Ten Myths Concerning Communication (part 2)

Ah, I know you’ve been waiting ever so impatiently for the next five myths. Your patience will be rewarded.

6. The key to effective communication is the precise formulation of the message.
Get this quote: “Many would-be communicators pay primary attention to the technical preciseness, accuracy, and truthfulness of the words and phrases they use to construct their messages. Yet the choice to use precise, technical language, especially with popular audiences, usually increases rather than decreases the possibility of misinterpretation. The drive towards preciseness does not take account of the fact that much of what goes into effective communication is outside the control of the communicator,” (32).

That’s fascinating. perhaps the drive for precision is driven by a certain view of biblical inerrancy (which I believe, by the way). This is the lie of modernism, which has a particular view of inerrancy that forces the Bible to say things that it doesn’t say. But the very words of the Bible are inspired by the Lord and are truthful and inerrant, but that doesn’t mean that authors can’t use metaphor, hyperbole, exaggeration, humor, sarcasm, and the like. But if we import this wooden view of inerrancy into our own communication, it robs us of all these communicative tools that the biblical authors didn’t hesitate from using (include Jesus). Do you think Jesus was striving for ‘precision’ when he said, “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Mt 5:30)? My view is he was going for impact, not necessarily technical precision. Ok, I’ve taken up too much space with that one.

7. Words contain their meanings. Kraft says, “a given word may have different meanings to different groups of people.” Consequently, “meanings are attached to words… by people rather than being inherent in the words themselves…. Word meanings are a matter of social agreement, not of anything inherent in the words themselves.” While caution should be urged on this point, I think he makes a valid argument. When I first read Lord of the Rings, found myself giggling like a 12 year old everytime I ran across the word “queer” or “gay,” because our social agreement on the use of these words has totally changed since Tolkien’s day.

Not all words undergo this sort of transformation. But many do. That’s why we always need to be updating Bible translations and evangelistic methods.

8. What people really need is more information. As a seminary student, I can attest: more knowledge does not necessarily produce more godliness! Didn’t Paul say, “knowledge puffs up…”?

9. The Holy Spirit will make up for all mistakes if we are sincere, spiritual, and prayerful enough.

Many who are sincere and prayerful can be ineffective communicators.

And one of my favorites…

10. As Christians we should severely restrict our contacts with “evil” people and refrain from going to “evil” places lest we “lose our testimony” and ruin our witness. Be in the world, not of it. This is an uncomfortable tension, and may even be different for different people. But the witness of the New Testament is consistent: keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27), and proclaim Christ in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2).

Ok, quiz time. How many do you agree or disagree with?

5 thoughts on “Ten Myths Concerning Communication (part 2)

  1. 6. I think that Billy Graham is probably one of the most successful evangelists of our lifetime. I’ve heard him speak before, and I’ve got to say that there really seemed to be very little about his message that was precise or formulated. He simply went straight to the heart of the message. I think the best evangelists are probably good old boys that are far from articulate and spend little time honing precise statements. They get past all the rhetoric and simply tell it like it is.
    7. I agree with you, D-Mike. Words, language, communication is constantly evolving (egad! Did I just say “evolve”!!!). The message has to keep up with the culture.
    8. Uh… I completely and utterly disagree with the statement “what people really need is more information”. Bill Bright did a fabulous job of boiling down the gospel presentation into four simple statements. Saying that people need more information is like telling a new car shopper that before they buy this new car that they are looking at that they really need to read the technical specs and wiring diagrams so that they completely are aware of every issue with the car. You don’t want to get 20,000 miles down the road and not fully understand that the wiring harness to the airflow sensor is colored red/green/blue/white! I feel like some “seminary ghetto” churches have a tendency to do this. Instead of just presenting the gospel to someone, they sidetrack themselves by debating Calvinism or the end times or whatnot. I think the marketing genius that came up with Keep It Simple Stupid had it right.
    9. Hmm… okay, not necessarily a horrible viewpoint, but why give yourself an out or an excuse for not taking the time to study God’s word and hone up your apologetics before hitting the evangelism trail? God wants us to put in the work and to do our work well in the business of bringing the lost to Him. He doesn’t need us to do it. He could use the Holy Spirit to bring believers to Himself without any work from us at all. But he has charged us with doing His work. And we’d better not do a half job of it.
    10. Oh yes, we should all live in one little community on the seminary campus, never leaving our well guarded, high fenced compound. Whew! Last time I checked, the lost weren’t going to evangelize themselves. Last time I read the gospels, I tend to remember Jesus eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors. If we aren’t meeting the lost where we are, do we really think that more than a rare, occasional sinner is going to wander into our church service for us to lead to Christ?

  2. Lloyd-Jones on number 6: “Can you conceive of the Apostle Paul spending three weeks in the preparation of one sermon, polishing phrases, changing a word here and there, putting in another adjective or adding another bon mot? The whole thing is utterly inconceivable.” (Preaching and Preachers (1972) pg. 219)

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