Epic Communication - Communicating in a contemporary world
Do you remember when memory was something you would associate with a past event rather that something you might store on a device?
When the web was something created by a spider, a bite (byte) was something you took from an apple and computers weren’t named after the fore mentioned fruit. A virus was usually followed by a cold and a mobile was something you hung from the ceiling to help babies sleep.
We don’t need to have been around too long to realise we are living in a changing world. The very notion of creating our own TV channel 10 years ago was something unattainable. Now YouTube has more than 1 billion users, every day people are watching hundreds of millions of hours of user generated content, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
How should we respond as leaders and communicators in an ever digitally changing environment? Some would argue embrace everything, we are living in a new world its time to catch up or be left behind. Others would suggest there is value in more traditional interactions like meeting face to face and spending time with people.
Whilst both views have strength in their positions neither help to navigate our way through in a digital world. Leonard Sweet suggests an interesting framework he proposes as leaders that all our communications and interactions need to be epic.
People need more than cognitive understanding of God and who He was, they need to encounter and experience Him. ‘Jesus is not a two dimensional, make believe deity… He leads us into all-consuming experiences of life’. Our preaching needs to do so much more than talk about God. We need to carry with us the person of Jesus into our communication. As spirit empowered believers we must allowing people to experience Jesus Himself through our communication.
There is a danger as those in ministry that we can turn our church services into a performance, where those attending simply observe what takes place at the front. We need to look at ways of not simply entertaining, or even just engaging in our preaching, we have to aspire to achieve genuine involvement. Themes, content, style, physical location of the preacher(s) can all impact on this. We need to encourage ways of journeying and learning together from many rich and diverse traditions and experiences rather than many being told to agree with one.
How do we take our communication beyond the simple powerpoint (often badly produced with one or more typo’s and low resolution images) and a predictable film clip? Sweet suggests that as a church, we need to drink deep on the wealth of imagery in the biblical text. We must find ‘Killer Metaphors’ that resonate and stick with the listener/participator. Paint verbal pictures, display quality images, create authentic works of art. If a picture really does tell a thousand words, how short could our preaching be? Our preaching needs to go far beyond clever audio visuals to take people to a place where they see, sense and encounter the richness of God, who he is and what He has for us.
People long to connect, know where they fit in and what part they have to play. How can we create opportunity for congregations to share their ideas, thoughts and experiences with others. It is interesting that much of our preaching today is one directional, we sit people in rows for minimum interaction and place the ‘preacher’ on a stage to ensure they are at a safe distance.
In his book Sweet talks about the coffee company Starbucks not only providing you a personalised drink in a well presented cup but also allowing you full access to a community living room to enjoy the contents of that cup with others. Churches that can create space for authentic encounter and genuine relationships are most likely to navigate through this changing world.
As we embrace this new landscape lets be alert to the challenges and opportunities ahead. Let’s be willing to embrace change whilst holding tightly to unchanging Christ centred values, as we attempt to be epic communicators.
Question: What changes have you embraced to communicate better in the 21st century ? Leave a comment below.