Communication Takes Imagination.
This week I’m talking about talking about Jesus. This would be part three, the first two posts were Getting Rid of Evangelism and Maybe It's Not Jesus They Are Rejecting. Along with my own thoughts on the subject I encourage you to check out Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis. It’s really messing with my head right now, in a good way. Get it, read it, you won’t regret it. It's easy to think of communication as something like transferring files on a computer. Like I mentioned before, it's easy to think that if you get shot down for talking about Jesus, it's probably because they think Jesus is an idiot. Communication is unfortunately much more complex than that. There is a speaker, a hearer, and a lot of space in between to get things confused.
Communication takes Empathy. If you're trying to get a point across, you need to learn to hear with the hearers ears. Communication is steeped in cultural, even sub-cultural nuance, and personal experience. While you think you're speaking clearly, there are filters that your words are passing through before they get to the ears of the hearer. As I'm learning from Carl Medearis, and have learned from others, to Middle Eastern Muslims the word Christian brings past Crusades and current Western media images to bear. So Christian often means Miley Cyrus and cutting open pregnant Muslim women in the name of God. As one of Medearis' highly educated Muslim friends told him, becoming a Christian means you have to leave the Middle East and morals behind. If you want to talk to people about Jesus, you have to realize what they've already heard and might be hearing you say. How could misperceptions abound so thoroughly among so many people? As a person who believes that not all Muslims are extremists, I see it happen daily.
Communication takes Imagination. It's the difference between fact statement and poetry. If Jesus is trying to have a relationship with me, why am I trying to use theological terms to 'convert' someone to Him? Jesus himself often told stories instead of stating facts. When the religious leaders tried to trap Him, he lured them in with poetry then exposed their selfishness in the face of His mercy in a way that only the poetic can. And these weren't necessarily polite illustrations. Stories like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son were shocking, even offensive to the religious audience around Him. What Jesus communicated often offended polite religious sentiment and drew the attention of those rejected by a religious society. As I hinted at in the last post, what would our gatherings look like if we communicated the way Jesus did?
I'm not trying to tear something down for the fun of it. I think we have been called to deliver the most beautiful message mankind has ever known; it just seems like we would put more effort into taking the time to listen and work hard to communicate message that Jesus did in a way that people can actually hear it, and I don't mean by shouting more.