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United Methodists Embrace TED Talks

“The things we’re learning together, the things we learn to care about, directly affect who we are as people of faith,” she said.

United Methodist annual conferences and church agencies also are making use of TED Talks.

The Rev. Junius Dotson, top executive of Discipleship Ministries, is leading a “See All the People” campaign to encourage discipleship-making among local churches, and in his guidebook for doing that he touts Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

The Louisiana Conference used the Sinek talk, Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” and two others to spark group discussion at its annual gathering a few years back, said Wilkinson, the Baton Rouge pastor.

The Upper New York Conference has used the talks as models for study in its Illuminate Preaching Academy.

“They’re very concise, very tight, and they deliver the information well, just like a sermon should,” said the Rev. Aaron Bouwens, conference director of vital congregations.

TED Talks also have influenced seminary discussion of preaching, said the Rev. Alyce McKenzie, Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.

McKenzie, a United Methodist elder, is careful to note that Christian sermons, unlike TED Talks, are given in a particular local context, for an overarching reason.

“The purpose of preaching is to proclaim what God has done for us in Jesus Christ,” she said.  

Still, McKenzie too thinks preachers can learn from the best TED Talks. She boils the lessons down: “Be clear. Be interesting. Be vivid. Waste no words. And then sit down.”

Various United Methodist pastors have quoted TED Talks in sermons, or shown clips. Jones, the Plano associate pastor, is the rare United Methodist clergyman to give a TED Talk.

He spoke at a TEDx event in Plano on April 8. The audience members included his father, Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones.

TED Talks tend to be bold, and the associate pastor’s was, beginning with the title: “How to Change the World.” He argued in just under nine minutes that social and political change doesn’t occur from people spending time on the Internet, even if they’re discussing serious matters.

“My TED Talk was actually about the pointlessness of sharing ideas without community to actually implement and live into the ideas that are expressed. Which is in fact a critique of TED Talks,” Jones said.