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Monday, December 3, 2012

On using too few or too many words

            I fully well understand that this site is read by persons all around the world, and, therefore, we live in different cultures.  I also understand that many of my brothers and sisters in Jesus are not sports fans.  Therefore, I would like to relate a piece of U.S. sports news to this discussion area.  Here in the U.S., yesterday’s top story was of a professional athlete committing suicide in front of his coach and the person who ran the business side of the team.  Today, a nationally seen sports talk show host stated that, in this day, he perceives that he is expected to have a definite opinion on everything, and to have it in 140 characters or less (the size of a Twitter entry), and on this subject he doesn’t have a clear one, and by implication, if he did it couldn’t be that short.

            As we write here on the House2Harvest site, the first two sentences appear when emails get sent to everyone else.  It is tempting to try to say something important in that amount of space.  The general rule is, in attempting to, what is said is either obvious or totally unclear, particularly when read by someone in another cultural area.  Personally, I haven’t felt to say something here often, as I am a person that, not only has never served in a mission situation outside of the U.S., but has not been outside the U.S. other than a day trip across the border of Mexico, and a few days in Canada, which is only slightly different from the U.S.  I have spent time on secular college campuses, which culturally is very different from the world across the street from them.  Now, that is a perspective that is important, as I’ve also been to churches in which leadership is based on emotionalism, and of which the leaders could not have effectively dealt with college culture if they tried (maybe, fortunately, they don’t). 

            Many of us have sat through hundreds of structured speeches (sermons), and some have delivered hundreds.  Many of those were highly worked on, were theologically correct, but went in one ear and out the other.  There have been other instances in which, in the middle of one of those, one sentence was said which, at least for oneself, the Holy Spirit was in to touch and change oneself.  One may remember that occurrence years, decades later, but not remember the greater message, or even who spoke it.  I do not believe it is something you or I can try to do.  I know that Kenneth Copeland says that he tries to say something shocking every ten minutes.  I don’t know that that makes his style better, and I am certain that I could find some sincere brother that feels it makes his style worse.

            Some of us might argue that a compacted version of the message of salvation, i.e. 4 Spiritual Laws, and similar pamphlets, have been a boon to communicating the message of Jesus, and others argue that they ultimately been a bane.  Personally, I do not know a person who has come to faith totally from the result of a tract.  I have known many that have come to faith through seeing believers in relationship to the world and other believers.  I have known many who have come to faith via the Spirit speaking into their spirits, oftentimes just a few words which, in and of themselves, don’t say much, but with the realization that God is behind it making all the difference. 

            Many years ago, when I lived in another area, a certain tv station started doing a tease (one sentence description of the lead story) at 10pm for the 11pm newscast.  One evening, the anchor appeared, and with eyes extremely wide open said, “Nuclear accident at (town about 100 miles away)—details at 11.”   Since this is potentially a matter of life and death, I stuck around (actually trying to find other news sources during the hour).  When 11 came, the story was that a cooling water pipe broke, that is was no big deal, but, according to the government’s definition of a nuclear power accident, it was a (lowest level) accident.  One of the things I face before the watching world in my culture is we believers in Jesus (maybe not you or I, and then again maybe so, and definitely some others) overdramatizing things to the point that in some cultures with freedom of speech, everything we say is ignored.  Its one more reason God works in relationships.  Using many words does not make our words more effective.  Neither does using too few.

            Also, assuming that my brothers and sisters, or for that matter, any other person, is thinking of the same nuances of a word that you or I am using is dangerous.  On this site, for leaders, if one, in leading Bible studies or speaking, has been emphasizing any one certain meaning of any one word or scripture or periscope does not mean that any of the rest of us is thinking along that same direction, even if you are correct!  That’s one of the great things about using participatory Bible studies instead of sermons—if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, which includes you leaving out some thoughts in your head that tie two points together, that person can ask, and you can correct yourself, or maybe realize that you are running down a mental rabbit trail to nowhere.  The greater problem is for those of us who are either leaders or more highly educated accepting correction when God somehow chooses to send it through someone less educated or with less leadership ability or who shows normally less obedience or faithfulness or commitment. 

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