Author Archives: Jon Hirst

Building Your Own Infographics - A Review of Two Web Services

Guest Post: Nathaniel McComb, GMI Intern - Summer 2014

For many ministries and organizations, infographics are a growing resource for sharing data and information with the world. Some organizations, though, may not have the budget to hire graphic designers or other specialists to make what they need. Luckily, there are websites available that can help with this problem, two of which I will focus on and review here. The two websites, Piktochart ( and (, are both free-to-use sources for creating infographics.

Piktochart, as mentioned, is an easy to use website for producing infographics. The website offers four templates for different styles of presentation, depending on the desired use. These include a standard infographic template, a report template (helpful for condensing necessary information within a specific page limit), a banner template (more akin to a poster, useful for making announcements or advertisements) and a presentation template, which fits the information in a frame style similar to other presentation software (Microsoft Powerpoint, for example).

Once a template is selected, you are brought to the main workspace for creating the infographic. This area is very user-friendly, with multiple sidebar tabs containing many different styles of text, graphics, and other components. There are a full range of tools to use, including editable charts and maps, as well as the ability to add video. The template itself is quite user-friendly as well. The template area is broken up into “blocks” (which are themselves smaller work areas), allowing for easy navigation between multiple areas on the infographic.

This website seems to have a strong focus on creative freedom. The various graphics and icons, as well as multiple options for customizing backgrounds, colors, and fonts, allow a user to be as creative with their infographic as they would like. Piktochart also has various options in regard to downloading your infographics (including JPEG and PNG file types). Downloading your infographic is not the only way of making it available, as there is an option for sharing it through Piktochart’s website.

Piktochart has a subscription payment option for those who would like to get more out of the website. At $29/month (or $290/year), the website allows a third file type for download (PDF), as well as the removal of the Piktochart watermark from user-made infographics.

Now looking at, there are a few key distinctions. For, the overall focus seems to be less on graphics and other visual aspects, primarily allowing these factors to support the data and information.

Regarding templates, this website has 6 main color schemes to create new infographics. The layout of the workspace is one continuous work area (in contrast to Piktochart’s “block”-style), which can be helpful (or cumbersome) depending on the length of the infographic. also allows the use of charts, maps, and videos to be used in creating infographics.

As mentioned, this website does not focus as much attention on creative expression. There are no options for adding or placing shapes or other icons, and the color and font styles are usually limited to the choice of design template. This may not be a disadvantage, though, depending on the type of infographic needed (i.e. if you would like a streamlined, data-focused infographic, may be a good choice).

One very important aspect of that must be mentioned (and, as I saw it, highly inconvenient) is the download option. Without signing up for either of the two payment options, you cannot download your infographic in any format. This does not mean you cannot do anything at all with the infographic, though. You can share your infographic by posting it through the website. Along with the ability to download, the first tier subscription (which costs $18/ month) allows for using real-time data, private sharing, and opens up four more design templates. The second tier subscription (called “White Label”, $50/month) allows all the aspects of the first tier subscription, plus the ability to remove the watermark, remove the default share buttons, and add a custom logo to the infographic.

As I see it, both websites are helpful for creating infographics on your own. Depending on your desired style, length, or level of creative expression, one website may trump the other. Likewise, one or the other may be preferred regarding the method of sharing your infographic (where through sharing it through either website, or downloading it and sharing it through specific channels in that way). Overall, Piktochart and can both be useful tools for many organizations and ministries in sharing data or other information.

Enabled to Attempt

“What God expects us to attempt he also enables us to achieve, and committed Christians have proved it throughout the centuries. So let us take heart in knowing that the grace of giving is also the grace for giving.” Stephen F. Olford

One of the biggest decisions we must make as followers of Christ is what God desires us to attempt. There are so many things we might do with our career and our time, but what is God asking us to do?

This takes a level of Kingdom focus and spiritual discernment that is not common in today’s Christian discipline. We have been so programmed by the world’s definitions of success, that what we attempt usually has more to do with worldly success than Kingdom impact.

But this is the challenge. How do we set aside the world’s criteria for success and attempt great things for God? They may look foolish or insignificant in light of what the world values, but those are the things that God will bless.

As GMI continues to go through our transition as an organization, this is one of our great challenges. We must ask God to help us see what He is empowering us to attempt and then have faith that He will give us the strength to achieve it.

What is God asking you to attempt? Do you believe He will empower you to achieve it?

When the status quo changes

Many times our world changes. Trends that have been happily unfolding for years or even decades finally shift. And these changes never fail to surprise us. How do you deal with these changes?

Sometimes it is easier to embrace them than others. Sometimes we have a lot riding on keeping things the same. In those moments we hold on to the status quo with all our energy. In other moments when change is in the air we are more open.

Today we are experiencing many changes to established trends and assumptions. One of those is global population. We have gotten used to skyrocketing population and the talk of an ever-more crowded planet. But that is changing. We are soon to be a much older planet. There are a lot of reasons for this and you can watch an excellent TED video on this subject here. But the bottom line is that our understanding of the world’s population is changing.

So how will this impact your ministry? There are a million small ways. But you won’t really understand any of them if you don’t first consider your assumptions and look at how the status quo is changing. Take a moment to check out our latest infographic on the change in population and consider how you will respond.

A Tribute to a Lifelong Learner

People are complex. You can stand up and talk about someone for an hour and the minute you sit down you remember 20 more things about them. That is why I love people. God makes each one of us in this insanely unique way that cannot be replicated but always amazes.

Today (January 14) is the second anniversary of Mike O’Rear’s sudden passing. It is a time to remember Mike and be inspired by the way God made him and prepared him for service. And if each of you reading this post who knew him would stand up and share, you would each teach those in the room about the unique person you experienced and spent time with.

Since taking the role of CEO at GMI, I have gotten to know Mike in a very unique way. I spent time with him before his death, but for the past year and a half I have lived in the footsteps he would have walked. I have talked with the donors he would have visited. I have been on the airplanes he would have boarded. I have prayed through the decisions he would have made. I did not respond as he would have . . . I’m a unique creation as well. But that fact allows me to appreciate him all the more.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about Mike’s life was his commitment to be a lifelong learner. He was always asking questions, researching and probing the issues of the day.

An example of this lifelong learning discipline was in his regular column with Dr. Scott Moreau in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) called “Mission Resources on the Web.” In these articles Mike and Scott scoured the Internet and brought some of the best resources on different subjects to the table for EMQ readers to feast . . . and what a feast they served up!

As I was remembering Mike this week, I decided to pull out a bunch of these EMQ articles and look through them. I was amazed at the detail, breath and depth of engagement that they both brought to the issues. Mike brought that same level of engagement to his work at GMI; which is evidenced by the fact that I still use his notes, contacts and files as important references in my work today.

So to highlight and celebrate Mike’s passion for learning, I decided I would pull out the April issues of EMQ for the years of 2002-2007 and list below the diverse topics that he and Scott tackled. If you get a chance to dig into the digital archives or look back over your old copies of EMQ, don’t miss spending some time with Mike through these articles:

  • April 2002: Missions Fundraising
  • April 2003: Theology of Mission on the Web
  • April 2004: And So the Story Goes . . . Web Resources on Storytelling, Myths and Proverbs
  • April 2005: Oceania On the Web
  • April 2006: Browsing Virtual Libraries and Book Collections
  • April 2007: Missions-related News on the Web

I’m grateful to Mike for his inquisitive mind and willingness to ask the hard questions. I’m also grateful that he made this investment to share what he was learning. So now we must ask what we will learn from this faithful Christian who gave his life to mission.

How are you planning to invest in lifelong learning as you begin this New Year?

Is God’s Agenda BIG for You?

Note: I will be starting to do blogs on each of the infographics we release as part of our Missiographic Service. You can see our currently library at and sign up for the free newsletter to be alerted twice a month to the new infographics.

What do you consider big? Your answer to that question says a lot about what you value. Our world says, “Bigger is Better,” so the things we think are big are usually also on the “better” list.

We think China is big . . . it’s impact on our economy and on geopolitical realities is indeed significant. Many of us think that a Hummer or other SUV is big . . . they overpower everything else on the road. Still others think that the skyscrapers in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or New York are big . . . the height and engineering achievement astound us.

So here is my next question: “What does God consider BIG?” Put another way, “What is truly BIG in the Kingdom of God?” With that lens the list looks very different. It would include movements of house churches in persecuted countries, acts of love done without fanfare, a Bible translation that takes 20 years to complete . . . you get the idea.

This issue is what is behind our latest infographic on Indonesia. Most people think of Indonesia as insignificant . . . a bunch of islands in Asia. But when you actually look at the information about God’s work on this grouping of 17,000 islands it is HUGE! These islands make up the largest population of Muslims and also a place where God’s Church is growing quickly. This place is BIG on God’s agenda and we need to be seeing this country through God’s eyes.

Take a minute to look over the infographic and ask yourself how you can better see God’s BIG agenda and leave the world’s agenda behind. Then share this infographic with others. Let’s celebrate God’s BIG work in Indonesia.

Celebrating His Righteousness and Faithfulness

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
Psalm 145:17

Throughout the Christmas Season, I have been referencing this verse from Psalm 145. It jumped out at me in early December because of its simplicity and significance. In my final blog for the year on this Christmas Eve, I thought I would share why I feel this verse is so significant at the celebration of Christ’s birth.

First, the act of God sending his Son to earth to redeem what had been lost is an amazing act of righteousness. On Christmas God is seeking to make the world right - to bring justice. He is bringing His Kingdom forward for the good of all Creation.

Second, God’s continued pursing of his Creation is an incredible act of faithfulness. In all the messiness, darkness and betrayal that God has seen from His Creation, He has not given up on us. Instead He devised a perfect plan to redeem us that brings all honor and glory to God as our Savior and at the same time honors and equips His Creation to be a part of the new Kingdom. What faithfulness!

These two words - righteousness and faithfulness - are powerful lenses from which to view Christmas. What verse has God given you this Christmas to bring the Gift He gave to life?

How will Technology Impact Mission? Get the Inside Scoop…

Recently I attended a very special event in Silicon Valley designed to equip ministry leaders with insight into new technology and how it can be leveraged for ministry. Here is a storify that showcases much of the great content and notes from the event.

Look for some of the very good content on Tech Ed and trends in technology. However, the speaker that most impacted me was Joshua Banko, the credited creator of the iPad. His talk on “Innovating with God” was an amazing blend of spiritual inspiration and practical insight. Be on the look-out for some of his insights below.

The Source of our Power

@JonHirstGMI: “Power is the ability to make something of the world.” @ahc // #dataispower - how will we use info to bless!

I’m starting to read Andy Crouches’ latest book on power - Playing God. He starts off by recognizing that many of us see power as negative and coercive and then begins to share that his book will focus on the redemption of power in God’s story. I look forward to that journey. But for now, I would like to focus some time on the definition he provided and that I put at the top of this post as a tweet I shared.

As we consider the role of power in the world of mission, this definition is intriguing. We as missional workers are focused on impacting the world in ways that match what we see as God’s Kingdom. Each of us feel that God has called us to bring change to different areas of a fallen world. And as we act on these passions we are utilizing the power that we have at our disposal to see the change made into a reality.

One of the realities of this process is that, no matter how good our intentions, we end up using power not granted to us by God but instead by this world’s sources of influence. We take God’s mission and our power supply and get to work - usually with less than satisfactory results.

So it would seem to me that the very first question that Kingdom workers need to ask after receiving their direction from God is the power source they plan to use. I have been reading in 2nd Chronicles about king Asa of Judah. In Chapter 14, when he is up against an army much bigger than his own, he calls out to God. “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you…” His prayer is answered in both victory and in the words of Azariah when he returns, “The Lord is with you when you are with him.”

I am processing this about my own role with GMI. As you think about your role in leadership, do you know where your power comes from?

Sharing key ideas from the Global Church Forum

I was so blessed to be a part of the program at the Global Church Forum hosted at Park Community Church in Chicago. The focus of the event was understanding how we can engage in Egypt. As we put together our presentations and engaged with attendees from the Middle East and from ministries serving globally, there were some great takeaways. Many of them were captured in the storify story below. If you want to get a quick curation of the conference and what we talked about related to ministry in Egypt and overall sustainability, read on!

A Summary of STAND - 2013 Missio Nexus Mission Conference

The annual Missio Nexus Missions Conference last week was a powerful time for GMI to engage people with information on global mission and to connect with some of our key partners. But how do you process all that went on (whether you were there or not)? Here is a great curation of the conference that is worth taking some time to read through and pick out some items for follow-up: