Tag : photography

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Auction Advertising Tips from the World’s Best Beach

This is the first of two posts about advertising strategies from resort areas.

Turks & Caicos Beaches

I’m writing this post next to a pool at a resort where suites can cost more than $1,100/night. We didn’t stay here. The front desk clerk made an exception for us to chill by the pool, while we waited for our flight home. The fact of the matter: most of Grace Bay Beach is too rich for my blood, definitely for my budget.

As expected, Sotheby’s International Realty has an office here. Almost all of their Turks & Caicos listings have two commas in the price. (Their current halo property on the island is listed at $45 million.) For properties like those in premium locations like this, there’s a lot you could say—headlines and bullet points for days. In a wall rack full of tantalizing property brochures, though, there were none. No headlines. Every brochure cover looked identical, save for a different image, property name, and location.

No. Other. Details.

I was in the agency’s office probably fewer than ten seconds, including the time it took to choose and pull the property brochure that appealed most to me. I made that choice in much less time than someone who is actually shopping for a house here would spend, but the sorting process works the same.

I don’t need a headline, if that picture doesn’t grab me. If that beautifully-photographed house isn’t where I want to live, it doesn’t matter what kind of kitchen it has or how many acres come with it.

Sothebys Brochure in HandSotheby’s and its agents don’t sell the kind of assets you need to be convinced are valuable. They trust that their clientele knows what they want when they see it.

That’s true, whether the asset is a $3,600,000 home or a rental house, a $350,000 combine or a twenty-year-old manure spreader, Marilyn Monroe’s $4,800,000 dress or a collection of Beanie Babies. While consumers might have to be convinced of a price point, they already know whether something appeals to them or not.

Most small business marketers, especially auctioneers, don’t trust their photos to sell the assets at hand. If they did, we designers in the industry wouldn’t be using 6pt and 8pt type on direct mail for text that should be on our clients’ websites. If photos were appropriately valued, I’d get more professionally-shot images for the job orders that come with “we’d like this to be an award-winner.”

Sothebys Instagram

Interestingly enough, when I was on Instagram the day after I grabbed this brochure, this is the listing that showed in the ad—even though I didn’t visit their website.

No matter what the rent is where you live and for what you sell, the lessons for all of us from a brochure rack in the Caribbean include:

• Use large, singular images for first impressions.

• Include minimal text on those panels.

• Relegate text to the edges of images or in adjoining frames.

• Understated fonts and layouts communicate premium value.

I flashed the brochure to my wife as we walked toward the pool. After a quick glance she said, “You don’t have to say much when you have pictures like that.”

“No. No, you don’t,” I answered. And neither do you.

Feature image from Sotheby’s listing page for this property.

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138: 5 Design Attributes of Premium Auction Advertising

PicassoRecently, a lot of incredible art & antique auctions have made the news, including the record-breaking $179,400,000 paid for a Picasso painting at auction a few weeks ago.

That’s nine figures! It’s also roughly six times the hammer price of the most expensive asset I’ve ever helped an auctioneer advertise. When I see these headlines and stories, I get curious about how they were marketed—the budget, the strategy, the teamwork, etc. I wouldn’t want to be part of that process. I just want to observe it in action.

I discovered one of the other recent headline auctions in this category while flipping through a magazine that has mysteriously found its way into my mailbox. This fantastic full-page ad [shown below] stopped me in its tracts. I later learned that it costs $16,320 to run this black and white ad (and that it would’ve cost $27,200 in color). In my 15 years in the business I’ve never built an ad that expensive—not even close.

A few clicks later, I found this beautiful 210-page catalog for the Lauren Bacall auction. Its 740 lots were scattered at a luxuriously-light average of 3.5 lots per page. The photography and page layout really humbled me. (Many of the awards I’ve won in my career wouldn’t have been awards, if the best in the industry cared to enter their pieces like this one.) The biggest catalog I ever built was a comparatively-meager 20 or 24 pages.

Bonhams Catalog CoverRather than viewing my daily bread with disdain, I looked for elements from which I and my clients could learn. See, my clients have high-wire acts as risky as this practically-absolute Bonham’s auction. Only a few assets or collections I advertise a year might hit their $3,460,000 sale price, but auctioneers risk their time, resources, and reputations on speculation that assets will even sell and also at what price the hammer will land. Their commissions and their sellers’ financial statements are just as at stake as those in the international auction houses. Every day.

So, here are those lessons:

1. Clean trumps cluttered.

We can’t all use just a four-word headline and a photograph, but we can lean more heavily on our main attraction more. We can move from collages of small pictures to large images and leave the tertiary details to our websites. We can be ruthless with our text cleaver, strict with out templates, and humble with our logo placement.

2. Brochure covers don’t need a lot of information.

Candidly, my best brochure & catalog covers—even my award winners—are covered in mostly-redundant information. Imagine how much more visual appeal our brochures would have if we killed the content found elsewhere in the brochure! (Also imagine if we pared the rest of the brochure to easily fit and emphasize that content.)

3. Photography makes or breaks your media design.

Lauren Bacall THRThat catalog wouldn’t look nearly as attractive without professionally captured, edited, and masked images of lots that sold at an average of $4,676 per lot. The ads, catalog cover, and large-format media Bonhams used wouldn’t have grabbed your attention as easily without the rights to a striking portrait of Ms. Bacall. Even a great designer can’t overcome the disadvantage of poor photography. Even an inexperienced designer can look good with good images.

4. White space with small text looks luxurious.

If you want to make something look high end, shrink the font size and increase the space between elements on the page. This strategy allows the margin to draw the attention better to important elements. For brochures of real estate or other physically-large assets, you can substitute large, unused areas of background images to create the same effect. Bonham took this even further with entire completely blank pages in their catalog.

5. Trust the headline and primary image.

Ms. Bacall’s collection proved as diverse as it was valuable. The lots—that brought as much as $173,000 for a single item—deserved description. But Bonhams didn’t tell us about the lots in their first-impressions. They trusted the headline and primary image to lead to investigation, and they trusted that investigation to lead to bids. Our ads might still need a short paragraph of overview, but they need to stop looking like phone directory pages. If someone isn’t interested after the first two or three lines, it doesn’t matter how many lines of text we add.

THR ad details insetThe irony is that Bonhams showed more restraint for expensive items than we often do with much lesser lots. Maybe it’s not ironic, since most of us sell utilitarian items instead of luxury goods. Regardless, while it’s impractical for most auctioneers to put these principles in action to the degree Bonhams did, we can all move in these directions for advertising that competes in the marketplace—not just in the auction industry.

Sources for facts in this post: Lauren Bacall’s Eclectic Treasures Auctioned Off” by Alexandra Jacobs on NYTimes.com, April 3, 2015. Lauren Bacall Jewelry Fetches More than $500,000” by Anthony DeMarco on Forbes.com, April 4, 2015.

100: The Pinterest Effect

My Current Pinterest BoardsI take notice, when I hear a question over and over again.  And one question I’ve heard a lot lately is, “What is ‘Pinterest’?”

In short, it’s a social media environment that pulls inspiration from the bulletin board at your local coffee shop or the pin board in your college dorm room.  It’s a live stream of images—called “pins”— pulled from other websites and categorized topically both by the website administrators and again separately by its users.  Each image comes with three optional interactions: like, comment, and re-pin (to your board of pins).

Whereas other social media are based on users generating their own content, Pinterest‘s ease of use and popularity is mostly because its users don’t create the original content.  In fact, approximately 80% of posts are re-pins.†  To avoid copyright violation, the pictures are almost all linked back to their originating sites—be they travel, lifestyle, or entertainment websites.

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

Women typically account for a higher percentage of users than men do on social media*, and they account for anywhere from 68% to 90% of the activity on Pinterest—depending on where you get your stats.  Most posts are often associated with fashion, decor, cooking, crafts, and inventive solutions for household organization.

Pinterest Board: Inspiration for Biplane's New OfficeUnlike Facebook, it’s not intended for conversations.  Pinterest has grown so much and so quickly that Friendsheet.com, a site that makes your Facebook stream look like Pinterest, has garnered the favor of Mark Zuckerburg††—and might someday be a native Facebook option.  Unlike Twitter, it’s not intended to keep users updated on current events.  Unlike YouTube, it’s exclusive.  You can curate your own pin boards and list of followers only if you are invited by someone who is already a Pinterest member.  Unlike Google+, it’s growing like a weed both in number of users and the amount of time those users spend on the site (more than four times longer than Twitter users per month and almost 30 times as long as Google+ users average per month***)—exponentially expanding to over a million average daily visitors.*

So, why do we need yet another social media site?  And what does Pinterest have that we can’t get anywhere else?

Visual simplicity.

Facebook has images.  Twitter is succinct and sortable, too.  Pinterest, though, simplifies everything to one thing: pictures.  No profiles to manage for its content creators and little, if any, reading required by its consumers.  It lets our short attention spans be satiated quickly—or drawn into the bowels of online daydreaming.

If Pinterest were running for president, it’s campaign supervisor would be explaining its surge in the polls emphatically: “It’s the photos, stupid!”

Facebook, the major social media player with more average minutes of use per month than Pinterest understands our culture’s draw to images, as it sees 70% of its users’ activity centers around its photos.**  But that pales to the photo-centricity of Pinterest, which by default, has pictures at just under 100% of activity.

There’s a lesson there for every marketer.  What makes content quickly absorbable is compelling imagery, imagery which Pinterest users tend to pull from predominantly-commercial websites.  Words—even headlines—are secondary.  As a culture, we don’t’ care about explanations and slogans, if we aren’t drawn to them through the picture(s) they accompany.  As a marketer who helps other marketers, I can tell you that if the design of our marketing media centers around large, singular imagery—and those images are professionally staged and captured—our advertising will be far more effective than the current average of small business advertising media.  That goes for small business at large and the auction industry, which I serve, in particular.

Message is important.  And honing your message is crucial.  But Andre Aggassi was right: image is everything.  And, last time I checked, advertising is part of everything.  If the first thing your media recipients and viewers sees is text—no matter how large or bold or colorful—chances are good that you’re doing advertising wrong.  If they see a solid background with a collage of pictures, we are making them work harder (than if we had used one big, full-bleed image) and, in many cases, watering down the primary draw.  Look at advertising for Apple, Nike, Ford, TNT, and BOSE.  They get it.  So should we.

If potential buyers don’t like what they see in the primary image, what makes any retailer, wholesaler, or auctioneer think potential buyers would care what other pictures we have or what the advertisement has to say?

The Bible says we humans were created in God’s image (one of the ways homo sapiens were differentiated from the rest of creation).  As believers of The Way, we are to be pictures of Jesus in our culture.  While we are wrapped in individual personalities and exclusive physical containers, the essence from the new core of our souls should shine through those translucent shells.

In contrast, the entropy and temptation for us all is to talk religious words, add Jesus stickers or fabric on the outside, and gather with those who codify and police exterior criteria the way we do.  That’s lazy and destructive.  Jesus didn’t come so that we could shine through the filter of him—or worse: the filters of religion, church, and spirituality.  He came to give us life, to change our core, to change the lightbulb—not the lamp shade—in the fixture.  He wants his truth and love and other attributes to radiate from us.

If today were a snapshot of who you are, and you handed that snapshot to a stranger, what would they see?  If you had to hand it to Jesus as a photo illustration of him, what would you have changed about your day before taking that picture?

†” Why Is Pinterest So Addictive?” by Stephanie Buck, Mashable.com. March 24, 2012.

†† “Friendsheet: The Zuck-Approved Pinterest-Style Facebook Photo Browser” by Josh Constine, Techcrunch.com.

* “A Very (P)interesting [infographic]” by Tim, DailyInfographic.com. March 9, 2012.

** “In Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy” by Chas Edwards, Adage.com. March 15, 2012.

*** “The Mounting Minuses at Google+” by Amir Efrati, Wall Street Journal. February 28, 2012.

50: Get Better Advertising ROI for Free

Point & ShootEvery summer, I walk into the National Auctioneers Association’s trade show to look at which advertising pieces won in the categories biplane’s work did not. Every year, there is at least one award given to a piece identical to the prior year’s winning entry, just with a photo and text swap. Same colors, same font, same exterior layout.

I know this. Many of the auctioneers in the competition do, too. Unfortunately, though, the lesson is lost on most: good photography can trump subpar design.

Sadly, though, good design can’t trump subpar photography. Believe me, I’ve tried. So often, an idea for a top-shelf layout is neutered by dark and/or low-resolution pictures, cluttered and/or grainy photographs. Sometimes, I can partially repair some shots in Photoshop; the rest of the time, the images look like still frames from a 7-Eleven surveillance video.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ve seen a lot of auction advertising images with 72 lines of, “This auctioneer didn’t take the time to put this property in its best light.” Your seller sees that. Your prospective buyer sees that. Your brand is associated with that.

If that brand isn’t worth a professional photographer’s fees to you, here are some simple tips to improve your advertising’s photography:

Get out of your vehicle.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Photoshop’d rear view mirrors from images! Candid camera just captured your laziness—not a cool brand image.

Aim away from the sun.
Silhouettes remove detail—great for dramatic portraits from your vacation but killer for that commercial property you’re trying to sell.

Shoot in the middle of the day.
Unless you’re going for dramatic scenery shots, avoid long shadows. If at all possible, avoid one building’s shadow being cast on your subject real estate.

Illumine all interior lights.
Even if you’re shooting in the day time, turn on all interior lighting prior to photographing. Make sure you’re not standing in front of a primary light source when photographing a room; if at all possible, shoot perpendicular to your light source.

Set your camera to its finest/best image quality.
Almost weekly, I open well-intentioned (even beautifully captured) pictures that are only a small fraction of the image size my cell phone camera takes. You want to use the image “quality setting” that will create the largest files and fit the fewest images on the memory card. Your designer can always batch-reduce them for you to use on the web. But there’s no such thing as successfully enlarging low-resolution digital images to match natively-large ones.

Don’t use a flash.
If your point-and-shoot camera needs to pop the flash to capture your stationary subject, it’s not properly lit. Your outdoor real estate shots cannot be helped by standard camera flashes, either. If you must use a flash, do not aim at reflective surfaces (windows or mirrors, chrome or painted metal) . If your flash can be aimed vertically instead of horizontally, rotate your flash toward the ceiling.

Photography lives as an under-valued skill. True: anybody with a camera can take pictures of what you’re selling. But cameras are limited by mechanical ability and unbreakable physical laws. They can’t always compensate for user ignorance. So, be intentional about your auction photography; otherwise, it might be your brand nonchalance you’re capturing.

Many believers, especially celebrities, think all there is to living the Christian life is experiencing a faith conversion. That’s the most important step of a journey with Christ, but the rest isn’t just automatic—any more than a child’s education and maturation can healthily advance without the intentional input of others.

Our walk must be intentional, a pursuit of God’s voice and a community of faith. We cannot grow alone. In our American culture, where independence and self-actualization are not just praised but ingrained, it’s easy for us to think we can do this God thing by ourselves. Just because we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, the example of Jesus, and the word of the Father, doesn’t mean we instinctively know how to harness the potential of all of that.

That’s why mature Christians are commanded to seek and counsel those young in the faith. And new believers are told to walk alongside those who’ve been on the path a while. In theory, we all should be reaching a helping hand forward and backward at the same time—to be a somewhat-absorbent conduit of insight and encouragement.

So, whose hands are you holding right now?

[footer]Images used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010[/footer]

30: 4-part Direct Mail Harmony

Singing StatueEmbarrassing confession: I used to be a choir boy.

As early as the fourth grade, I used to compete in ensemble competitions. During my freshman year of college, I successfully sneaked into one of my alma mater’s televised choirs to meet chicks—even learned a few bass lines over a semester and a half of practices.

Now, I can barely carry a tune. I have 3 Doors Down and David Crowder—not choir music—on my iPod; but during the Christmas season, like so many of you, I pause when Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or Leontovych’s “Carol of the Bells” is in ear shot. The complexity of pieces, when executed professionally, creates a whole greater than their parts. The four-part harmony enriches and multiplies the effect of a melody.

So, it is with direct mail. If you get one part of the deal out of whack, it takes away from the maximum impact of your advertising and may even bring negative reaction to your well-intentioned work. Your core message may be good, important—even needful; but you need all four aspects (below) to keep your marketing humming.

A picture is not worth a thousand words, especially when shot from your car. You can have a Madison Avenue designer and waiting millionaires who want your product or service; but if your photos look like they came from a booth in the arcade or a dollar-store disposable camera, you are hamstringing your efforts. Nothing limits your designer’s creativity more than crappy, low resolution photos—not even low budgets. If photography doesn’t come naturally to you, hire a professional. If that’s not feasible:

  • Make sure your camera is 7 megapixel or larger.
  • Take pictures at the highest quality setting possible.
  • Use a tripod in low light situations (and illumine all lights possible).
  • Take more shots than you need.
  • Take closeup shots of details and far away shots with sky or “white” space.

You can have great images but not make the connection with your audience. (How many times have you seen a Super Bowl commercial and not known what it was advertising?) You can have gorgeous printing and the perfect prospect list, but if the design and writing detract from your mission, you’re wasting your images and print budget. Good design should be almost invisible—drawing attention to your product more than itself. All colors, fonts, and design elements should accentuate your images. Successful copy should:

  • Use no more words than necessary.
  • Avoid clichés [“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”] and hyperbole [“once in a lifetime opportunity”].
  • Be humble, honest, and chopped into small chunks.
  • Pass spell check.

I recently attended a wedding where the best man read his speech from a Santa-list-long scroll of toilet paper. It was a good joke, but you wouldn’t want that laughter to hit your advertising. Engaging photographs and creative expressed on cheap paper will tell your clients you don’t put much stock in quality or value. Pretty printing delivered after the deadline is almost as embarrassing. If your printer is constantly making you sweat deadlines or not mailing inline, you’re falling behind your competition. If you’re not getting full US Postal Service bar code sorting and discounts, you’re taking money out of another deserving part of your advertising budget.

If you have an award-winning piece but send it to people who don’t need or want your service, you’ve yelled into the wind. Record and segment your current customers, and try to find common denominators. (Some companies offer this service for you and can even take those denominators and exert them into specific geographic areas.) Don’t rely solely on purchased lists. Take advantage of magazine, trade association, and chamber of commerce lists. Partner with established firms when entering new markets. If you’re as brave as catalog companies, rise the tide for all boats by confidentially sharing contacts with your competitor(s).

The bottom line: This is a package deal. A big screen TV is almost useless without digital service. A high end sports car is impotent without the right tires. Cheaper gas will only bring more cars into your station, if drivers see your prices before they pull up to the pumps across the street. And direct mail only works when great photography pairs with professional creative work and when well-produced pieces go to the right recipients.

[footer]Stock image(s) used with permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

20: Fair Advantage

Awards StageIn the wake of winning seven more national awards, I have been again asked what makes a contest-winning piece of advertising? I’d rather answer, “What makes a brand-building piece of advertising.” But the more of the following attributes your piece contains, the better its chances for garnering a plaque or trophy:

Photogenic Property
I’ve seen template pieces win year after year. Because contest judges are usually rotating, they don’t know what’s template work and what’s custom design. I’d like to whisper like the girl on the DLP commercials, “It’s the mirrors,” as your pictures just reflect what you’re selling. If you have a beach front or signature property—and the design gets out of the picture’s way—your piece will beat the foreclosure sales, the main street real estate, and the rural acreage. If your tractors are new or your cars are classic, you’re going to trump the estate collections and consignment groupings. Pictures sell the judges the same way they sell your auction.

Quality Photographs
You can overcome a property’s lack of shine or accentuate a showcase offering with some creative and/or quality photography. If you can’t afford (by time or budget) a professional photographer, you can still get professional results with your point-and-shoot camera.

  • Take more pictures than you need.
  • Take pictures only during proper lighting hours.
  • Take pictures from angles and perspectives your competitors don’t.
  • Take pictures at your camera’s highest resolution.
  • Take pictures proactively. Spend time on the site, and plan ahead.

Premium Media
While you can’t control the quality in the production of all your media, particularly in newsprint and on niche web sites, you can control direct mail. The paper on which your piece is printed matters both in the marketplace and on the judges’ tables. Extra touches, like coatings and metallic materials grab attention, as do non-standard orientations and folds. These do not sell properties, but they do sell the piece—and your brand.

Professional Layout
Design can be a double-edged sword. You want design that draws attention to your brand but only as much as it doesn’t draw attention to itself. You want a layout that accentuates the property—which doesn’t necessarily require technical, expensive work. Your designer should be able to explain every font, color, line, space, and arrangement with intentional reasons. Those answers should all correspond to the nature of your brand and, if possible, to the mood of what’s being sold.

Self Control
Less is more. The less text and information you have on the outside panels of a direct mailer or in between the borders of an ad, the easier it is to build a captivating mood. Let the picture(s) breathe; rely on the image(s) to sell your property. Words rarely trump photographic proof. Don’t try to buck that law of nature, especially in our ADD culture and visual world. Pare as much from the piece as possible, publishing an exhaustive information package on the internet. If they aren’t sold in the first few seconds, they won’t care about the details. Neither will judges. They rarely read entries—just trying to grab overall creativity and readability.

Subjective Luck
Judges have human eyes with unintentional biases. I find politics typically NOT a factor on the contest level. (If anywhere, you’ll find sour grapes pettiness in the committees that draft the competition rules.) The prettiest piece I’ve ever printed lost this year. An already internationally-awarded piece lost this summer to a humble, white brochure. I’ve had pieces win in years past that I was embarrassed to have even entered and publicly recognized. I can’t explain judges’ reasoning; I just give them lots of options from which to choose.

This past year has been a banner year for awards granted to biplane and its clients’ work. It’s a fickle process—advertising contests—but it can be honed more predictable with a little work and an intentional budget. Advertising awards can build your company’s identity; but a professional, recognizable, and consistent brand in the marketplace is far more likely to build your company’s revenue.

Many Christian leaders motivate their American followers with the rewards of heaven. The Bible mentions crowns and compliments as potential compensation for lives well lived. As someone who has always been easily motivated by reward, I used to share that eternal retirement account view.

Then I stumbled on the irony that everything we win we give back to Jesus, laying it all at his feet. This coupled with the warning that anything done for ourselves will be consumed (rather than available to give back to Jesus), creates a symbiotic irony: the less we care about eternal reward, the more we receive.

Advertising’s success is measured by its effectiveness with its audience, not by the accolades of judges. The success of our Christianity, likewise, is not measured in how it looks either now or in heaven—but in how its observers are moved to salvation through it.

Once our sanctification becomes motivated by the amassing of personal heaven points or structured around the trappings of faith, it is religion. Religion is the largest idol used to distract mankind from a relationship with God. So, we need to guard against improper motives as much as against improper actions.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

18: Night Makes Right

Night PhotographyWhether you’re selling luxury real estate or a less-than-photogenic property, you can accentuate the positive the same way: night photography.

While in the Reno airport on my way to an NAA event, I picked up this flier† from Michael Yoelin of The Yoelin Group. With no special paper or printing techniques—and no complicated design—the piece exuded the beauty of the Casoleil condominium community.

What grabbed my attention was the same thing that catches everybody’s attention: the picture(s). The public is accustomed to MLS-style curb shots; anything you can do to shake their visual expectations will make your advertising more memorable and attractive.


In the Casoleil case, the main shot had been taken at dusk with the warm light accentuating the architecture and ambiance. While even the day time photo displays an inviting neighborhood, the nighttime image takes it to another level. Ads for premium properties in duPont Registry and Unique Homes often use this same technique.

Interior shots can also be warmed this way, too—even in the day time. Don’t forget illuminated fountains, submerged-light pools, and moonlit pond/lake/river/ocean shots. If you’ve got a hard-surfaced driveway or patio, spray it with a hose first to catch the reflected light.

Nighttime can also cover up an average (or worse) property’s foibles, make a small house seem like a cozy home, and make a commercial property look alive (If possible, illumine the signs; and don’t forget to capture those tail lights to illustrate traffic count). A farm at sunset may have a great silhouette, too.

If the idea seems too complicated or time-consuming, confidently hire a local professional. Pictures typically sell your property more than design does; it’s worth the expense, when you’re dealing with a premium property. With the advent of digital photography, there are more photographers in the marketplace and, thus, great values available.

It’s not fitting or practical to use this technique for all properties, but it can make a significant difference for the right subjects. If you doubt that, know that National Geographic‘s current photography policy rejects any landscape shots taken between dawn and dusk. Anybody can shoot in the day time, even your competitors. Stand apart from the pack; come to the dark side of the force.

[footer]†Used with permission.[/footer]

I was told during my formative years that all Christians should aspire to vocational ministry—that the highest goal of any Christian should be the pastorate or international missions or Christian education. This mind set creates castes: leaders and attendees (and stages in between). My Dean of Art at college even told me that they preferred us to design for ministries, not companies.

The Bible doesn’t present this hierarchal system, as all true believers are called priests and ministers of the Gospel. If light-shiners only huddle with other light-shiners, the only way their light can be seen is if they outshine their peers. This tends toward legalism, sectarian squabbling, and—too often—hypocrisy or catastrophic personal failure. I’ve seen it first hand. You’ve seen it on the news.

However, if we’re focused on working in the darkness of secularism and the night of unbelief, even a small, Jesus-fired light will pierce our environment. Jesus lived and dined (and worked) with the unreligious, the spiritual castaways of his day. Why shouldn’t we?

If I had taken that ministry job offered me out of college, the top half of this post would never have been written; and this bottom part wouldn’t mean as much to you. You expect a pastor to be a lighthouse of faith. A graphic designer? Probably not. That’s why I write about my spiritual journey here: because you might not choose to read about it anywhere else, especially church.

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