How to Communicate Your Message So It Catches Fire in People’s Imaginations

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, ministry e-mail goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the communication wattage. The visionary cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Rather, they grab the message and affix it to a kite for all to see. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pop! by Sam Horn

Why do some ideas break out and others fade away? What causes people to become so excited about a product that they can’t wait to tell their friends? How can an idea be communicated so that it catches fire in people’s imaginations?

Popular author, consultant, and workshop leader Sam Horn identifies what makes an idea, message, or product break out, and presents a simple and proven process – POP! (Purposeful, Original, Pithy) to create one-of-a-kind ideas, products, and messages that pop through the noise, off the shelf, and into consumers’ imaginations.


John 15 tells us that the Spirit of God is sovereignly convicting people of sin and righteousness and judgment. In other words, God is wooing men, women, boys, and girls to Him in your community. The question is, when they are ready to act on it, where will they go? Even though the primary mode of awareness happens through word-of-mouth advertising, the North American culture supplies other media to help broadcast your position.

By broadcasting your position, two things are intended. First, think like a retailer and let people know that you exist and where you exist. Second, position yourself in the sense of differentiating yourself among other churches in your community. In the kingdom economy, other churches are not competitors but collaborators. The best thing you can do is broadcast a clear, crisp message of what makes your Church Unique.

Remember that there are competitors to your mission—that is, anything else that distracts people from being the church under the Lordship of Jesus. These competitors, whether Home Depot, the local sports league, Old Navy, or 24 Hour Fitness, are doing everything to broadcast their position. Shall we stand by as nonparticipants in the game of PR, marketing, and advertising and let them take the day?

Use of marketing should never replace the essence of a missional heart-beat: a life-oriented, conversation-driven, love-lavished pursuit of those whom Jesus misses most. Jesus’ famous sermon was not “in the valley” but “on the mount.” Jesus positioned himself to broadcast his message. If we propose to advance the gospel in and through the culture, we can’t afford to see the cultural use of communication as an enemy but as an ally. Use of marketing tools can be a powerful support to personal evangelism. These are exciting times to steward the most important message to be heard.

People today are busy, so bombarded with information, that we only have about sixty seconds to connect with them. If we don’t convince them in our one-minute window of opportunity that we’re worth their valuable time, money, and attention, they’ll switch their focus to something else.

The premise of POP! is that the best way to attract instant interest is to make our communication (in particular our titles, taglines, elevator introductions, and sales slogans) Purposeful, Original and Pithy. This is so rarely done, it makes what we’re saying and swelling incredibly appealing.

Here is a little more detail about the three components of POP!

P Stands for Purposeful

Communication that features brilliant wordplay doesn’t qualify for POP! status unless it does two things: accurately articulates the essence of you and your offering, and positions you positively with your target audience.

If people are scratching their heads after we’ve introduced our idea or invention, wondering what this has to do with them, we’ve just wasted their time and ours.

O Stands for Original

It’s almost a given that no matter what you saying or selling, you’re one of many. What is about you that distinguishes you from your competition?

One way to distinguish yourself is to be original and offer something unlike anyone or anything else. Instead of competing in a crowded niche, create your own. When you’re one of a kind, there is no competition.

People are yearning for something fresh. When we see or hear something original, we find it appealing. That product or business is no longer inanimate or boring. Instead of dismissing it, we feel compelled to try it.

P Stands for Pithy

The word pithy, which means concise and precise, may not sound very eloquent, but it’s an important part of POP! communication.

The human brain can only hold approximately seven bits of information in short-term memory. If our description of our offering is longer than seven words, chances are people won’t be able to remember it. And if they don’t remember it, our effort to obtain their attention, support, and money for our offering has failed.

Sam Horn, POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd


Imagine that your team has taken over a local news station. Give the station new call letters – tell what it stands for. Be as cheesy as possible here.

Brainstorm story possibilities based on the announcements for this week’s worship service. Now select the top three stories that your team will produce for the news “broadcast.” Now assign members of your team to be reporters who would anchor the stories for broadcast to the team.

In preparation for the simulated “newscast,” have each Anchor and their reporting team answer these questions:

  • Why do people need to hear these stories?
  • How do they communicate our vision?
  • What would happen if we really could have these stories broadcast inside and outside the church?

As a team, think of how you can use a similar decision-making process, and filtering questions, to prioritize announcements in your worship service each week.

– Adapted from The Vision Deck

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 57-3, January 2017


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.