Knowing Your Message
what to say, be, and do
Our communication of the Gospel is often vague and fuzzy because we do not really know what is appropriate to say — where and when… Where does one begin to tell those who do not know — or have never heard? The Gospel of God’s redeeming love in all its fullness is so vast — yet so profoundly simple!
If we are on the air daily with a radio or TV program — or if we write for a daily publication, or write on-line — what do we say (day after day)?
Some may even wonder if “being appropriate” is important. See the Key Messages page for an in-depth discussion of this…
Defining the message is something that we rarely bother about — because it is assumed that we all know. So nobody asks! This is especially true of Christians involved in media.
It is not because Christian media folk are not well-trained in theology. It has more to do with the nature of their work and their frequent need to build bridges of understanding between Christian faith on the one hand and an un-believing and sceptical public on the other. It has to address journalistic issues, the commentary on everyday life and people, and their real life issues.
Often Christians in ministry coming from sheltered Christian family backgrounds fail to understand the general lack of interest our audiences have in the Gospel or anything Christian — especially in materialist and post-modern society. Today we cannot assume people to have any basic understanding of Christian belief.
It is therefore helpful for us to come to a better understanding of the scope of what God wants us to communicate. Our Message is shaped by many things — and is also a lot bigger than we may think! In fact we could say it is multi-dimensional and has many layers…
Another way of looking at our Message – The Onion Skin Model
This is based upon a model developed by anthropologists. It attempts to show how our behaviour and belief systems fit together to shape who we are as individuals – and the ways in which we express ourselves.
We can liken these elements to the concentric rings of an onion… See the diagram below.
At the centre is our underlying Worldview — the way we interpret and decode the world around us. This worldview is closely related to our Beliefs which provide definition and detail.
Our lives are built upon the Values we hold — and these are shaped by our beliefs. They define what we consider important about living and our relationships.
Our values become visible in our Expressions . This is most evident in the way we behave and in our attitudes. It is also demonstrated by the things we write, the things we make, our art, etc.
Media have a lot to do with Values and Expressions. That is what people are most interested in. They become the foundation for a lot of our meaningful communication and lead on to questions about what we believe and our underlying worldview.
Take a look at the concentric circles:
Let us examine these more carefully:
As Christians our foundational understanding of a creator God shapes the way in which we look at our world. For example, because we believe the universe — and our planet Earth — was designed it means we will see things differently from those who believe we are here by chance. Knowing that we are created by God we have a sense of worth as well as a sense of destiny:
- We have a respect for each other as equals
- We also humbly recognise our own fallen nature and the fallen world order of which we are a part
- We have a strong sense of history — where we came from and where we are going
- We also know there is more to life than the visible, tangible world in which we are but temporary residents
- Though it is temporary we also recognise that what we do with our lives matters because a judgement awaits us
Inevitably people who share this world-view will see life very differently from those who do not.
Christian belief is built around our knowledge of God who has revealed himself to us through his son Jesus Christ who came to die for us to save us from our sins. Through the process of believing in him we become children of God and are in-dwelt by His Holy Spirit. We believe that Jesus is King and that His Kingdom will have no end. One day Jesus will return and take us to be with him — for eternity. The core of this belief is perhaps summed up best by Paul’s words: Repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
Our personal values are derived from our belief system and world-view and shaped by our knowledge of Christ and the perfect example that he provided.
- If we see our world as created by a loving God we will take better care of it — and also enjoy it more
- If we view other people as made in the likeness of God — just as we are — then we will treat them with respect and equality — regardless of race, wealth, religion, social standing, whether male or female, slave or free
- If we see that what we have is entrusted to us by God our provider then we will see the importance of material wealth in a different light
- If we recognise the sovereignty of God we will have a better understanding of our own self worth as well as our responsibility toward him
The manner in which we express ourselves is varied and complex. But it is directly connected to our Values, our Belief system and World-view.
We express ourselves in a variety of ways — through our behaviour and attitudes as well as through our creativity.
Inevitably our values strongly influence our behaviour. What we truly believe is reflected by the way we behave. If we believe there is no God then we behave as if there is no God, without Christian values or a Christian world-view. Most important for the Christian is the fact that this is what people see in us. If we relate to people with warmth and compassion then they will be drawn to us. On the other hand if we are cold and judgmental we inadvertently communicate the message that we are heartless people who may say we care, while in reality we don’t. Our actions will speak much louder than our words and all our stated beliefs
— are the software of our behaviour and are more often expressed through our views and our body language. Very often these things communicate more about us than the planned communication. Our behaviour and attitudes are the benchmarks by which people judge us. Jesus said as much himself when he said that a good tree brings forth good fruit… Our emotions are also tied to this. Emotive outbursts of frustration and anger reveal a lot about what is going on inside of us and of the extent to which we enjoy inner peace.
— is demonstrated through the things we make, draw, paint or write — or through drama and dance. In other words, the arts serve as a vehicle for creativity in its varied forms — and all of them show something of what is going on inside of us.
Thus we have a cascade of influence from the inside out:
- our worldview provides the basis for our beliefs
- our beliefs shape our values
- and our values determine our expression: creativity, behaviour and attitudes — what people see, hear and feel about the Gospel
We could equally well draw similar sets of circles for other belief systems and ideologies. The centre circle could, for example, summarise the worldview of animists, atheists, Buddhists, existentialists, Hindus, Muslims — or even post-modernists and materialists. We would then see how, with this central worldview and belief system changed, values and expressions would also change significantly as a direct consequence.
For Christians it is through the regular reading of the Bible that all these things become ordered in our minds and our whole outlook is renewed. It is this transformation through the renewal of our minds that St. Paul talks about. By this means our worldview is reinforced, our beliefs are defined and sharpened, our values become like those of Jesus Christ, and our expression radiates God’s character, creativity and love.