Communication and Leadership — The Message

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Brad is the Communications Catalyst at Home Office. This is the third a series exploring and discussing communication’s relationship to leadership, especially in a church context.

Hopefully through this series, we can reflect on communication in our unique contexts together.

This is the third instalment. If you’d like to catch up with the other two posts, you can find them here:

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What I’m say next may sound really weird from a guy investing his life in the pursuit of good communication:

In communication, nothing is more important than attitude.

Charisma. Talent. Pizazz. They all fade in comparison to heart. It surprises me how controversial this statement has been! In their rush to exalt Truth as king, some people scorn its indispensable advisors: Gentleness and Respect.

How a truth is expressed shapes that truth. To illustrate this point, let’s consider sarcasm: by a subtle change of inflection, or other non-verbal cue, we can use our words to mean their exact opposite. In this way, we would do well to pay attention to how examples like tone, timing, delivery and context all influence meaning.

Messages which don’t reflect the fruits of the Spirit, don’t reflect the Kingdom.

In what has become the most common arena of argumentation — social media — ideas are often clasped to and wielded like weapons. In fact, being gentle and having respect probably sound like weird ways to be “dogmatic”. And yet, this is exactly the kind of dogma I believe we could use more of!

In broad strokes, the message is a meaning we are trying to transfer.

We can separate messages into two primary elements: motivation and perception. Everything that communicates requires both. It is the inescapable imperative of our minds to create meaning. Here are some of the complex stimuli our minds are continually processing:

  • factual information
  • emotional cues
  • remembered associations
  • imagined implications
  • vocabulary choices
  • temporal surroundings

That’s just the start. Everything you can imagine has the potential to generate meanings. So the more room we give people to make up their own meanings, the more room there is for differences of opinion. This is where we begin to talk about miscommunication. The problem isn’t with communication itself, it’s a problem of not taking stock of its assets, or maximising them.

There is always interplay between our motivations and others’ perceptions, and others’ motivations and our perceptions.

Our more successful messages will be intentionally crafted with these considerations in mind. If we talk about putting our audience first — and we should! — it means that our message must come from an awareness of this complexity in others as well as ourselves. This is why simplicity in communication is of such great value. It also explains why it’s so hard to achieve!

How we form interpretations is an outworking of our individuality. Nothing communicates perfectly. Nothing!

Have you ever had an argument over a Bible verse with someone? It’s the same verse, the same translation and it has come from the same God. But it can mean something so different to two different people that they can’t even grasp how the other can interpret it the way he/she has. Our natures and our nurtures are unique. When we ponder our individuality, it is a profound mystery that we can communicate at all! And yet communication is the one phenomenon that gives us the capacity to not just understand, but to unite!

Effective communication requires reducing complexity and interference to add clarity to meanings.

Those reductions are found in the design. We will get into this more in the next section where we examine the Medium.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

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“Who do people say that I am? …But who do you say that I am?” …If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” (Luke 9:18-26)

We live in interesting times. I recently read that 64% of Canadians believe that the basic teachings of all religions are essentially the same. It is a tough time to believe in the uniqueness and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ! And yet – we do. Our motto is “In essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things Jesus Christ!” Jesus is the center of who we are – we are Evangelical (gospel people) and Free.

The controversy surrounding Jesus – who He is and was – is an old one. Luke records (in chapter 9) this conversation between Jesus and His disciples regarding His identity. The crowds believe He is a dead prophet brought to life (they simply disagree over which prophet). But all prophets are kind of the same, right? Peter knows that Jesus is the Messiah. Yet Peter has a host of wrong assumptions regarding what that means. He assumes Jesus will come to take life – judge, kill, destroy Israel’s enemies – and then give good Jews like Peter the easy life. Jesus doesn’t dispute Peter’s assessment that He is the Messiah, but He does immediately tell Peter not to spread the news about that.

Jesus then assaults all of Peter’s assumptions regarding what the Messiah will do. He predicts suffering and death at the hands of the very religious leaders who should embrace Him. And yes, He speaks of His resurrection to new life. Jesus then reminds the disciples that each one must daily pick up his/her cross and follow Him. That we must give up our own plans/aspirations and embrace His plan for each of us. He reminds them that if one clings to one’s life too tightly, one will lose it.

He challenges the pursuit of all this world offers by revealing that one can gain everything in this world and lose your soul. He reminds us that if we are ashamed of Him and His message, then He will be ashamed of us when He comes in glory. This was sobering stuff for the disciples and it should be for us too. We celebrate re-birth – new life as believers. Yet doing so requires us to also embrace death.

Death to self, to this world, to acceptance by people who are offended by our Lord and His message. Even when we speak the truth in love, when we represent Jesus gently and respectfully to others, we will face rejection. Peter remembered this conversation. In 1 Peter 3:15, he reminded us to first set apart Jesus as Lord and then to always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us – with gentleness and respect.

So this spring we celebrate re-birth. Yet we do so by embracing death. May we not be ashamed of our Lord but once again believe with Paul that the gospel is the power of God for salvation!

Serving with you, Bill

Invitation to Assist a Camp in Montreal!

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Steve Wheeler is looking for youth and young adults to support a camp being put on in Montreal.

1. Camp date and location
This is a day-camp beginning Monday, June 30 and ending with a banquet on Friday evening, July 4.
Église Chrétienne d’Ahuntsic (Christian Church of Ahuntsic)
10211 Basile-Routhier
Montréal QC H2C 2C5

2. Brief description of help needed
-five younger people (16 – 25 years old) to serve as buddies to campers who are mostly in the 11-15 year range.
-two adults who could do meal preparation for the team (about 20 people) during the week and for the Friday evening banquet (about 90 people) at the end of the camp. This would also include shopping locally for groceries.
-two young adults, one to help with activities and sports, the other to work on photos and videography during camp. The photo/videography work will culminate in special video clips used during the banquet. It is best if the photographer/videographer can bring their own equipment.

3. Cost
– $450/person plus cost of travel to and from Montreal. The $450 covers housing (at the church), meals, local transportation, supplies, rafting activity on Thursday. Army beds, pillows, and bedding are provided. Please bring towels/toiletries. Showers will be done at a local recreation centre. Please bring a swimsuit.

4. Training
-The training of the team has already taken place, but the camp organizer, Michel Hurrell, will offer special training/briefing Saturday preceding the camp (or even Friday) if volunteers are able to make it. Another possibility is to do Skype training. There will also be an orientation time for everyone on Sunday preceding the camp.

5. Arrival and departure
-It would be good for your people to arrive at least by Saturday evening, June 28. If you are able to arrive earlier (Saturday morning or even Friday) that will allow for special training that regular team members will have already had. Let us know how soon you could arrive. Anticipated departure after camp: Saturday morning, July 5.

Drop us a line if you need any more information!