religious traditions or no religion.  She shared quite candidly about her really astounding tour of religious communities as an anthropologist–surely no one in history has lived even a similar life to hers–before turning things back to the tables for processing.

Later that night, over a glass of wine with Grace and me, Tanya shook her head and said something like, “You folks really are remarkable.  Believing Christians who truly live out centered set.  I don’t think I’ve seen that in quite the same way before.”

So just a few words on a time I’m still very much chewing on.  We may well have more to say soon…or we’ll ponder it in our heart.  Thanks so much to those of you who made it here, usually at the cost of real sacrifice.  I can’t wait to see where things go next.

But what do you think?  Can we offer whatever it is we have to offer to anyone, directly?  Or is a conversion of some sort required first?

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