Data Overload: Is Your Church Guilty of Infobesity?

In today’s world we’re bombarded with information overload. One author coined this problem infobesity (Pearrow, 2012) to describe this data overload. When we get too much data our thinking brain shuts down to new information. British psychologist Dr. David Lewis coined a term to describe what happens from infobesity as ‘Information Fatigue Syndrome.’ Symptoms include burnout, a compulsion to constantly check email or the web, poor concentration, hostility (Elwart, 2013), and anxiety caused by over stimulating our brain’s emotional centers. Sometimes churches can be guilty of infobesity. Is yours?

In 2012 this amount of information was produced every single minute and it grows each year (Elwart, 2013).

  • 72 hours of video posts
  • 347 blog posts
  • 700,000 Facebook entries
  • 30,000 tweets
  • 2 million e-mails sent
  • 12 million text messages

Unfortunately the church can be guilty of overloading people with information as well. What might indicate that your church is guilty of infobesity? Consider these 5 indicators.

  1. You pack your Sunday bulletin with so many inserts about activities that the inserts get dropped all over the floor after the service.
  2. Your announcements last longer than 3 minutes.
  3. Your announcements include more than 3 items.
  4. At your staff meetings you get dizzy thinking about all the stuff that “needs” to be communicated.
  5. You send out more than one weekly email to church members about church events.

So if you think your church is guilty, what can you do to address it?

  1. Clarify your church’s vision and don’t do stuff that doesn’t reinforce it.
  2. Learn to say no to marginal events and ministries.
  3. Prioritize what’s most important and make sure those priorities get priority communication.
  4. Align all your communication venues (announcements, bulletin, enews, other printed collateral) so that they all reinforce your priorities.
  5. Develop an annual calendar so you can see what events might compete with each other.

How have you dealt with infobesity in your church?


“I just learned how to deal with infobesity in my church.”(tweet this quote by clicking here).


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References:

Elwart, S. (2013) Information overload making your head explode? [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/information-overload-making-your-head-explode/> [Accessed 24 April 2013].

Pearrow, M. (2012) Infobesity: Cognitive and Physical Impacts of Information Overcomsumption. Available from: <http://distworkshop.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/dist2012_submission_8.pdf>.

Peek-a-Boo Porn in a Pastor’s Life

In my studies on the brain, I was intrigued to read this quote from one of today’s most well-known neuroscientists, V. S. Ramachandran, in his book The Tell-Tale Brain. (Kindle e-book location 4219) He writes, “A picture of a nude woman seen behind a shower curtain or wearing diaphanous, skimpy clothes-an image that men would say approvingly, ‘leaves something to the imagination’ can be much more alluring than a pinup of the same nude woman.” Similarly he writes, “many women will find images of hot and sexy but partially clad men to be more attractive than fully naked men.” (i.e., the Chippendales) He bases this belief on this neuroscience fact: our brains find pleasure in searching for solutions to problems or puzzles. The puzzle to be solved in the case of a partially clothed woman is to ‘fill in the visual blanks’ with our imagination. It adds an extra dimension of appeal. Many well-known artists have even used this principle when drawing images of the partially clothed. In this post I broach a topic about pornography that often we don’t classify as porn.

Much has been written about the dangers of porn. Most pastors today agree about such dangers. And we’re cautioned to never click to porn sites nor to look at pornographic magazines. I totally agree with those cautions.

Yet, I wonder if peek-a-boo porn might be just as damaging to a pastor’s thought life and ministry as that which most would agree meets the criteria of porn? And since peek-a-boo porn doesn’t meet the traditional porn definition, I wonder if we pastors might too easily convince ourselves there’s nothing wrong with it.

What might qualify as peek-a-boo porn?

  • A well-known sport’s magazine swimsuit edition.
  • Images to the right of some web pages of beautiful women that scream for us to click the image.
  • Some women’s magazines that show skimpily clad women (i.e., those magazines that visually yell at us at the grocery store check-out).
  • Commercials from a well-known women’s lingerie company.
  • Movies or TV shows that prominently shown scantily clothed women.

I wonder if Jesus had something like peek-a-boo porn in mind when he said these words.

But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. Matt. 5.28 (The MESSAGE)

So if peek-a-book porn can be as destructive as traditional porn, how can we protect ourselves from it?

Here are a few suggestions.

  1. If your wife subscribes to women’s magazines that feature scantily clothed women, ask her to keep them out of plain site.
  2. Decide beforehand that you will physically look away when a lingerie commercial on TV pops up or when the camera zooms in on a cheerleader during a pro football game.
  3. Pre-screen a movie before you go see it. I highly recommend www.screenit.com. It’s a helpful site that gives a detailed analysis of the language, sex, and violence in almost every movie.
  4. Teach your church about Biblical virtues and the benefits of modesty. Explain how the brain works. I know this could be touchy, but if you are a male pastor, consider involving your wife in that teaching.
  5. Get the book Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by Dr. William M. Struthers into the hands of your men.

Do you agree that peek-a-boo porn can be as destructive as the other kind? Or do you think I’m simply being too Puritan? How have you protected yourself from peek-a-boo porn?


“I just learned about the dangers of peek-a-boo porn.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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How a Leader’s Brain Works, Part 1

In this two-part post on how a leader’s brain works (part 2 follows Sunday), I describe how two fundamental brain processes that affect leadership.

First, we can view the brain functioning with an overarching organizational principle and a fundamental operational process. Dr. Evian Gordon, a neuroscientist, developed what he calls the Integrate Model (Gordon et al., 2008). This model describes the brain functioning around a basic organizing principle, Minimize Danger/threat-Maximize Reward. The terms, toward and away, correspond to danger/threat and reward. The image that comes to mind for a person experiencing an away response would be his fists clenched as if to fight, his arms crossed, or his arm stretched out with his palm facing you as if to say, “Stop!” An image for a toward response might be someone with her arms extended to you as if to say, “Welcome!”

In other words, our brains tend to operate in a conscious and an unconscious mode that either seeks out reward (a toward response that is open, energized, and willing) or tries to avoid danger/threat (an away response which is defensive, fearful, or closed). I think the apostle Paul practiced this concept as he focused on the future. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3.13-14, NIV)

The brain’s overall operational process incorporates two sub-processes: the X-system, from the ‘x’ in the word reflexive and the C-system, from the ‘c’ in the word reflective (Lieberman, 2006). The X-system engages the parts of the brain that act spontaneously and impulsively (our emotional centers). The C-system engages parts of the brain that act with intention and think before acting, our thinking center (the prefrontal cortex). This system also helps regulate emotional reactivity. This chart briefly summarizes the fundamental differences between the two.

When we combine the organizational principle with the operational processes, here’s how our brain works, simply described.

When we face danger (a threat), the brain processes information in two directions: the short route, sometimes called the low road, and the long route, sometimes called the high road. The thalamus plays a critical role as a master information relay, or middleman, because all information from and external stimulus (or an internal self generated one) flows through it. It shuttles the information about this stimulus to other parts of the brain. Here’s what happens, all in a split second.

  • Information about the threat first enters our brain through our sense organs and travels to the thalamus, the master relay, which shuttles information in two directions, toward the emotional center (short route) and toward the sensory cortex and then to the higher thinking centers (long route). The information gets to the emotional center slightly quicker than it makes it to the thinking centers.
  • As the thalamus relays the emotional content to the emotional center it sends the non-emotional content through the memory center (the hippocampus) to the brain’s thinking center (the prefrontal cortex) where it assesses and compares the new information to previously stored knowledge.
  • If it finds any prior knowledge, it sends it back to the memory center to incorporate this new information.
  • New mental maps then get combined with old ones and are then sent to memory storage.
  • By this time, the emotional center may have already directed the body to respond. Even so, the thinking center will weigh in at some point to either dampen the emotional center, confirm the emotional center’s response, or direct the body to do something in response to the stimulus.

In my next post, I’ll give an example of how this works in real life.


“I just learned how the leader’s brain works.” (Tweet this quote by clicking here).


Related post: When Pastors Lead from their Lizard Brain


References:

Gordon, E., Barnett, K.J., Cooper, N.J., Tran, N. & Williams, L.M. (2008) An ‘Integrative Neuroscience’ Platform: Application to Profiles of Negativity and Positivity Bias. Journal of Integrative Neuroscience, 7 (3), pp.354-366.

Lieberman, M.D. (2006) Social Cognitive Neuroscience: A Review of Core Processes. Annu. Rev. Psychol., (58), pp.259-89.

When Pastors Misplace their Identity: 10 Probing Questions

“No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” When I heard this quote by Paul Tripp while I listened to his book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry it caused me to pause and reflect. He’s right. No one talks to me more than I talk to myself. A corollary to his quote might be this. “We become more like who we listen to. If what we tell ourselves about our identity is false, then we develop a false identity.” In this post I suggest 10 question that might reveal when pastors misplace their identity.

How do you know if you’ve wrapped your identity around your church, ministry, or preaching rather than around Christ? Consider these 10 questions.

  • Would I feel aimless if I faced a period of time when I wasn’t vocationally working in a church?
  • Do I see the need for grace in the lives of others more than I see the need of that same grace in my life?
  • Have I subtly allowed pride to infiltrate my soul because I know a lot about the Bible, have a theological degree, or pastor a growing church?
  • Do I equate ministry success with God’s endorsement of my lifestyle (a thought from Paul Tripp)?
  • When I meet someone, do I find my unspoken self-talk focused on what he or she thinks of me?
  • Have I based my identity more on the horizontal (ministry success) than the vertical (my personal relationship with Jesus)?
  • Is my heart stirred more by compliments from others about my preaching, increasing attendance, or recognition from others more than the greatness, grandeur, and glory of Christ?
  • If attendance is low on Sunday, is it hard to shake a sense the following week that I’ve failed or that I’ve let God down?
  • Do I struggle with jealous feelings when I hear about the success of another pastor or church?
  • Do I find myself “burning the candle at both ends” to keep the ministry going?

What do you think about pastoral identity? Do you think misplaced identity is a problem among pastors? What questions would you add to this list that might be telling of misplaced identity?

If these questions have stirred you to think more deeply about your identity, consider reading Paul Tripp’s blog post about this subject here. And, I highly recommend reading his book as well.


“I just read 10 questions that a pastor might ask himself to discover if he’s misplaced his identity.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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5 Leadership Tensions Seen in Jesus’ Leadership

Some time back I delivered a message on how Jesus modeled masculinity. As I reflected on that talk, I realized similar parallels apply to leadership. Jesus lived within these leadership tensions during the three years He established our Faith. Although fully God in every way, He lived as a human in every way as well, yet was without sin. He perfectly balanced each of these qualities below that appear as opposites. As you read these five tensions, ask yourself which ones reflect your strengths and which ones need strengthening.

Power and Compassion

  • Jesus showed great power and guts when he turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple (Matt 21). He also showed his commanding power when He called the religious leaders whitewashed tombs. (Matt 23.37)
  • Yet he touched the lepers, showed tenderness to the woman with an issue of blood, and showed compassion to the rich young ruler who wouldn’t give up his riches.

Head (intellect) and Heart (emotion)

  • He amazed the people with his grasp of the Scriptures at age 12 while in the Temple. His arguments and logic silenced even the most brilliant of his day. He even tongue-tied the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate. He created ingenious intellectual dilemmas for his adversaries. He masterfully used Scripture in the context of life with allusions and questions that made others think.
  • Yet Jesus deeply loved people at levels they emotionally felt. The shortest verse in the Bible even says that, “Jesus wept.” (John 11.35)

Present and Future

  • Jesus approached people where they were. He didn’t ask broken people questions like, “How in the world did you let yourself get into such a jam?” He was a realist about human frailty.
  • Yet, he didn’t want people to stay where they were. He told Zacchaeus the tax collector to make restitution. He accepted him where he was, but He urged him to move forward into the future in a God honoring way. Jesus lived with a perfect blend of experiencing the present with an eye toward His future and toward helping others move into their best future.

Purpose and Freedom

  • Jesus knew why he had come, to do His father’s will. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4.34) He was bothered when the disciples didn’t take his mission seriously. He was passionate about his work. He knew what needed to be done and did it. He worked hard.
  • Yet he lived with an amazing sense of balance. He was never in a hurry, compulsive, and never forced people to do what He wanted them to do. He gave them freedom to choose. He said followership was voluntary, no arm-twisting or guilt motivation. He didn’t force his agenda on others. He knew his purpose and knew if others would embrace His purpose for them it would be best for them. Yet he released them to make their own choices.

Strength and Sensitivity (especially toward women)

  • On the sensitivity side, Jesus elevated the status of woman so high that he even praised a woman for what was a purely a masculine role, sitting at the feet of a Rabbi (when Mary sat at his feet). Jesus accepted financial support from women. He even defended a woman caught in adultery, not to approve her adultery, but to expose the injustice of her accusers.
  • Yet he was forceful. He was blunt with his mother when she was out of line to ask Him to do some things not a part of His messianic plan. He affirmed Mary’s role when he indirectly confronted Martha’s compulsiveness. In John 4 He candidly pointed out to the woman at the well that she had 5 husbands. Jesus knew when to be sensitive with women and when He needed to be strong and not back down.

I believe pastors and leaders, too, must live within these tensions.

  • Which of these is your greatest strength?
  • Which is your greatest weakness?
  • What would you add to this list?

“I just learned 5 leadership tensions in Jesus’ life that apply to spiritual leadership.”(click here to tweet this quote)


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