Don’t Preach, Teach, Screech, or Beseech…Do Communicate!
By Ed Delph
June 1, 2020
I like communicating with people. I'm a pastor, speaker, and author, but really, most people say that I do much more than that. I communicate. I don't preach, teach, beseech, or screech. I communicate or at least attempt to communicate. My goal is to connect the message with the audience engagingly and creatively, creating a shift in beliefs and behavior that uplifts people.
Webster defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior; a technique for expressing ideas effectively; an act or instance of transmitting.
Here are some examples of sayings on T-shirts that say a lot in a little. The sayings are short, funny, cheeky, and communicate creatively. ‘Tweet others as you like to be tweeted.’ ‘Home is where your Wi-Fi connects automatically.’ ‘If you think space is the final frontier, you should see my garage.’ ‘Bacteria – It’s the only culture some people have.’ ‘Be nice to nurses, they keep doctors from killing you.’ ‘Dear Algebra, Please stop asking us to find you X. She’s never coming back and don’t ask Y.’ ‘90% Awesome. 15% Bad at Math.’ ‘Bigfoot saw me, but nobody believes him.’ ‘Being cremated is my last hope for a smoking hot body.’ ‘What the #%&% are birds so excited about at 5AM?’ ‘My favorite exercise is doing…diddly squats.’
Wasn’t that refreshing? These sayings were created for one thing. To say something that goes beyond the conventional way of saying that something. In this case, it's meant to sell T-shirts. But it also connects the message with the audience. People say to themselves, “Aha, I like that, it says something that I resonate with more powerfully than I could say it. I am willing to not only buy it but become a walking billboard for it." There is power in communication.
I remember when I was a full-time pastor in a local church here in Phoenix called Hosanna Christian Fellowship. I wanted to communicate in a way that would create a shift, a change in insight and behavior, on a subject most of my congregation already knew about. They could pontificate on the subject but could not communicate on the subject in a way that connected the message with the audience.
My Bible text for the day was Luke 8:11. "Now, the parable is this: the seed is the Word of God.” So, my subject was going to be on the Word of God. How do I communicate to those who have heard messages on the Word of God many times? How could I communicate in a way that would impact their world, transporting them from information to revelation creating an application? How could I say a lot in a little in an unexpected way, breaking the boring ‘order of service' that puts most church people to sleep?
I noticed that Jesus said the Word of God is like a seed. When planted in good soil, it will grow into something bigger, better, greater. I went to the seed store and bought 100 pounds of clean corn seeds. Then I put about five pounds of seeds in a small, white plastic bag. I hid the rest of the seeds back-stage.
As I began speaking, I used the usual form of speaking…giving Bible references, some examples, and explained what the parable was saying, etc. Everything was as it should be. About 25 minutes into the sermon, I picked up the small, white bag of seeds and kept speaking.
Then I changed spiritual gears. I moved from a lecturer to a communicator, from teaching to learning, from one-way non-participative speaking to two-way interaction with the audience. I started asking, "What good is the seed in a bag? It needs to be spread and planted to produce something.
As I was speaking, I put my hand into the bag and threw a handful of seeds into the audience. Then I threw another handful and then another handful of seeds. The audience initially was in shock. This was unexpected. Seeds were flying all over the 800-seat sanctuary. But soon, the congregants were laughing. "Aha…we get it…it's seed…we need to sow the whole word into the whole world."
After the small bag of seed was gone, I calmed down my approach a bit. I said, “Learn the three laws of sowing. 1. You always reap what you sow. 2. You always reap more than you sow. 3. You always reap later than you sow.” I concluded with the statement, “If you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.”
At this point, everyone was calmed down. Then another 'suddenly' came along. I ran back-stage, dragged out the giant bag of corn with a large shovel in my hand. The audience gasped. Yes, you guessed it. I emptied the giant bag of corn on the front of the stage, put the shovel into the pile of corn, and started shoveling the corn into the audience. No one could believe it at first. But then the congregants understood. If you sow sparingly, you reap sparingly. I communicated. No one that I know of has ever forgotten that message.
Maybe a few were offended, but not many. With corn in their hair, corn down in their shirts and blouses, and corn in the seats and aisles, people were impacted. They were transported from knowledge to understanding. A first-time Catholic attendee who was a guest came up to me after the service. Without any mention of offerings whatsoever, He gave $20,000 for new chairs that our church desperately needed. He said, “I know a good investment when I see it. I’m sowing seed…generously.”
If you want to go up in life, learn to communicate. By the way, don't get upset if Christians are speaking about God in every-day conversations. They're doing what they are supposed to do, sowing seed.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com