We've all heard the phrase, "a picture is worth a thousand words"-- a phrase which I consider one of the most meaningless and destructive phrases to meaningful communication ever coined. That is because without words, the proper response to that statement is, "which thousand?"
I just posted a blog that discusses the importance of carefully crafted words in our church communication.
Here I want to answer the question: does that mean we can't use images?
Following the excerpt below from what's written in the blog, I want to illustrate what I mean by the feedback loop of meaning between images and words.
Blog excerpt and answer to the question: does that mean we can't use images?
Of course not—but effective church communication realizes that image must always be in a secondary role. Images touch, often powerfully touch our emotions. Our emotions help us remember and take action. However, emotion, if we want to use it for the kingdom of God, has to be guided in its content.
Words tell us what to see in an image. That's why captions or text that goes with an image are so important—they aren't simply unnecessary words—they form a kind of feedback loop with the image and strengthen the message of both combined. We see a picture—the caption tells us what to see and what is important in it—the picture then reinforces the message of the words. If done well this creates a powerful feedback loop of meaning between the image and the words.
Music can add another layer of magnification to the message, but like images, without words, the message is unclear.
Examples of the feedback loop of meaning between images and words
The above statement is true no matter what channel or technology we use to communicate our message. Below are two examples of this. One is an older PDF of the importance of captions in print. PLEASE take time to click on it and read it.
Following the print example are some videos from my YouTube channel. The first one uses some of the incredible images from http://www.freebibleimages.org. However, as wonderful as their images are, I think their meaning is magnified by the added words. The second video is a collection of misc. images that I combined with words to encourage a friend. Again, in this one, I felt the images and music (an additional magnifier of meaning) were needed to amplify my words.
We've been entrusted with the words of eternal life
Remember that when many were deserting Jesus and has asked the disciples if they were also going to leave that Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn. 6:68-69).
It isn't too fine a point to emphasize that Peter said Jesus had the words of eternal life. Not miracles, or prayers, or songs, though all were part of his ministry, but the words. His words are the primary tool Jesus left us with to communicate his message.
It's our job to learn to craft them well so our words will communicate clearly the words of eternal life to a distracted, deceived, and dying world.