​Don't Drop The Mic - The Power of Your Words Can Change The World by Bishop T. D. Jakes (The Introduction)

Drawing lessons from Scripture and his own life, Bishop TD Jakes gives career advice for those who have or want to grow into a speaking career, but he also provides clear direction and insight for everyone who gives presentations, writes emails, or talks to other people in their job or home life.

The book you’re now reading is not the one I first envisioned.

In fact, I was a bit reluctant to write a book about communication at all because I consider myself much more a practitioner than a professor, more preacher than pedagogue, and more personal in my approach than professional. 

Throughout the years, though, I have been asked many times by younger men and women for advice, counsel, and wisdom on how to communicate effectively. Many of these requests referred to preaching, which is certainly an area of experiential expertise, but as my ministry expanded and new opportunities led me into speaking, writing, creating and producing, I was frequently asked for tips on communicating in a variety of media.

Then my friend Dr. Frank Thomas, both a seminary professor and as pastor, urged me to share the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my own experiences, along with my observations and practical suggestions about how to maximize your message at the microphone. With his help, which I’ll explain in the next chapter, I grew excited about considering how I do what I do and how this knowledge can help others. Thinking of my overall concept for this book, I was taken
by the duality and paradox of what it means to “drop the mic.”

On one hand, having a mic-drop moment conveys the powerful, resonant impact virtually every communicator desires to have with his or her audience. While you may not literally drop the mic after you speak at the city council meeting, school fundraiser, board of directors retreat, or church event, you definitely want to make the most of those opportunities when you’re required to impart a message. You want to leave listeners impressed and inspired, informed and intrigued, by what you have shared.

Conversely, dropping the mic can also mean fumbling those same opportunities, either out of fear, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with your audience, lack of preparation, or other barriers we will discuss. 

This kind of mic-drop costs you more than you realize and results in misunderstanding, confusion, ambiguity, and diminished confidence in your own abilities to communicate. While every time you speak may not be an earth-shattering, standing-ovation, mic-drop moment, it can be a completed connection of contextual conversation between you and your audience.

Every speaker either creates more distance between himself and his audience, or she closes the gap and bridges those differences. My desire is to help you make the most of your mic, whatever it may be, and connect with those receiving your message. Along the way, I hope you will realize the unparalleled power of successful communication even as you practice it more productively, passionately, and potently. And let me assure you, I will be learning right along with you!
​Don't Drop The Mic - The Power of Your Words Can Change The World by T. D. Jakes (The Introduction)
Bishop T. D. Jakes (The Introduction)

You see, for the past few months, I have been preaching in an empty church sanctuary due to the need to limit human contact and shelter at home in order to prevent perpetuation of the COVID-19 virus. 

Just as the global pandemic has touched and altered all facets of human life, so, too, has it required church to marry technology with tenacity in order to create connections, facilitate corporate worship across countless screens, lift up one another in prayer, and to experience sermons intended to empower, equip, and enhance our faith during these calamitous times.

Prior to the pandemic, at the Potter’s House we would often stream live services and provide video archives of past services and sermons for our global online congregation. In many ways, though, our electronic capabilities and internet offerings seemed ancillary, if not peripheral, to in-person participation for the thriving community actively involved in our main church and affiliated sister churches. Then our awareness of the virus descended and changed everything. We maximized our technical capacity for reaching out, connecting, and communicating as a church body. Small groups began meeting with Zoom for their Bible studies and social media became the method of reaching out to those in need. Overnight, our online audience increased by 200%.

The coronavirus amplified the power of the microphone, and I was not about to let it drop. I was bombarded with requests for interviews, overwhelmed by personal calls and texts from people wanting my opinions on how to function in the pandemic, and sought by pastors and ministry leaders for counsel on conducting their services and meetings.

All that sustained us was our words. We had no vaccine or distribution plans for vaccinations. No one knew what to do, where to turn, or exactly what to believe. A reporter interviewing me from a well-known conservative station asked how I prayed for our nation. Another journalist from a liberal news outlet engaging me on the pandemic asked if I would pray for our nation and our world on the spot.
Feeling a responsibility to use my platform to combat the contagion, I invited doctors, scientists, medical experts, and the Surgeon General from our state to address my online viewers with critical information about how to prevent the spread of the virus and how to proceed if they had been exposed or were experiencing symptoms. I also asked psychologists, counsellors, and therapists to advise us on how to maintain our mental health by keeping depression, anxiety, fear, and anger at bay. Financial advisors and employment coaches also participated.

Words were our most powerful weapons as we sought to educate ourselves and each other about the scientific specifics of this unprecedented virus. Words became our lifelines against loneliness and isolation as we endured separation from loved ones, coworkers, community members, and church family.

This crisis left our nation more separated than ever before. We could not leave our homes, shake hands, or hug loved ones and friends. We died alone, grieved alone, struggled alone. Working from home, we had to learn to command an audience online while our kids cried for more cereal, the cat attacked the sofa, and the doorbell rang with our order of groceries.

Like so many of us, I was stuck at home but never busier. While I was not travelling, as usual, I communicated with more people in more venues around the world than I had ever done. I joined my voice with those of other faith leaders in hopes of easing the anguish and angst of us all, knowing our greatest offering was simply hope itself. The Potter’s House did what we could to safely meet the needs of our members, our neighbours, and our global ministry community.

We helped feed the hungry, providing more than 3,000 meals to third-shift hospital workers who found food outlets and carry-out restaurants often closed when they got off work. This seemed just as important as disseminating trustworthy information about the virus as well as praying for the spiritual needs of individual souls. When Jesus was preaching and people got hungry, he fed the 5,000 before trying to impart his teaching. Following his example, we tried to lead using the power of our global mic, supporting the ecosystem and sustaining connection.

Logging in to connect with people from all over the world while wearing my pajama bottoms and t-shirt, I offered whatever words of wisdom, of encouragement, of hope I could. I spoke with Neil Caputo on FOX News, Gail King on CBS This Morning, my friends on Good Morning America, TBN—conservative and liberal without discrimination. I was bombarded with pastors calling from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Australia, and around the world, all seeking to learn and share best practices for how to serve in the midst of a phenomenon without precedent
in our lifetimes.

Regardless of the different demographics we served, we shared a common enemy and faced a common crisis. We needed the synergism of different cultures, ideologies, and practices in order to find a sustainable cure to ensure our individual and collective survival. Everywhere imaginable, I continued speaking, teaching, sharing, and dispelling myths that were killings us. I didn’t hesitate and was one of the first pastors to speak out against keeping church open during the pandemic. No matter what the consequences, I did not want our services to become a petri dish for the coronavirus.

Every day I talked to pastors who are now on respirators or suffering through the symptoms of the virus because they continued to operate as usual until it was too late. Statistically, African Americans comprise roughly half of all casualties of the coronavirus in our country. The Latinx community has also been hit hard.

All the more reason to communicate truth. We could not afford to buy into cultural myths about drinking hot water or holding our breath. We had to disseminate what was medically and scientifically known. I am probably the least qualified person to talk about the virus. 

I am not a doctor, scientist, political leader, or surgeon general, but my people trust me! They know I will never compromise the truth. They know I am fully committed to their health and well-being, regardless of whether we agree on all social, political, or theological issues.

At the time the pandemic gripped us all, I had more than 11,000 people registered to attend my annual leadership conference, but I didn’t think twice about cancelling it. I would never use my platform to perpetuate anything that puts others’ health and well-being at risk. Using your power of communication to address the people within your network of relationships means knowing when to say no and when to say yes.

Even as it felt like we were sinking on the Titanic, we pooled our resources to keep our communities afloat. With relatives battling the virus and close friends dying, so many pastors continued to preach in front of empty pews in order to offer words of hope and spiritual power to those they serve. From megachurch founders to storefront pastors, we all collaborated on how to be relevant in serving the needs of their congregations and the world at large.

Why? Because the words of a leader are never more important than during a crisis. Local officials asked our church counselors to talk with first responders over the phone. Through it all we didn’t miss a service—in fact, I added more online services! I know how important it is to have a calming voice to say, “I’m in it with you. You’re not alone!” We worship together to remind us that God is still with us, in our midst, at work in us and through us.

Even those of us blessed with resources, income, and relationships have experienced trauma from the collective, cumulative, and comprehensive losses all around us. There’s hardly a black person in America who doesn’t know somehow who has died from the virus. We saw bodies stacked in hotel rooms, in 18-wheelers, and industrial storage freezers. 

We watched government leaders contradicting one another or competing for resources as if we were vying for a spot in the Olympics rather than fighting to stay alive on a daily basis. We did everything imaginable to keep ourselves and others from freaking out, but the emotional fallout, the effects of trauma, and PTSD are going to last beyond my lifetime.

Through all the uncertainty, fear, anxiety, anger, death and grief, our words continue to give us life. They give us strength and courage, faith and hope. Our words matter now more than ever.

Communication is as vital to human existence as air, water, food, and shelter. Using the power of written and spoken language, we can express our love, defend our rights, attain our education, persuade an opponent, defeat an adversary, and entertain millions of readers and listeners. Thanks to social media and online methodology, we can connect with millions of other people around the world.

As long as we can speak, we have hope.

Communication commits ideas into words and words into actions. From the moment an infant learns to associate the comfort of his mother’s embrace with crying out in distress, human beings learn to communicate. Hearing sounds repeated forms patterns. Patterns become languages even as they retain distinct and colourful dialects.

It’s no coincidence that the sacred gift of God’s Son is expressed as “Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Because words of truth always have power to save us and set us free. We make a sacred offering when we’re willing to speak the truth. We receive a sacred gift when we’re willing to listen.

Sometimes the best way to beat an invisible enemy is with an invisible weapon. The coronavirus pandemic and everything in its wake remind us that language is surely one of our greatest resources. Our words form the strongest defence and provide the most effective tool. They equip us, empower us, entertain us, and enlighten us.

No, this is not the book I first envisioned.

Instead, I pray it is more relevant, more powerful, and more helpful to you as you accept the mic on the platform you’ve been given.

Your voice is needed.
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