There’s lots of communication tools one can use while preaching; illustrations are the most well known. Another method of communicating an idea is to keep using different synonyms.
It’s where you take one idea from the verse you’re looking at and explain it by defining it again and again.
E.g. (From yesterday’s post) Jesus is the King; the ruler, the sovereign, the all powerful, the master of the universe, the final judge of all things, the most excellent, most praiseworthy, most important, most wonderful and fearsome human who ever lived, and the one you will have to give an account to at the end of time.
Does it work? Yes and no.
It’s probably not a great explanatory tool… Every synonym needs its own explaination. But it is a very good focusing tool. It helps our hearers feel the weight of one idea in the verse. It’s like a big sign saying “watch out! Big idea here!”
Therefore, it’s a communication tool to use sparingly.
We had our Church’s 2014 AGM recently and we decided to try a new thing…
Every year we try to a new way of communicating a holistic perspective of church (helping people realise that church is more than their personal experience of it) – here’s one from last year. This year we tried to go really simple and didn’t include heaps of structures and aspects of church in the design (See the full design here).
But the big difference we did this year was two-fold; seating people at tables, and making it a prayer-night.
We setup the room like a cafe; paper on square tables, cups and water, candles, a plate of finger food.
Our Senior Pastor opened the Bible and encouraged us from Philippians 1 that it’s so appropriate that Christians give thanks for God’s work in us and through us. We prayed.
We opened the AGM with apologies, and a couple of people confirmed the minutes from last year. We heard a 2 min report from the Committee (Elders/Board), asked some questions and prayed. We got a finance summary of 2014, asked questions and gave thanks. We closed the formal meeting, but opened up to further prayer.
We walked though the significant ministries at our church; the Mission activities… and we prayed. The Membership and Maturity activities and groups… and we prayed. The Magnification and Ministry activities… and we prayed.
Along the way we didn’t sing, but we got some of our musos to perform a couple of songs they’d just finish writing. We enjoyed their talent and gave thanks.
It might not have been what people were expecting – it was a bit different to what I was expecting, and I organised it – but by the end of the night it felt like a night well spent. And that’s as good AGM in my book.
We came across this idea a few years ago… that most churches (ours included) were generally pretty good at communicating two sorts of things… Abstract Theology, and Concrete Details about Church. (Abstract means concepts and ideas, whereas Concrete means times, dates, locations, what to bring, etc.)
So we were good at explaining ideas like Justification, and at the same time, telling people when the next event would be on and where it would be.
But that left two areas of communication largely vacant; Concrete Theology (Behaviours, Habits, Actions) and Abstract Details about Church (Why church exists, what type of church we want to be, How we think about our programs and why we do some things and not others).
How do you see your ministry going at communicating in all 4 of these areas?
“Out of the box” can mean being creative in weird ways, but it can also mean doing things in a stock standard way.
It’s worth churches thinking through how they market themselves by looking at how other “similar” industries go about reaching their market.
How could a church leverage these aspects of their nature…
- Similar to a “debt alleviation” company?
- Similar to a “life insurance” company?
- Similar to a “self-help / recovery group”?
- Similar to an “Adult education” provider?
- Similar to an “Historical society”
It seems that a church could market itself like any of these… Because a church can be all of these.
But there lies the issue… If you only market one aspect of yourself, you run the risk of under-communicating, which is just another word for mis-communicating.
I went through uni with a great student group called FEVA (Fellowship for Evangelism to the Visual Arts) and this was a constant topic for designers and artists. They loved Jesus and they loved good design and making beautiful things. So students were always wrestling with the question, “Can we glorify Jesus and do mission to the world with art?”
This was always answered carefully and well. And it’s been something I’ve had to think through again recently.
The gospel is a spoken message. You can’t proclaim Jesus without words. No matter how beautiful something is, people are blind to the glory of Jesus without the Holy Spirit helping them hear/read human words as the very words of God (1Thess 2).
What’s more, you don’t design to make the gospel attractive, because the gospel is attractive already. Trying to make the content of the gospel more attractive will only result in diminishing the glory of the gospel.
But the gospel is a communicated thing. It’s meant to be communicated. And all communication is designed. That’s a key idea; all communication is designed. Communication is the clothes which adorn a message and make paying attention to it attractive. We design to adorn our communication of the gospel. We don’t want to make the gospel more attractive, but rather, we want to make our communication of it as attractive as possible.
Whether you’re leading a growth group, preaching a sermon or just a one on one… don’t just say everything and rely on people’s hearing and memory. If they are listening to you, they’ll be able to finish your sentence.
What’s more; people remember what they say 1000% more than they remember what others say. You ask someone what they learned in your GrowthGroup last night, and they’ll rattle off WHAT THEY SAID – regardless of what the passage/study was about.
Also, getting people to finish your sentences forces them to do serious thinking; it requires listening, understanding, integration, creativity, boldness and humility. Don’t deny them that.
Lastly, if you let people finish your sentences, there’s even a chance they’ll find a word that picks up everything you want, but communicates it even… ?
Even though you’ve read the bible with them, prayed with them, and cried with them… people will still lie to your face.
They’ll lie about their sin, they’ll lie about their feelings towards you, they’ll lie about what they are going to do.
Don’t expect it, don’t assume it, don’t get angry about it, and don’t pre-emptively act on it, but at the same time, don’t be surprised.
Be sad, mourn sin, but know the extent of the fallen world we live in enough that you’re not shocked by it.