Sending Mixed Signals

Look at this picture and see if you see anything strange about it.

signsWe took this picture on the way home this evening. Two signs are one way street signs going to the right. There is a don’t turn left sign to help you avoid going the wrong way down a one-way street and then there is a left lane must turn left sign, which would appear to send you the wrong way down a one-way street. Once you get up the road a little, you see the left lane must turn left sign is for the next intersection but its placement here could certainly cause an accident. Sending mixed signals can be harmful. Do it once and people will get over it. Do it repeatedly and people will learn to distrust your communication, never knowing what is really going on and no longer seeing you as a trustworthy perspective on what is going on.

God Uses Our Failures

I realized on Sunday that someone told me something earlier in the week that I was supposed to pass along. I forgot to say anything about it and I felt really bad about it. So I sent an apology email to my elders letting them know what happened and that I was the guy who dropped the ball. One of them replied that because of my mistake there were things that happened that were really needed and that God had worked through my failure to bring about some needed things! Wow, God is amazing.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor 12:9-10

When was a time for you that, looking back, you could see God work through your failures? We are truly strong when we are strong in the Lord and not strong in and of ourselves.

Communication: Give Advance Warning

We were at a kids museum this morning and the fire alarm went off. This wasn’t any normal fire alarm either… the siren was going off, lights were flashing and a voice was talking. It kept saying, “Please leave the building. This is an emergency. Please do not re-enter the building unless allowed to do so by a qualified professional.” That was pretty unnerving. Parents and kids started making their way to the exits. About 5 minutes into the alarm, one of the workers got on the loud speaker and told us all that it was just a drill and to stay inside. What made things worse was this alarm went on like this for nearly 45 more minutes!

If they have to have a fire drill with several hundred kids in a space like that at least give advance warning and make it brief. Communicate. Don’t leave people confused. Don’t put people in a panic. Like the parking signs in the last post, it communicates all the wrong things. If I am ever there and a real fire breaks out I won’t be certain whether I should be running or playing! There is a lesson in here for churches. Make sure you let people know what is coming, especially if the change is big. When you do, don’t be confusing. Be simple and direct. It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. What is more, people will trust you.

Communicating the Obvious

When I first started into ministry I figured that if I communicated something once or twice that people should get it, retain it and apply it. That is how education works, right? Over time I have seen that assumption is not valid at all. People need to hear something over and over again before it really becomes a part of their thinking. Not only do they need to hear it for it to become a part of their thinking, they need to act on it or involve themselves in it in order to really grasp a concept or be changed by an idea (that’s called application).

Some of the most important things we need to communicate seem obvious to insiders. When something seems incredibly basic and obvious you feel little need to explain it. But what is obvious and basic to you may not be to everyone. If you have been in church for a lengthy period of time there are some things that just seem obvious. The temptation is to rarely come back to those basic concepts and principles because we figure everyone already gets it.

It pays to go back and restate the obvious from time to time. Maybe there is a ministry in your church that everyone knew why it was started 10-20 years ago but now people really don’t understand it. Communicate the obvious. Or how about some of the things we do in worship…we can assume people know why we do those things, but do they? Restate the obvious…because for some people it will be the first time they hear it or else they have heard it before but never retained it. We should never fear simplicity. We should never slack on communication. If we are going to err, err on the side of communicating the most important things too often. In our rush to move on to more advanced things it is easy to leave people behind.

Last, it is important that we move beyond the basics too. We just have to have balance.

One way you know it is time to explain something is when people start asking questions about it. Another way to know is the look on people’s faces when you say or do certain things. Is it obvious that they get it? Do they even understand the language we are using? Are the practices and ministries of the church being communicated well in how and why we do what we do? What are some things you think need to be explained from time to time?

Seth Godin Nails it On Technology & Communication

I really enjoy reading Seth Godin’s blog. If you don’t read it, you really should go there, read a few posts and consider subscribing via the email box on the left side of his blog. His post Toward resilience in communication (the end of cc) is so good that I want to point you to it and ask you to read it. In this post he explains technology and communication in today’s organizations as well as in social media. I am tempted to put some quotes from the article here but I would basically want to quote the whole thing. Here is one just to tease you into reading the whole thing,

We wait, hesitating, unsure who has received what and what needs to be resent. With this error rate comes an uncertainty where we used to have none (we’re certain of the transmission if you’re actively talking on the phone with us and we know if you got that certified mail.) It’s now hard to imagine the long cc email list as an idea choice for getting much done.

The last ten years have seen an explosion in asynchronous, broadcast messaging. Asynchronous, because unlike a phone call, the sender and the recipient aren’t necessarily interacting in real time. And broadcast, because most of the messaging that’s growing in volume is about one person reaching many, not about the intimacy of one to one. That makes sense, since the internet is at its best with low-resolution mass connection.

It’s like throwing a thousand bottles into the ocean and waiting to see who gets your message.

Amazon, eBay, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, Facebook–they are all tools designed to make it easier to reach more and more people with a variation of faux intimacy. And this broadcast approach means that communication breaks down all the time… we have mass, but we’ve lost resiliency.

Does the Bible Condemn Bad Handwriting?

There is this little Hebrew word that is only used three times in the Old Testament. The word is באר (ba-ar). It means to make something really, really plain. The first place this word is used in the Bible is in Deuteronomy 1:5 where Moses “explains” the Law. Literally, he makes the Law plain and clear to the people. Preachers should take note here that it is important we make God’s Word clear and understandable to those who listen but this doesn’t just apply to the spoken word. In Deuteronomy 27:8 Moses told the people to write the Law on some stones that they were to set up at Ebal. He told them to write “very clearly”. The thought here is not that they change the words of the Law to be more understandable but that they write them neatly so they are legible. Last, we have Habakkuk 2:2 where God told the prophet Habakkuk, ““Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” In other words, write it so largely and legibly that people can read it on the fly. As the herald runs around with the message there will be no mistaking what it says. Why is that important? It is important because God has a message for His people that He wants them to pay attention to.

Of course today, few of us hand write much of anything. We have nice fonts that are easy to read set against clean and clear backgrounds of the color of our choice…and you can make them as large or as small as you like with the click of a button. Legibility is not the issue today and no, the Bible is not really condemning poor handwriting at large. But what God does want from us is to be able to communicate His message to the world and to Christians in a way that is clear and easy to understand. In a single word the Gospel needs to be made accessible to whoever is willing to look or listen. It is important that we learn to communicate things well and really think about our words whether through the written word (writing books, blogging, facebook, twitter, email, texting) or through the spoken word (preaching, teaching, personal conversations).

The difficulty of  באר (ba-ar) is that making something clear and simple usually takes more time and is more difficult than making something complex. You have to work at it.