Tuesday, June 5, 2007

JESUS’ METHODS OF COMMUNICATION

Introduction

Communications can never be more effective than its source. Jesus communicated in such a way that people were amazed at His authority, power and truthful insights. The problem with so many communicators in our modern world is they are relying on theories that have not been given to them by God. Let us look at some of the principles of communications that Jesus demonstrated to His disciples that continue to stand the test of time.

Jesus' methods: Befriending and relationships.

It is helpful to observe Jesus' methods. We can see clearly several key aspects to His ministry: addressing felt needs, using the principles of building relationships. While we meet people face-to-face all the time, nevertheless we can "eat with people" – sitting with them in digital space. This sense of community is crucial. We must also learn how non-Christians think.

Imagine for a moment that a person is living in the culture of Jesus' day.[1] World history doesn't arrive via digital signals to screens in our living room or study. Books are not generally available, and one can't listen to the tapes of his/her favourite speaker.

How did Jesus communicate, and what do His ancient methods have to say to our future spiritual life? How did He pass on His values and equip twelve men to start a church that would shape civilizations and attract billions of followers?

The nature of communication

Definition - Communication is an impartation of living ideas, evoking mental and emotional responses. It involves hearing, understanding, encountering, listening, and responding as well as speaking and delivering. The ideal communication happens when the true meaning and intended aim of communication is accurately transmitted to the receivers.

Process - The process of Jesus’ communication involved encoding (putting the message into understandable language) His message; decoding (interpreting the message contextually) defining His perception of the message; associating His perception with known information; interpreting His message in the light of previous knowledge; formulating the message into ideas; verbalizing the message into words; transmitting the message; and getting feedback (Both verbally and nonverbally) from His message.

Christ’s principles of communications

Ø First, to become a better communicator, we must learn to become a good listener. “Everyone should be quick to listen …”[2]

Ø Second, to become a good communicator, we must learn to become a guided speaker. “… slow to speak …”[3]

Ø Finally, to become a good communicator, we must learn to become a gentle responder. “… slow to become angry.”[4]

It's tempting to think it was because He was a great orator. He clearly was. He sat in a boat and, using the acoustic properties of the nearby coastline, spoke to thousands. He taught more than four thousand people for three days on another occasion. But as one reads the biblical record, he/she will find few long speeches or lengthy sermons. The Sermon on the Mount narratives don't take much more than seven minutes to read out loud. So He must have been doing something else. If we are to follow Jesus and create counter-cultural communities, we are clearly going to have to do more than ensure that our Sunday services are finished by an eloquent forty-minute sermon, useful as that may be.

When Jesus spoke to or ate with people deemed unworthy by others. He sent out powerful signals. Mundane behaviour such as eating together spoke of acceptance, acceptance sparked trust, trust released hope, and hope sought salvation. Author and speaker Ed Silvoso reminds us in Prayer Evangelism (Regal Books), Most of the times we often start our contact with the non-Christian with verbal declarations of our faith. Offers of healing prayer may come next. Eventually they may share the everyday normality of a meal with us before we ask God to bring peace to their home and family.[5]

Jesus' words to His disciples as He sends them out to prepare the way for Him are instructive. Consider the order in Luke 10:5-9. [5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’] Part of the challenge of this passage lies in the order in which Jesus suggests things be done.[6]

Declare peace

This formed part of a common greeting at the time. But it could be much more than a mere verbal punctuation mark. Does it provoke us about our tendency to pray "against" things when we begin to think about how to pray for our area, town, or street? Jesus is inviting us to invite Him to bring peace to that area. The mere announcement that God's peace is coming to that place is a form of spiritual warfare that drives away destructive forces that may have strongholds there.

Eat with people

Eating together allowed discussion, signified acceptance, and was a redemptive act in its own right when practiced by Jesus with the social outcasts of the day. It reminds us to be with people in the ordinary rhythms of their lives, building friendship and trust.

Take as well as give

Creating strong friendships depends on mutual care. It's OK for us to learn on our friends who have not gone to churches. Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. He then gave her living water!

Pray for their healing

Jesus prayed for people to be healed. Some were deeply grateful and no doubt became part of His band of followers. Others, including nine lepers, expressed little thanks. In our culture people seem ready to be prayed for, even if not all acknowledge the healer who might come to their aid. Healing prayer seemed to be a gateway for the message of Christ's life. It enabled trust to grow and readied people to hear the message of the Kingdom.

Declare the Kingdom

The story is told of a Hindu Kharga Festival in Bangalore. The people sweltered in the sun as they waited for the doors to the temple open. At one end of the street, a church group held up banners proclaiming that God hated Idol worship. Further down the street, another church group, noting the plight of the queue, made gallons of cold drinks and offered them to people as they waited. Hundreds of young adults had some of their caricatures of Christians – encouraged by the banner wavers – undone by a simple act of acceptance and help. A church group declared peace to the crowd and helped feed them. This group likely got the opportunity to pray for their needs and declare the good news of Jesus kingdom.

Jesus didn't send out His followers alone.[7] They ventured into the wider world together. Jesus often met with those considered "sinners and publicans" in the company of several of His followers. We will not want to face some of the challenges of the culture we live in alone, but we will never change it by hiding in our castles and staging confrontational raids on the hearts of the lost via occasional street preaching or door knocking.

In various towns and cities around the world, door knocking is starting to work again because its primary purpose is not to engineer a conversation but to basically make contact, offer prayer, or convey information about church events or children's clubs. At first, one is given seconds at the door, but in time trust is built; people become our acquaintances and then our friends.

As we consider matters of social justice, are we motivated by pity or compassion? Pity says, "I will help you because I feel guilty, or maybe because I feel superior." Compassion says, "I will help you because you're human, made in the image of God and worthy of dignity, friendship, and aid." Jesus was colour-blind, status-blind, and gender-blind. He didn't see the divisions we often see. He created a Church where there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.

Jesus did not come with mere words of wisdom before scurrying home to a spiritual fortress. He lived among and ate with the ordinary people of His day. He was their friend as well as their Saviour. Communications can never be more effective than its source. Jesus communicated in such a way that people were amazed at His authority, power and truthful insights. The problem with so many communicators in our modern world is they are relying on theories that have not been given to them by God.( rather without any basis on the Scriptures) Let us look at some of the principles of communications that Jesus demonstrated to His disciples that continue to stand the test of time.[8]

1. Jesus wanted His disciples to be transformed in their thinking before they could qualify to communicate His truth to others. Jesus said, "A good tree will produce good fruit." The Lord knew that without the willingness to be cleansed, empowered and instructed by the Holy Spirit, no one could do the works of God in their own human wisdom. Communicating the truth of God can only be done through an understanding of the scriptures. Visions, dreams and spiritual experiences are no substitute for the way that God’s word can transform the perspectives of an individual. Jesus wants every believer to take the advice from Paul who wrote, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15) Without a disciplined study of the scriptures we lack a solid foundation from which to communicate truth.

2. Jesus knew that communication of truth is done through interpersonal involvement, relationship building, and group ministry experiences. Many occasions the disciples of Jesus learned a great deal of truth by working alongside of the Lord in real ministry experiences. If you want to learn how to communicate be willing to be 100% involved in ministries with other Godly people. (Matt. 4:19) The disciples learned by following the example of the great communicator.

3. Jesus involved as many senses of His audiences as possible to enhance communication. When Jesus fed the 5,000 He actively involved people’s sense of touch, taste, sight, hearing and smelling. The Lord knew that good communications would involve multiple channels working simultaneously. When we are able to engage our audiences in as many senses as possible for the maximum time the communications will have a long lasting impression.

4. Jesus considered the perspective of each person so He could adjust His message according to every situation. The Lord crafted each message to suit the greatest needs of the person or audiences He addressed. When He gave the Sermon on the Mount,[9] he addressed the problems of poverty, depression, persecution, misunderstanding, purpose, and many everyday problems. Communicate in a way that addresses the emotional, mental, social, cultural, economic, family and spiritual problems of ordinary people. Speak to broken hearts that are really hungering and thirsting for answers to life’s problems.

5. Jesus communicated in a way that He tried to remove as many distracting barriers as possible. Most people have natural filters (prejudices, wrong assumptions, bitterness, etc.) in their brain to screen out messages that may at one time have given them personal pain. The Lord tried to assure people of His love before speaking truth. Jesus helped everyone feel that He did not condemn or hold any prejudice. The Lord did not see any reason why they could not get their problem solved. People were not only inspired by Christ’s communication, but they were instructed and persuaded to follow after truth. Jesus was the Master of the doing the impossible things that no one else could do. People knew that Christ’s truth could work in ways that we may not be able understand, but it was still worth believing.

6. Jesus used credible mediators in the culture to enhance His communications. When Jesus went to various parts of society His disciples represented a wide variety of professions, social classes and educational levels that reinforced His credibility. Good communications often need contextual witnesses to enhance its veracity, reliability and suitability. When people saw the changes that Christ’s truth had brought about in the lives of the disciples, they were more apt to believe.

7. Jesus made great efforts to balance the emotional, rational, inspiring, behavioural and spiritual aspects of every message. Without a holistic approach our communications can often come across deficient and lacking in breadth. One day the Lord sent the disciples out to preach. As they went He gave them authority and power to drive out all demons and cure diseases and to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1,2) When they returned the disciples declared, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." Christ said, "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:20) Never overestimate or underestimate the effects of communications. Consider communication outcomes in the light of eternity.

Conclusion

Preconditions of Jesus’ communication

  1. He knew the truths of the scripture in order to communicate God’s truths and not priorities the people.[10]
  2. Jesus loved the people that He was communicating with.
  3. He was not communicating for His own profit, interest, or advantage.
  4. He gained a rapport, respect, trust, and understanding with those to whom he was communicating.
  5. He listened to the people before they were willing to listen to him.
  6. He appreciated the make-up, language, and culture of the people he was trying to communicate to.
  7. He was aware of their personal presuppositions toward the subject he was communicating. In addition adjusts His message with His audiences’ assumptions in mind.[11]
  8. He was aware of the culturally conditioned ways, ideas, beliefs, feelings, values, truths, and perspectives of the people He was communicating with.

My personal presuppositions for good communications

Ø By gaining rapport (understanding, respect, trust, and empathy) with the audience to enhance my communications.

Ø Consciously put away any feelings of superiority, biased, or prejudice against members of the audience. Otherwise, these subtle attitudes will shine through to my audience and create unnecessary barriers.

Ø Avoid generalizing about the way certain people, tribes, or camps operate. Unconsciously, my audience will begin to see me with definite dogmatic presuppositions that will close their minds to my message. Practice fairness, acceptance, and avoidance of stereotyping people.

Ø Learn to take the high road of faith and love in my communications. Even though many people respond to fear for a time, they are really needing faith, hope, and love above everything else.

Ø Appreciate the local culturally conditioned ways of thinking, feeling, and responding to communications. Some cultures have become accustomed to taking their corrections from the pulpit each Sunday. Others have learned to inoculate themselves with sermons. Either group may only look at preaching as something that is necessary to endure, but not to take seriously. Perhaps, I might look for ways that the culture has conditioned people to induce change and not just guilt.

Ø Channel my communications through the bonds of friendship, trust, and credibility in my people. These bonds may be found in families, clans, neighbourhood prayer groups, school associates, vocational ties, common goals, or various relational networks.

Ø Learn to understand and work through the common mental make-up of my congregation. Some of the people may be pre-disposed to messages that alleviate fear, guilt, and suffering.

Ø Seek to establish friendships with various people through the following channels:

A. Mutual goals - Discuss objectives that I can share with them both personally and through their ministries.

B. Mutual interest - Discuss areas where I share similar concerns.

C. Mutual experiences - See where I share similar backgrounds, knowledge, or feelings about a range of topics.

D. Mutual understandings - Look for the areas where I agree before I look for the points of disagreement.

E. Mutual trust - Without confidence in another person’s word, people will only accept a small fraction of what is said. Earning trust comes through proven reliability, faithfulness, and dependability.

F. Mutual commitments - Despite all the differences between me and the people, nail down the areas where we are collectively committed.


Bibliography

Augsburger, David. Pastoral Counselling Across Cultures, Baker, Grand Rapids, 1986.

Blackwood, A. W. "Jesus as a Preacher," in the Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, I, 1998.

Clifford Christians and Michael Traber (eds), Communication Ethics and universal Values, New Delhi: sage 1997.

Cullmann, Oscar. Christ and Time. Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1951.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 2 vols. New American ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953.

Harris, R. Laird. "The Sermon on the Mount and Verbal Inspiration," Reformation Review, I (July, 1954)

Kraemer, Hendrik. The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938.

Kraft, Charles. Christianity with Power, Vine Books of Servant Books, Ann Arbor, 1989.

Manuel, AD, Communication and the Church. Bangalore: UTC, ISPCK 1994.

Osgood, Howard. "Jesus the Supreme Witness and Example of Inspiration," The Inspired Word. Edited by A. T. Pierson. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1888.

Ranson, Charles Wesley (ed.). Renewal and Advance: Christian Witness in a Revolutionary World. London: Edinburgh House Press, 1948.

Tippett, Alan. Missiology, William Carey Library, Pasadena, 1987.

Webliography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication (04/08/2006)

http://www.acns.com/~mm9n/iam/iam1.htm (04/08/2006)



[1] David Augsburger, Pastoral Counselling Across Cultures, Baker, Grand Rapids, 1986. p. 273-280.

[2] Listen to Others

[Dale Carnegie says that you can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.]

[3] Let your tongue out of its cage only when necessary.

[James 1:19]

"Men have two ears, and but one tongue, that they should hear more than they speak." "The ears are always open, ever ready to receive instruction; but the tongue is surrounded with a double row of teeth, to hedge it in, and to keep it within proper bounds."

[Eccl 5:2]

Think before you speak.

[4] Always speak redemptively.

[Col 4:6]

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

[5] Charles Kraft. Christianity with Power, Vine Books of Servant Books, Ann Arbor, 1989. p. 96-100.

[6] Alan Tippett. Missiology, William Carey Library, Pasadena, 1987. p. 160-180 and 264-280.

[7] Alfred Edersheim,. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 2 vols. New American ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953.

[8] Blackwood, A. W. "Jesus as a Preacher," in the Twentieth Century Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge, I, p.597-598.

[9] Harris, R. Laird. "The Sermon on the Mount and Verbal Inspiration," Reformation Review, I (July, 1954), p. 21-32.

[10] "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15)

[11] When He gave the Sermon on the Mount, he addressed the problems of poverty, depression, persecution, misunderstanding, purpose, and many everyday problems.

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