Thursday, June 19, 2008

Communication - On Their Terms

Yesterday I shared this diagram with you.
Communication Model

I believe the gospel should be shared with people on their terms using their terminology so their condition isn't terminal. The first portion is the focus today, and it relates to the channel in the communication model above.

Their Terms
One of the problems we face when we're presenting the gospel is that we often fail to use the appropriate channels of communication. In some models the channel will have a jagged line in the middle of it to represent noise or interference. At the most basic level this means is that the channel of communication is insufficient in some way. (Hint: Every channel has some noise.) The communicator has the responsibility of choosing the channel with the least amount of noise in it.

Some insufficient channels we Christians tend to use to share the gospel are

Bible Studies
"Bible Studies" are the silver bullet of the Christian community. Need counseling? Bible Study. Need time away from the kids? Bible Study. Need friends? Bible Study. Need Jesus? Bible Study. If you're not sure about this, then think about it from the other direction. If you were going through life, oblivious to the eternal consquences of sin, would you ever dream of going to something called a "Bible Study?" What if you were a Christian who just didn't feel comfortable in their church anymore. Are you going to head for a Koran Study?
They do have their place, but if they're going to be evangelistic in nature, I think they really need to be purposeful in their approach.

I was walking down the street with my wife one evening in a somewhat trendy part of town. A man dressed like Ward Cleaver handed me a piece of paper. (I always take tracts because I like to see what type of presentation they use. If it's from a cult of some sort, I try to take as many as I can!) This one was from a Christian church in the area and it had a picture of a teen with a boombox on his shoulder who was rocking a sweet mullet. I'm not exagerating, I swear. The title said, "Hey Teenager!" and when you opened it up, this little booklet walked you through the dangers of rock and roll music, then explained how all those hot women, cool music, and great clothes could be avoided by trusting in Jesus Christ. I don't think it had the desired effect.
While many tracts are pretty good as far as offering a clear gospel presentation is concerned (see EvanTell's May I Ask You A Question), many are not so good. I'm not entirely convinced that in this post-modern (some say post-christian) culture we're living in that these little booklets are as effective as they once were. It seems like as the world shifts toward postmodernism, people need to see the Christian life lived out in front of them in order to see that it is genuine.

Christian Concerts
Many Christians think that Christian music will save their friends from eternity in hell with its uplifting lyrics (read "not cussing") and its great beat (read "stolen from secular bands"). Christian concerts attract one audience primarily: Christians. It's great to have them, but please don't consider them as a viable means to share the gospel because any messages are quite literally preached to the choir.

Please understand that I'm speaking in generalities here. I know someone will say, "Hey my brother was saved at a Bible study!" or something like that. Occasionally someone will end up at one of these events and realize they've just been playing the Christian game all this time, and now they truly get it. I've even heard of this happening in a seminary or two, though I did not witness it myself. I do believe these cases are the exception and not the rule.

Some solutions that I think would be more effective in sharing the gospel in our postmodern culture are through hands on ministry services or talks on current events topics as seen from a Christian perspective. The methods you use are going to be dependent on the specific culture of your area, but to do it well, you will need to think like a non-christian for a few minutes and ask yourself, "Would I want to go to this?"

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