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Don't Drop the Mic
The Power of Your Words Can Change the World
By T. D. Jakes
Read by T. D. Jakes
Read by Brad Sanders
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- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
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In Don't Drop the Mic, Bishop Jakes speaks to readers about communication and how the ways we speak and interact with others can be part of our everyday ministries. He helps readers understand:
- Why the way we speak and the words we use matter
- How speaking well, no matter your topic or audience, improves your chances of getting the result you want
- How to craft your message, whether it's a simple email or a speech under the spotlights, to connect with listeners
- Why good communication is important for building connection and community
- How sharing God's Word produces abundant fruit
Drawing lessons from Scripture and his own life, 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.
There will be practical advice about how to craft insightful and meaningful communications, but the heart of this book is really about how we can communicate more clearly to build community and share the hope of Christ in our everyday lives.
The more adept we become at using all available resources to convey our message, the greater our impact. From lovers to litigators, entrepreneurs to entertainers, and bloggers to board members, we all want to communicate more effectively, intimately, and efficiently. Whether you're interviewing for a new position, proposing a new business plan, auditioning for a performance, delivering a report for your committee, teaching Sunday school, or sharing your heart with a loved one, this book will help.
Introduction: The Voice of Hope
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
—John 1:1,14 KJV
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 a pedagogue, and more personal than professional in my approach. 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 a 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 Chapter 1, 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 the 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.
On the other hand, dropping the mic can also mean fumbling those same opportunities, either out of fear, a lack of experience, unfamiliarity with your audience, a 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 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!
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 the 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 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 percent.
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, counselors, 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 grieved alone, struggled alone, died 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 traveling 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 neighbors, and our global ministry community.
We helped feed the hungry, providing more than three thousand 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 five thousand 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, Gayle King on CBS This Morning, my friends on Good Morning America, TBN—conservative and liberal without discrimination. I was bombarded by 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 killing 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 eleven thousand people registered to attend my annual leadership conference, but I didn’t think twice about canceling 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 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 someone who has died from the virus. We saw bodies stacked in hotel rooms, eighteen-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 converts 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 colorful dialects.
It’s no coincidence that the sacred gift of God’s Son is expressed as “Word… made flesh” (John 1:14 KJV). Because words of truth always have the 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 defense 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.
Don’t drop the mic!
The Gift of Speech
First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
Our words vibrate with the power of possibility.
Just as circuits channel the crackle of electric currents, words form messages, whether written or spoken, that have changed the course of history countless times. I first felt the sparks of the charge they could carry as a boy clustered with my family around our television set. Our little house was the last house on the left at the end of a dead-end street, paved now but then just a dirt road, in Charleston, West Virginia. I can still see the ragged couch we all perched on to watch a console filled with tubes in the back and a screen in front made of glass as thick as my grandmother’s bifocals.
It was the early sixties and our country was fractured by the Vietnam War, the Woodstock era, and the growing civil rights movement. Willie Mays was playing ball and the Supremes were as popular as Beyoncé is today. Lucy was eating more candy than she could pass down the factory assembly line, Aunt Bee was baking pies in Mayberry, and Lassie was the dog every child wanted!
One night, however, stands out more than all the rest. On the Six O’Clock News, we watched as a young man in a black suit enthralled a large crowd of listeners then called colored people. We soon learned he was a Baptist preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King, and never in my young life had I heard a speaker with such a melodious voice deliver tones with the cadence of a song.
As captivating as his speech was, I remember becoming distracted by an even more impressive revelation: My father was sitting with us and watching Dr. King. Through weary, heavy-lidded eyes, my father gazed so intently, his admiration for the man on the small screen unmistakable. Seldom did my father get to sit and watch TV with the rest of us. He was far too busy working to keep the electric bill paid to enjoy the frivolity of television programing. But watching Dr. King with the rest of us, my father had never seemed so engrossed in anything that I could recall.
Dr. King’s controversial message of nonviolent resistance to the injustice of the times was as amazing to me as it was to my father. Against barking dogs and fire hoses spewing a deluge of hate, in an atmosphere of unbridled violence aimed at innocent people merely exercising their First Amendment rights, Dr. King stood firm with no weapons, no army tanks, nothing but the passionate elocution electrifying his audience with the sound of his voice and a message of hope.
No matter what his adversaries did to him, he just kept on speaking! His courage was remarkable. His cadence was legendary. It was then that I first realized the power of a man with a microphone. I’m not sure how to quantify the level of his impression on me as a child. Was it his message that moved me? Or maybe it was my father’s rapt gaze at him? Whatever the allure, that night left me with one unforgettable takeaway: A man with a microphone could change the world!
Power of Life and Death
Dr. King’s example illustrates the power of communication to accomplish what wars, weapons, and web wizardry cannot achieve. He ignited an awareness in me, along with millions of others, that what we say can divert devastation and unify those willing to listen with understanding. Dr. King illustrated and amplified the timeless truth I had learned in Sunday school that the tongue has the power over life and death (Proverbs 18:21).
This wisdom remains as timely as ever. Now more than ever, the power of communication commands our public attention as well as our personal interactions. Simply put, the sharper our array of communication skills, the more successful we become in virtually every endeavor.
Who among us can honestly say that their lives, loves, and even their livelihood won’t benefit from developing and maintaining better communication skills? Whether they’re used for conflict resolution in a tempestuous personal relationship with someone we love or whether we are interviewing for a career change that could affect the level to which we live, work, and play, we have a much better chance at success if we can communicate effectively.
As I embark upon the task of sharing about the significance of speaking and the powerful gift of communication we have been given, I hope you will find my humble offering beneficial in a variety of settings. While I have become a lifelong student and practitioner of communications, I do not write this book in an attitude of arrogance or superiority. Rather, my intent is to enhance our respect for the art of speaking and to enhance our eloquence as preachers, presenters, politicians, performers, poets, and entrepreneurs.
By sharing the ever-evolving journey of my own linguistic development, I hope my pitfalls can divert the direction of your own discourse, providing you with a clearer understanding of what’s involved when we share language to convey meaning. Being a communicator myself, I understand its significance within the human experience, the importance of it in our relationships, our emotional equilibrium, and our creative expressions, as well as its vital significance as a lens outside ourselves into other lifestyles, cultures, communities, and businesses.
History would be vandalized if we lost the great speeches and founding documents that have developed, defined, and deepened the human condition. Great men and women have opened their mouths and changed the world. Writers have picked up their pens never knowing of the countless readers their missives would inspire, instruct, and entertain beyond their intended recipients.
You and I wield this same kind of power today.
Method of the Message
While technology gives us the ability to converse with people around the world with split-second speed and impeccable accuracy, it is not the power source of our communication. Now, I will try to avoid the propensity often exhibited among my generation to bemoan the development of technology—in part because it is this very innovation that enables me to pen these words in a cohesive, comprehensive manner as efficiently and effectively as possible! You and I have access to spell-check, grammar correction, auto-fill, and other linguistic conveniences that Shakespeare could never have imagined, not to mention methods such as e-mail, texts, tweets, and other social media.
Interestingly enough, we now live in an era when computerized voices guide us through prompts whenever we call for customer service assistance from major corporations. Other companies employ international troubleshooters to address domestic questions and concerns, which we may notice from the accented voice responding to our inquiry.
Listening devices such as Siri and Alexa, coupled with audio activation of autotype, record our speech patterns and repeated phrasing in order to program around our patterns. Key words on Instagram have replaced blog sites, and the convenience of tweets has replaced heartfelt talks on virtually every topic. I often wonder if our memories have shrunk as our phones have become smarter than their buyers!
Before you scoff at the notion of artificial intelligence robbing your brain of its old job, let me ask you, how many phone numbers do you remember? How many poems, Bible verses, and sports stats can you recite? Before we had such powerful cyber capabilities, we relied on our memories, emoting speeches and conversations that led our nation, solved our conflicts, united our families, and educated our children. For the most part, text and tweets have replaced much of the personal nature of communication. Minds groping for the right word have been replaced by our fingers looking for the right button!
While the Internet and language-interfacing technology have provided a way for us to conduct meetings without having to travel, to inform others without invading their personal space, to celebrate family milestones without traveling any miles, they have also impaired the way we correspond. When limits of time, screen space, and character quantity dictate our directives, we lose more than eloquence in the details. Artful statements become archaic as personal styles of expressing ourselves to the fullest degree have become less central to cultural modes of communication.
I’m sure you realize that communication invites all the senses from the human eye to the listening ear. Authentic communication, however, isn’t just audio, but it is also audiovisual if not multisensory. Communication for us as humans is an interesting mix of subliminal signals as well as audible sounds. A pause, a raised eyebrow, the hint of a smile—they convey just as much as our diction, tone, and style of speech.
Effective communication allows our body language and voice inflection to unite with our linguistics. The connection of all these modes creates a symphonic experience of expression that crescendos into a more elaborate concerto of sensory impressions received by our listeners. Looking back, I’ve reflected many times on how Dr. King mastered this fusion of speaker and speech, language and listener, method and message. I suspect all the great communicators that have made an impression on you similarly reflect this same rhetorical radiance.
Technology has increased the size of our potential audience, but have we compromised the unspoken intimacy of reading between the lines? Of feeling a message deep in our bones before our minds even have time to process it? Like a flood spilling across the plains, our online communication may cover more surface area but lacks the depth to create a current. Without diminishing the benefits of technology, we must consider how to maximize the quality of our communication, how to retain the rhetorical rhythms and lyrical linguistics that penetrate our hearts and minds, not just our eyes and ears.
Successful communication requires an exchange of understanding that transcends the syllables we hear or the sentences we see. Successful communication requires mastering the art of translation.
Lost in Translation
Communication, no matter how eloquent or effusive it may be, is incomplete if understanding isn’t achieved. Connecting with the recipient of your message is an essential element of successful communication because being understood is the ultimate objective. Words may be exchanged in a common language, but without understanding both the methods and the manners, the message is usually incomplete.
Understanding serves as the glue of effective communication. Being understood and understanding others require shared consideration of context, motive, intention, and culture. Understanding leads to shared space where common values emerge, along with goals of mutual benefit. Your emotional seedbed flourishes in an environment where you are understood. Your economic fortitude is enhanced; your value to the team accrues when you are able both to understand others and to be understood; and your ability to lead grows proportionately.
If the goal of communication is understanding, then it involves sharing more than the same established alphabet, language, and vocabulary. Speakers of the same language must still translate one another’s messages within a cultural context and familiarity. We see this across historical periods, generational slang, and regional figures of speech.
For example, I have a friend from the rural South who often expresses his suspicion or doubt about something by declaring, “Something in that milk ain’t clean!” The first few times I heard his colloquialism, I chuckled at the homespun wisdom of this memorable metaphor. Such phrasing had a freshness that caught my attention and conjured up a specific image. Over time, the expression began penetrating my thoughts, taking up residence in my head, until—guess what?—I started saying it, too! While I didn’t intentionally decide to adopt it, subconsciously I became influenced by the speech of another person!
Is this not how we all learn to communicate when as infants we appropriate language from our parents? From simple vocabulary words and names to phrases and complete thoughts, we formulate our messaging by memorizing alphabetic and linguistic constructions. Sheer repetition establishes the most basic foundation of communication until we master other aspects of language and expression. While using the same letters and language is essential at first, we often overlook the idiosyncrasies of our mother tongue. We rarely consider that something that comes as naturally as speaking could be enhanced or endangered depending on what we do with what we have been given.
Speaking seems and feels natural, though, only because our first language, in my case English, isn’t spoken merely because we studied it. We assimilate it because our parents or family members modeled it in their speech to us. Not just their vernacular or vocabulary, but also their intensity of tone, implementation of humor, or overall tenor conveyed consistently in our home and early environments. Like handheld mirrors, we reflect what’s closest to us, or where we’ve been, and who we listen to, without even being aware that they are programming our speech through the filters of our sensory and neurological experiences.
Think of it this way: If a Chinese family had taken me home from the hospital, I would have grown up speaking Mandarin. I would’ve adopted the tone and timing that fit into the atmosphere and culture of my upbringing. If a family from Paris had taken me across the Atlantic Ocean at birth, I would likely be speaking French and regularly ordering croissants! So then the language we were first exposed to can often become our primary means of communication, complete with a twang, a staccato delivery, or a Southern drawl.
Because speech is reflective and reflexive, when you speak, you are telling me more than the sentences you construct. I am gathering information from both what’s spoken and what’s suggested by the way in which you speak. This kind of interpretation often gets labeled an impression, as in, the good kind you want to make on a prospective employer, an attractive date, or a new neighbor. Many times, we may not realize how much we convey beyond what we actually say!
Where did we learn these nuanced ways of communicating? Those early exposures we had are like zip codes in that they identify general locations as to where we are in life, social status, generational phrasing, cultural colloquialisms, sense of humor, and intelligence. Early sights and sounds can leave us enunciating phrases with a British crispness or the rapid-fire, slurred speech of a street thug. Both speak English but can communicate very different messages even when speaking the same words!
- On Sale
- May 11, 2021
- Hachette Audio