This listing of mistakes is both a report and a commentary on a presentation at the Outreach Convention in San Diego, November 2010 by Phil Cooke, a writer and commentator on media, faith, and culture.
Phil is one of those rare individuals who is in touch with current culture while at the same time someone who has a passionate devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, he is a dynamic presenter, both fun to listen to and extremely thought provoking.
In addition to presenting his comments, I’ll be adding my additions to them.
Mistake #1: thinking that that value of your message means people will pay attention to it
This one is my comment on his statement that current studies show most people are bombarded with over 5,000 messages a day. Because of that, he added that it isn’t enough to just have a great message.
We have the greatest message, that’s a given—eternal salvation freely given to rebellious humanity, who neither earn it, deserve it, or even after they accept it, are seldom thankful for it. Having the greatest message, isn’t the same thing as communicating it.
Resting on the value of their message, some church communications don’t work very hard on making their communication clear, creative, or something that even makes sense to people outside the church. Communication that results in action is hard work.
Mistake #2: Bad writing
Phil Cooke had a number of examples of this including a picture of a billboard that said:
Sinners is Welcome
The next one was a church sign that had lost some letters and said:
Disciples of Chris
Phil went on to say that grammar and spelling are the basics of our toolbox as communicators. Just as any athlete knows he must stay strong in the fundamentals, we’ve also got to be careful about these areas.
My comments: today there seems to be the idea that if the design is fancy enough, the words don’t matter, but words are what clarify our message. If they are muddled, your audience may walk away with a nice feeling, but little else.
If you feel your writing needs improvement, there are lots of writing classes online, but one of the best ways to learn to write is to read good writers. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites and I like to have his clear, logical writing in my mind as I try to write.
Don’t forget reading your Bible, not only to learn and grow in your faith, but to train your mind and writing. If you think God’s thoughts clearly and if his Word is the foundation of your life, your writing will reflect it. Many of the great writers of the past had the Bible as their primary instructor in life and writing and we do well to follow their example.
Mistake #3: Lose the Lingo
Many people outside the church today did not grow up with any understanding of Christian images, references, vocabulary. The primary cultural vocabulary for many today is the media. One example of the problems this can cause is for a person who saw the Alien movies where the monster comes bursting out of the chest of its victim. What do you think that person hears when he attends church and the pastor talks about how “Jesus will come and live inside you.”
Our first response might be to laugh, but to muddle serious spiritual truth because we don’t take time to think through what our spiritual jargon is saying to a person raised outside the church.
To go to part two of this series, click here.