A challenge for Christian communicators

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Clarity and precision in the communication of divine truth is more important for Christian communicators than for any other person. The availability of mass media contributes to the work of the preacher at this time, since it can reach large audiences, which were not of that magnitude in the past. However, as has happened in so many cases, opportunities in mass media can be abused. For example, television helped to expel the "epoch of exposure" and introduced the era of "phrases," when the image became more important than substance in the message being communicated. As a means of entertainment, television has contributed to the decrease in the appetite of serious thought and the expectations of the trivial and the brief have increased.
Precisely that is the case with sermons disseminated through mass media. Christian publications have followed the same direction, appealing to the "perceived needs" of the people and giving them what they want instead of the doctrinal truths of the Bible. That is precisely what Paul warned Timothy about and that Jeremiah refused to do. As ambassadors of Christ, Christian communicators must make the message, not the medium, the heart of what they give to their audience.
The importance of clear communication
No preacher likes to feel his tongue tied-especially when it happens in the pulpit. Every preacher's nightmare is those uncomfortable moments when his brain gets stuck in indeterminado and his mouth keeps saying things. It can be especially dangerous when everything you say is recorded.
A few years ago, some of the people who work in the production of our radiodifusión program, prepared a recorded collection of all my verbal errors over the years. They collected some fifteen years of edited errors and united them to finish with a whole sermon of nonsense. It was painful to hear him.
Therefore, I have nothing but extreme compassion for the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who suffered from a disability that no preacher deserves. Spooner was a brilliant man who was the Director of the New College, in Oxford, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today it is remembered primarily because it elevated the errors of the language to an art form. He had a particular tendency to commit a verbal error that has received his name-espunerismo. An espunerismo transposes the syllables or sounds of two or more words.
It is easy to see how this trend could adversely affect a preaching ministry. Spooner's tendency to transpose sounds occasionally caused him to say exactly the opposite of what he meant. On one occasion he was presiding over a wedding and the Reverend Spooner said to the groom, "By beast the bride is ceased," instead of saying, "By custom the bride is kissed." When you realize that the ministry of Spooner was carried out primarily among young people, you are forced to give it a recognition for its strength.
No communicator wants to destroy the message. But for Christian communicators, the need for the message to be right is raised to the height of a sacred duty. Perhaps one can smile and forgive an affliction like that of William Spooner, but he certainly can not tolerate any distortion of the divine truth that is the result of careless thinking, laziness, apathy or indifference. More sinister still is the tendency to evade elements of truth or soften the message by a desire to please people, by a love for worldly praise, or also by a lack of holy courage.
New opportunities
Because we have great opportunities, our generation has a responsibility to communicate the truth of the gospel clearly and accurately, than those who lived before us. Luke 12:48 says, "For to everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required of him."
No past generation has been as blessed with the mass media as ours. One hundred years ago, "Christian communication" consisted almost entirely of preaching sermons and writing books. The only form of mass communication was the press. Men like Carlos Spurgeon would never have imagined that there would be means to transmit sounds and images live via satellite to every nation in the world.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Spurgeon was the most heard preacher in history. He preached to huge crowds in his church. Some estimate that four million people heard him preach during an exceptional ministry life. But currently, through the radiodifusión, Chuck Swindoll preaches to more people than that in a ordinario week. J. Vernon McGee ("who still dead still speaks") has been on the radiodifusión daily worldwide for decades. If you count the sermons that are translated and preached in other languages, McGee has undoubtedly preached to more people than anyone else in the story-and continues to do so from the circunspecto.
The staff that produces our recordings and radiodifusión programs, likes to remind me that the sun never sets in our ministry. At any given moment of the day or night, worldwide at any time, someone, somewhere, is listening to a sermon that I preached from the pulpit of our church. I can not tell you how much that responsibility weighs on me continuously. I am aware of the responsibility that the message is correct, of speaking it clearly, and of proclaiming it with authority and conviction.
New communication opportunities are presented constantly. Future generations will be able to download from a centralized data bank, video images and sounds of today's preachers. If tomorrow's Bible students want to know what James Boice said about Romans 7, they will not have to get their comment and consult it. If you prefer, you will connect to the digital communications network and listen to or see the llamativo sermon as you preached from the pulpit.
Satellite technology, digital sound, high resolution, wide-screen television are now available. Other advances in high technology suggest that within a hundred years, communications will have advanced at least as far from current technology as our world has advanced since the time of Spurgeon. If the Lord delays His return, our great-great-grandchildren may have access to forms of communication that we can not even imagine in our day.
Missed opportunities
This is a very exciting time to live and minister. But remember Luke 12:48: "For to everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required of him." We are administrators who will give an account for the opportunities with which the Lord has blessed us. And if we are honest, I think we should confess that in the ría of cases, the church has simply missed the rich opportunities that modern communication technology has given. Our generation, with better means than ever to reach the world with the gospel, is spiritually in fact losing ground. The influence of the church is in fact decreasing. Our message is getting confused-and it's confusing. We are not speaking the truth clearly for the world to hear the message.
Part of the problem is that the church has not seen the flaws that are inherent in modern communications. The new technology has brought much more than new opportunities, as it has also brought a new set of challenges for those whose goal is to proclaim and teach the truth of God. The estuary of new media is more appropriate for entertainment.
A few years ago, Neil Postman wrote an important book entitled, "Entertaining us to die". Every Christian communicator should be sencillo with this book. Postman is not a Christian. He teaches communications at the University of New York. He writes from an academic and secular perspective. His book is an analysis of how modern communication technology-and television in particular-has dramatically altered our culture.
Postman points out that before television, for the ría of information that society received, the printed media was the way in which the information was disseminated. People had to be cultured-not merely to know how to read and write, but to be able to think logically, capable of digesting information in a meaningful way, able to use their mind in all kinds of rational processes. The content of any form of communication took priority over form. The communicators were primarily concerned with the substance, not the style. The message should have cognitive content. Postman refers to the time before the twentieth century as "the time of exposure."
The human speech at the time of the exhibition was significantly different. The debates between Lincoln and Douglas, for example, took place in rural communities, outdoors, often in a stifling heat, without the benefit of public address systems. However, thousands of people remained standing and listened for hours, carefully following the logic of those who were debating, listening attentively to the profound dialogue, paying attention to each word uttered by two eloquent speakers.
In contrast, today's politicians compete for "phrases." The image is more important than the substance. Currently, the United States chooses presidential candidates in the same way that Hollywood selects actors through auditions. In fact, before Bill Clinton, the only president in forty years to complete two presidential terms was an actor (Ronald Reagan).
According to Postman, a strong tendency towards entertainment appeared, "Near the end of the nineteenth century … The time of exposure began to disappear, and the first signs of its replacement could be discerned. Its replacement would be The epoch of the world of the spectacle ".
A message modified by the media
The medium that has contributed the most to define the time of the entertainment world has been television. We tend to think that television is a significant tool in the extension of knowledge. Through the eye of the television camera, we can witness events that happen on the other side of the globe-or even on the moon-at the moment they occur. We see and hear things that our ancestors could never have imagined. Certainly we should be the best informed and knowledgeable generation in history.
But the effect of television has been precisely the opposite. Television has not made us more cultured than our ancestors. Instead, it has flooded our minds with irrelevant and meaningless information. We are experts in the trivia of pop culture, but we are ignorant about serious matters. The publicity surrounding the trial of the murder of O.J. Simpson in 1995 illustrates this. During Simpson's preliminary hearing, a severe crisis was being unleashed due to nuclear weapons in Korea. The government of Haiti was overthrown by a coup d'etat and an entire nation was thrown into chaos. For the first time in decades, Yasser Arafat returned legally to the Gaza Strip, marking one of the most significant modern political developments in the Middle East. The prime minister of Nepal resigned his post. All these things were so important that they shook the world. But as significant as they were, our locorregional television newscasts concentrated 93 percent of their coverage on Simpson's audience.
Television is a means of entertainment. Being exposed to so much television has fueled people's appetite for entertainment and lowered their tolerance for serious thinking. Now, even the print media are following the television guide and formatting its content to be more entertaining than informative. In England, tabloids have led serious newspapers to lose their jobs. The USA Today newspaper was founded to achieve a similar purpose. It was designed and formatted deliberately to reach the generation of television. The stories are short on purpose. Only the main articles on the first page continue on another page. It is a whole newspaper of information in phrases, formatted for a generation whose minds have been shaped by television. And commercially it has been a tremendous success.
The publication of books has the same tendency. See the recent list of New York Times best-selling books. Seven of the best-selling books were collections of cartoons – "Garfield" and the like. The best-selling books in the nonfiction genre included some photo essays and works by Dave Barry, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. Only three of the best-selling books on the non-fiction list had any substantive content that was not humorous. What does this say about our society?
Television has not only reduced tolerance to serious thinking, it has also numbed the mind to reality. As the drama of O.J. Simpson, a television network followed the sensational chase through the streets by helicopter, but kept a small window at the bottom of the screen, which showed the final games of the national básquet league. The two scenes were absolutely incongruous.
But still outside the story of O.J. Simpson, the news from the television networks is ridiculous. The evening news is a performance, where elegant announcers read with brief brief reports about war, homicide, crime and natural disaster. The commercials that make stories trivial and isolate them from any context punctuate these stories. Neil Postman tells a news program in which a navy normal declared that entero nuclear war is fatal. The next segment was a commercial for Burger King.
We are not expected to respond rationally. In the words of Postman, "In the same way that an audience in a play, is running to call home because a character on stage has said that a murderer is loose in the neighborhood, so also the audience it will not be caught contaminating its response with a sense of reality. "(2)
Television can not demand a prudent response. People watch the television channel not to be challenged to think. If a program demands contemplation or demands too much use of the intellect, nobody sees it.
Television has also lowered the ability to concentrate. After fifteen minutes we are given a break for commercials. Even one of the television networks has a program called "Theater with a low concentration capacity". In all television networks, programs demand minimal intellectual involvement. The ría of television dramas is designed for the intellectual capacity of an promedio seven-year-old child. The point is not to challenge the audience but to entertain them. Neil Postman says that we are entertaining ourselves to die. He points out that our fascination with television has weakened the intellectual and spiritual capacity of our culture.
In fact, his strongest words are in a chapter about modern religion. Postman is Jewish, but he writes with a penetrating analysis of the decline of preaching in the Christian church. He makes a contrast between the ministries of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield by comparing them with the preaching of our day.
These men relied on depth, content, logic and knowledge of the Scriptures. In comparison to them, the preaching in our day is superficial and exalts style and emotion. According to the modern definition, the "good" preaching must be about anything else, brief and entertaining. Much of what is currently presented as preaching in these days is merely entertainment-lacking any exhortation, rebuke, or instruction (see 2 Timothy 3:16; 4: 2).
The personification of modern preaching is the ingenious evangelist who exaggerates all emotion, carries a microphone as he walks on the platform as if he were the owner of everything, and incites the audience through applause, stomping and shouting, to take it to a state of uncontrol emotional. The message has no flesh, but who cares, as long as the response is enthusiastic?
It is not just a few televangelists who fit into this category. Some of our more conservative evangelical churches have allowed entertainment to replace the clear preaching of truth. Where preaching can be found, it is often lacking in doctrine, it is full of intelligent anecdotes and interesting and easy-to-remember phrases. Biblical preaching with auténtico content is in a serious state of decline.
Communication based on perceived needs
Christian publishers have followed the trends. A publishing house has been publishing books for almost a hundred years, publishing very solid Christian literature. But not long ago they closed their textbook division, and announced that their new focus would be the publication of books that could easily enter the secular market. They were looking for books of personal help, humor and other lightweight materials with a minimum of biblical references.
That is precisely the wrong direction, where we should not go. We who have access to the divinely inspired truth of the Word of God must be confronting the apathy and foolishness of a society that is addicted to entertainment and ignorant of the truth. We must be proclaiming the truth shouting from the roofs of the houses, not adapting our message to the superficial and insipid entertainments that have left our society morally and intellectually bankrupt.
By living in a time that has abandoned the search for truth, the church can not afford to be reeling. We minister to people who have a desperate need for a word from the Lord, and we can not downplay our message, or diminish the gospel. If we make friends with the world, we become enemies of God. If we trust in mundane strategies, we automatically put aside the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am very concerned about the fascination that the modern church has with the marketing methodology. I wrote a book, Ashamed of the Gospel, in which I analyze and criticize the tendency of the modern church to rely on the technique of Madison Avenue. There are too many people who are trying to sell the gospel as a product, instead of understanding that the gospel itself is the power of God to change the hearts and minds of the people.
My challenge for pastors and writers is the same. The task of every Christian communicator is the same. It is not simply entertaining. It is not merely recreating. It's not just selling a product. It is certainly not to increase the ratings of the approval of the hearing. The task is to communicate the truth of God as clearly, effectively and accurately as possible.
Frequently this is incompatible with the goals of marketing. Why? Have you ever noticed how many TV commercials fail to say something about the products they promote? The typical commercial of jeans shows a painful drama about the woes of adolescence, but does not mention jeans. An advertisement for perfume is a collage of sensual images without any reference to the product. The beer commercials contain some of the nicest material on television, but they say very little about beer.
Those commercials supposedly induce the audience to an emotional state, to entertain, to appeal to emotions-not to give information. An obvious parallel exists between commercials and some of the trends in Christian communications. Like commercials, many Christian communicators, whether preachers or writers, seek to induce people to an emotional state, produce an emotional response, entertain-but not necessarily communicate some substance.
Others, using the best modern marketing techniques, deliberately present the message in such a way that it appeals to people's desire to be happy, prosperous and to enjoy personal gratification. The goal is to give people what they want. The promoters of a communications philosophy driven by the market, are quiebro honest about this. Customer satisfaction is the express goal of the new philosophy. A key ministry resource driven by the market says, "This is the marketing (of the Christian message): in providing our product … as a solution to the perceived need of the people."
Then, the "perceived needs" determine the way forward for the marketing plan of the modern communicator. The idea is a basic principle of marketing: you satisfy an existing desire, instead of trying to persuade people to buy something they do not want. These tendencies are a mere adjustment to a society created by television. They follow what is fashionable but show little concern for what is true. They appeal to the worst tendencies of modern society. They seek to please people whose first love is themselves. They offer people to God without any interruption in their selfish lifestyles.
Biblical communication
And if what you want are results, this is a sure way to get them. Promise people a religion that will allow you to be comfortable in their materialism and self-love, and will respond to you by crowds. But that is not effective Christian communication. In fact, it is precisely what Paul warned Timothy to avoid. Paul sent Timothy with these words, "preach the word; that you insist on time and out of time; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all patience and doctrine "(2 Timothy 4: 2).
The apostle included this prophetic warning: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears, teachers will be piled up according to their own lusts, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to fables" (4). : 3-4).
It is clear that Paul's philosophy of ministry had no place for modern marketing theory, to give people what they want. He did not urge Timothy to do a survey to find out what his congregation wanted. He did not suggest that he study demographic information, or that he carry out an investigation of the "perceived needs" of his congregation. He commanded him to preach the Word-faithfully, reproving with patience-and to confront the spirit of the time head on.
Notice that Paul did not say anything to Timothy about how people can respond. He did not give a speech to Timothy about how big his church was, how much money he received, or how influential he was. Paul also did not tell him that the world should revere him, esteem him, or even accept him. In fact, Pablo did not say anything of external success. Paul focused on fidelity, not success.
In contrast to this, modern marketing experts are telling Christian communicators to discover what people want, and then do whatever is necessary to meet the most popular demands. The audience is "sovereign" in matters like that. A best-selling book in Christian marketing, in fact affirms that the audience must determine how to prepare a message:
It is … critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign. If our advertising is going to stop people in the middle of busy schedules, and make them think about what we are saying, our message has to be adapted to the needs of the audience. When we produce advertising that is based on the take it or leave it proposition, instead of being based on a sensitivity and response to people's needs, people invariably reject our message. (4)
What would have happened if the prophets had subscribed to this philosophy? For example, Jeremiah preached forty years without seeing a significant positive response. On the contrary, his compatriots threatened him with death if he did not stop prophesying (Jer 11: 19-23); his own family and friends plotted against him (12: 6); he was not allowed to marry, and this led him to face a dying loneliness (16: 2); plans were made to kill him in secret (18: 20-23); He was beaten and put in a trap (20: 1-2); He was spied on by friends who sought revenge (20:10); he was consumed with sadness and shame-to the degree that he cursed the day he was born (20: 14-18); and he was falsely accused of being a traitor to the nation (37: 13-14). Jeremiah was then beaten, thrown into a dungeon, and deprived of food for many days (37: 15-21). If a Gentile Ethiopian had not interceded for him, Jeremiah would have died there. Tradition says that when he reached the end of his life, according to tradition, he was exiled to Egypt where he was stoned to death by his own people. Virtually he had no converts to show a lifetime of ministry.
Imagine that Jeremiah had attended a modern communications seminar, and learned the philosophy of communications driven by the market. Do you think he would have changed his style of confrontational ministry? Can you imagine him hosting a variety show or using comedy to try to win people's affection? He could have learned to gather a crowd that wanted him, but he certainly would not have had the ministry to which God called him.
Compare Jeremiah's commitment to the advice of a modern marketing expert. An author who insists that the audience is sovereign, suggests that the wise communicator should "shape his communications according to the needs (of the people) to receive the answer he (seeks)." (5) The effect of that philosophy is evident; Christian communicators are becoming people who seek to please people-precisely what the Scriptures forbid.
The strategy is the other way around. The audience is not sovereign, God is. And His truth is unchangeable. His Word has been established in heaven forever. Although new forms of mass media come and go, the message itself can not be changed. Changing the biblical message in any way is expressly prohibited. We can not truncate, soften, sweeten, or minimize the offense of the cross in some other way.
Someone will inevitably point out that Paul said that he became all things to all men, so that somehow he would win some. But Paul was not proposing that the message be changed or softened. Paul refused to change or abbreviate his message to make people happy. He wrote, "Do I now seek the favor of men, or of God? Or do I try to please men? For if it still pleased men, it would not be a servant of Christ "(Gal 1:10). He was opposed to trying to remove the offense of the gospel (5:11). He did not use methodology that appealed to the lusts of his hearers. It certainly did not follow the kind of pragmatic philosophy of modern communicators, driven by the market.
What made Paul effective was not his marketing sensitivity, but a stubborn devotion to the truth. He saw himself as the ambassador of Christ, not His press secretary. The truth was something that had to be declared, not negotiated. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel (2 Cor. 11: 23-28). He did not back down in the face of opposition or rejection. He did not adjust the truth to make the unbelievers happy. He did not make friends with the enemies of God.
Paul's message was always non-negotiable. In the same chapter in which he spoke of turning all things to all men, Paul wrote, "Necessity is imposed upon me; and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! "(1 Cor 9:16). His ministry was in response to a divine mandate. God called him and commissioned him. Paul preached the gospel as he had received it, directly from the Lord and always delivered that message as a priority (1 Cor. 15: 3). He was not a seller or merchant, but a divine emissary. He certainly was not "willing to shape his communication" to adapt to his listeners or produce a desirable response. The fact that he was stoned and left as a dead man (Acts 14: 9), beaten, imprisoned and finally killed for the sake of truth, must show that he did not adapt the message to make it pleasing to his hearers! And the personal suffering he suffered because of his ministry does not indicate that something was wrong with his strategy, but everything had been fine!
As Christian communicators, we must commit ourselves to being what God has called us to be. We are not carnival promoters, used car dealers, or merchants. We are ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Knowing the fear of the Lord (5:11), motivated by the love of Christ (5:14), made entirely new by Him (5:17), we implore sinners to be reconciled to God (5:20).
Use the media without abusing the message
I think we can be innovative and creative in the way we present the gospel, but we have to be careful that our methods are in harmony with the deep spiritual truth we are trying to communicate. Es demasiado obediente caer en trivialidades al presentar el mensaje noble. Debemos hacer que el mensaje, no el medio, sea el corazón de lo que queremos comunicarle a la audiencia.
Como escritores y comunicadores cristianos, los desafío a que olviden lo que está de moda y se preocupen por lo que es verdad. No seas pronto para abrazar las tendencias de la mercadotecnia moderna. Ciertamente debemos usar los nuevos medios. Pero en emplazamiento de adaptar nuestro mensaje para que encaje con el medio, usemos el medio para presentar el mensaje de la forma más clara, precisa y completa posible. Si somos fieles en eso, la tierra que Dios ha preparado dará fruto. Su Palabra no regresará vacía. ________________________________________
*El venidero discurso, previamente no publicado y cedido por el Presidente MacArthur en una conferencia de comunicadores cristianos hace varios primaveras a espaldas, ha sido editado para estar de moda en The Master’s Seminary Journal.
1 (New York: Penguin Books, 1986).2 Citado in George Barna, Marketing the Church (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1988) 145 (fuerza añadido). 3 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993).
4 Barna, Marketing the Church 145 (fuerza añadido).5 Ibid., 33.

Autor: John MacArthur
The Pastor John MacArthur es ampliamente conocido por su enfoque detallado y transparente de enseñanza bíblica. Él es un pastor de villa gestación, un escritor y conferencista conocido, y ha servido como pastor-maestro desde 1969 en Grace Community Church en Sun Valley, California, E.U.A. El profesión de púlpito del Pastor MacArthur se ha extendido a nivel mundial mediante su profesión de radiodifusión y publicaciones, El Pastor MacArthur es el presidente de la universidad The Master’s College y el seminario The Master’s Seminary. También ha escrito cientos de libros, cada uno de los cuales son profundamente bíblicos y prácticos. Algunos de sus títulos de r traspaso son El evangelio según Jesucristo, La segunda venida, Avergonzados del evangelio, Doce hombres comunes y corrientes y La Biblia de estudio MacArthur. Junto con su esposa Patricia, tienen cuatro hijos adultos y catorce nietos.

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