Charles H. Kraft’s book, Communication Theory for Christian Witness, has a chapter of ten myths in communication. These are quite helpful and challenging because there are several sacred cows in American Evangelicalism that he debunks. For example, I had a friend once who was offended that a church service did not conclude with an altar call. Although this was at one point a very effective tool for communication and calling people to respond, it has descended into emotive pleas with little substance (actually, I may be giving the altar call a little more credit than it actually deserves here). At any rate, see how many of these you can agree with:
1. Hearing the gospel with one’s ears is equivalent to “being reached” with the gospel.
2. The words of the Bible are so powerful that all that people need to bring them to Christ is to be exposed to hearing or reading the Bible.
Response: don’t dismiss this one right away. The basic question here is where is the power of the scripture? Is it in its words themselves (ala fundamentalism), or in the message those words convey (ala Karl Barth)? This is a false dichotomy and the answer lies on a continuum and not an extreme, but a provocative statement nonetheless.
3. Preaching is God’s ordained means of communicating the gospel.
Response: “Preaching,” as a word in common parlance, drums up pictures of a man standing in front of a captivated audience. Kraft offers that preaching in the NT sense is more dialogical in nature and entails large numbers of people rather than a single speaker. Perhaps a town hall meeting where the discussion topic is Christ and several are proclaiming Him boldly would be analogous to the NT model. If giving speeches is the only use of the word “preach,” then how can everyone be preachers, as we are commanded.
4. The sermon is an effective vehicle for bringing about life change.
Response: He may be overstating his case here. The sermon does produce life change. But his argument is that the sermon alone produces life change apart from meaningful interaction on a personal level with parishioners. Sermons are effective and necessary, but the ministry should entail more than sermons.
5. There is one best way to communicate the gospel.
Response: I agree with him wholeheartedly here. There are many tools and many methods, some will work in certain contexts and others won’t. We should be willing to communicate the appropriate content of the gospel in whatever medium that is (1) effective to the hearer and (2) doctrinally sound.
It’s good to read material that challenges our thinking. If we read only those thinks that reinforce our beliefs, then we can fall into literary groupthink and never grow. I think Kraft is onto something here.
I’ll save the last five for later, but what do you think of these? Do you agree with any? Which ones do you most agree or disagree with?