Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
Let’s stay on message, Friend.
A few weeks ago I was sitting at a red light behind an ambulance from the local fire department. I noticed that across the rear doors written in gold, six inch letters on a white background, were these words: “STAY BACK 500 FEET.” I began to laugh. 500 feet is 1 and 2/3 football fields. Picture standing on the goal line in Arizona Stadium, looking down the field past the other goal line, then on past the track and the end zone seats, and out the back of the stadium. Now picture a sign about 4 feet off the ground with weather faded, pale lettering on a dirty white board. You need binoculars to read it. By the time you can read the sign you are already too close. Assuming that the purpose of the sign has something to do with the fact that there may be emergency personnel using the back of the ambulance, it also seems likely the doors will be opened making the sign invisible. I’m thinking that a committee somewhere had a great idea about the desirability of keeping plenty of space behind an ambulance for emergency workers and vehicles. The implementation of this great idea seems less than effective,
As a minister, my job is to take great ideas and communicate them to people. We, the Church, are commissioned to inform those in the world of their dire circumstance and of the timeless plan for their escape. We do well to examine how we transmit our message. Lessons from the Fire Department might include:
- Communicate in words intelligible to the target audience. No matter how sage the idea, it is useless to the audience if they can’t understand it. Our church jargon means nothing to most “earth people.” If I want a “sinner” to hear me, I had better call him something else. Even in church, most folks are horribly ignorant, but not inclined to admit it. Keep it simple!
- Communicate in ways accessible to the target audience. The greatest message is lost if it is spoken in a vacuum. If I am endeavoring to connect with the unbeliever, Christian TV and radio are not my best options. If I am looking for a younger demographic, then I have to invade the internet. Ask a teenager what apps he is using, then learn to use them. (Better yet, look on his phone. He probably lied to you – doesn’t want mom to find out!)
- Communicate concepts applicable by the target audience. If folks don’t know what to do, they are very unlikely to do it. It is insufficient to ask people to help us in our vision. It is necessary to let them know exactly how they can do that. Most visions are ethereal, general, and nebulous. All actions are simple, time specific, and often seem useless, or at least insignificant. “Folding bulletins is a vital part in the process of communicating vision. Be here Friday at 10 and let’s get the vision out!” Give your hearers purpose and actions to fulfill it.
- Evaluate, adjust and repair. Figure out a way to measure the effectiveness of your communications. They didn’t hear it just because you said it. You can only be sure they heard you if they either repeat the message back to you, or if you see results in their actions. Drive 500 feet behind the ambulance and tell me if you can see the sign. Better yet, stop the ambulance and see how many people obey the sign. When you find that you are not being heard, adjust your strategy, make changes, and go again. This is important, don’t quit!
Somebody Said: To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. Tony Robbins
Scripture Reading: “the defeated, the demoralized–whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ–but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.” (1Co 9:22 MSG)
My goal as a minister is to be heard and understood, carrying the message with accuracy and simplicity. Until all have heard the simple Gospel story in a clear way, I have no authorization to quit. It’s useless to lament my failures. It’s useful to adjust, repair, and go for it again.
Ready to follow the Spirit in your service? Take a look at the online class, “Is There an Interpreter in the House?” It will fire you up!
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