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Soppy dog and floppy rabbit tug at the heartstrings

I am frequently a waste of advertisers’ money. The reason for this is that I am prone to falling asleep in front of the TV. All that money, all that creative brilliance is quite simply wasted on me as the TV plays away in the background. Every once in a while, though, comes an advert so punchy, witty and brilliant that I cannot but pay attention. The example below from Thinkbox , designed by Advertising Agency Red Brick Road would be one example. In its sixty seconds it perfectly conveys its message about the power of TV advertising – QED.

Throughout this week I am on BBC Radio 2 for two minutes twice each night. Having such a time restriction makes you think about absolutely every word you choose. If preachers only had one…or two minutes each week – I wonder how they might use them?

A story of growing up

In the midst of a hectic week I have been trying to get my head around the first sermon in a new series entitled ‘What happened next’. In it we shall look at the later lives of many people who have a famous ‘God moment’ in Scripture to see what happened next. Ruth’s declaration of loyalty is renowned – but how did the story progress? And what of Stephen, or Nehemiah..or Mary? Following on from the Disciple’s way, this is all about continuing the journey of faith, ensuring that God’s investment in us pays dividends.

As I prepare to embark on this series about continuance and maturity, I find myself constantly drawn back to Frans Hoffmeester’s film below. Throughout the past twelve years, every Saturday, he has filmed his daughter. He has then edited those clips into the two-and-a-half minute film you see below. He says that this is the ‘ the most photographed and filmed generation ever’, but then goes on to ask ‘what are we actually doing with these pictures?’ The use he has made of them has attracted a global audience.

Without a doubt my favourite element of the film is the final frame, bearing the words ‘to be continued’. As I prepare to preach on Philippians 1 v.6, they will definitely be in my mind.

More than a story

‘Its only a story’. Isn’t that what we tell children as they snuggle down under the duvet after a tale of ogres, dragons and trapped princesses?  Years later we tell ourselves the same thing as the credits roll on a scary movie or a gritty television drama. Its a coping strategy, but its also an anaesthetic. Over time it anaesthetizes us to the fact that occasionally a story is closer to the truth than we might like to imagine.

On his blog today, David Westlake, Tearfund’s Integral Mission Director, reflects on the Hunger Games phenomenon on the eve of its launch in cinemas worldwide. Since the book was originally written by Suzanne Collins in 2008, it has been translated into 26 languages and sold in 38 countries.  Friday March 23rd sees the launch of the first in the series of films.

With its gripping depiction of a post-apocalyptic world where children must fight to the death for food in an Olympic style arena, he describes it as :Big Brother meets the East Africa food crisis. He then goes on to describe how the characters are defined by their hunger before hitting the real crunch point:

The Hunger Games tells a story of a future that doesn’t exist…yet.  But themes of hunger, violence and poverty do exist, right now, in all over the world.Read on here for more of David’s profound insights on the real hunger games being played out around the world right now, and how we should respond to them.

Every time I teach people about the use of storytelling I have to remind them that calling something a story does not necessarily mean it is untrue. For many centuries and in many cultures story has been a vehicle for the truth rather than a distraction from it. The Hunger Games may prove to be just such a story – a vehicle for the uncomfortable truth that the world is unequally divided, and hunger is not a game.

To engage more with the true story of the hunger games, visit

An amusing moment for Christmas

Often when I am preaching and want to illustrate the idea of ‘missing the point’, I turn to an old home video from someone who travelled to Cape Canaveral to watch an Apollo rocket launch. At the last moment, as the ground shook and the sky blurred with heat haze, it became apparent that they had trained their camera on a rocket which was not being launched, and they had spectacularly missed the point. If I ever need a Christmas illustration of the same thing, I reckon I might use the one below:

Google and the art of precis

As a fan of twitter and the founder of @chatbible, I should be a big fan of pithy summary, I’m sure. There is no doubting the beauty of the Google Zeitgeist video below. However, I am left with a slight feeling of unease. I’m not sure whether I am uneasy with the idea of Google as the world’s ‘themometer’, or merely that the closing line ‘we made it’ seems a little fatalistic.

Definitely worth watching, though:

Subliminal preaching?

Earlier this week it was announced that Nestle in Germany were using a commercial for their Purina dog-food which was designed to attract dogs to the screen. High pitched sounds during the 24-second advert, some of them outside human hearing range, are designed to appeal to the canine audience. Of course without another quantum leap in bio-technology they will be unable either to select or buy the product once attracted to it! That will doubtless have to await the advent of the i-pooch app, or similar.

Preachers – if others can generate sounds outside the normal hearing range to attract dogs and repel teenage gangs – how about generating some sounds within the human hearing range to attract listeners? Isn’t that what winsome preaching is all about? Just sayin…

So much is said

Although estimates vary, most people seem to agree that the number of words per minute in average speech is approximately 100.  If that is that case, then the little video below is verbally undernourished, at just under 100 words for two minutes. I’m sure you will agree, though, that it is not lacking in  impact.

In just over two weeks, my bookWho Needs Words will be published. The title is born of the belief that we do indeed need words. God has made us speaking creatures – just as he is the speaking God who articulated a universe out of nothing. Our words enable us to describe the best and worst of things to those who haven’t seen them.  Our words enable us to describe those things which might be to those who have not imagined them. As a Pastor I get to use my words to join two souls together at the moment of marriage, and I get to stand at a graveside and commend a Christian soul on its journey with words of ancient pedigree.  These are not small things and they are not mere words.

In the end, it all comes down to choosing the right words for the right occasion. What do you think of film-maker ccodyguy’ s choice of words in this short film?

Flemish artist shows you how

If the church in the image above doesn’t look quite right – its because its not. Constructed next to a cycle track in Belgium, using 30 tons of steel and 2000 columns it is an outdoor artwork commissioned by the contemporary art museum in Hasselt. Though it has a certain ethereal beauty to it – there is neither room nor comfort to use it as a worshipping space.  The artist, inspired by the shape of the (largely vacant) churches around about him, describes it as ‘the traditional church transformed into a transparent object of art’.

Seven years ago the church where I work was transformed by chopping out the middle and creating a two-storey high glass atrium. (You can see a picture here)  The effect of this transparency on the local community has been magnetic- and I’m pleased to say that the building is nearly always busy.

In the speeded-up film below,you will see Van Varenbergh’s construction come together in a matter of seconds. Of course it really took much longer than that.  Constructing a properly transparent church at the heart of the community takes even longer – but it is definitely worth it.

I think this video really needs a soundtrack – any suggestions?

Church & commerce can work

There was a time when church and commerce were unhealthy partners. People point, for instance, to the way in which Western trade rode into the heart of Africa on the back of mission.  Maybe this is why local churches are nervous of partnering with local businesses. We are also wary in case their agenda and ours are different. But why can’t we write two agendas on the same page?

Last year we led a harvest initiative to donate ‘scholar packs‘ to schools in Uganda. We unashamedly directed people to a local stationer, and they gladly offered a discount for those filling their scholar packs in the shop.  We have just launched a Biblefresh photo competition sponsored by local businesses who are keen to be promoted to the many people who come through the church during a week. We wanted prizes for the competition and they wanted advertising – so we have helped each other out.

As you will see from the video below, in Gothenburg this Winter this kind of partnership has been conducted on a grand scale.  Simply brilliant and brilliantly simple.

With thanks to @Kore

Delving into the archives

After a lively and broad-ranging discussion on buses, advertising et al, it seemed like a good moment today for a commercial break. Back in the days before Building Societies were banks and ‘bank’ became a dirty word, the advert below was often to be seen on our television screens. There is a kind of simple charm to it, brought about by everything from the vintage Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young soundtrack to the theatrical ‘staging’. Not only that, but there’s something about it that wouldn’t be a bad advert for the collaborative venture which we call church, too.

Richard Littledale

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