Billy Wilder, the great movie producer, openly admitted: “I have a vast and terrible desire never to bore an audience.” With tacit agreement Jack Parr once declared: “The greatest sin is to be dull.”
Those two statements ought to haunt anyone who regularly practices the fine art of communication.
Communication is a competitive field. Like it or not, the teacher, writer, speaker, or preacher contends with ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Rush Limbaugh, magazines, paperbacks, CDs, the theater, the cinema, the thrilling excitement of sporting events, and a zillion other attractions. Pity the missionary whose mimeographed letter arrives in the same mail with Sports Illustrated or Newsweek. God help the Sunday evening services across America that do battle with 60 Minutes and Masterpiece Theater.
Today’s communicator faces a stiffer challenge than ever before. This means that we who communicate Christ must work especially hard at winning and then maintaining a hearing. This doesn’t mean we need to put on a better show or shout louder or attack our competition. What it does mean is that we must meet at least three demands.
We must be prepared. Basically, it necessitates doing our homework. But it also means we must determine what ought to remain behind the counter, held in reserve, and what ought to be placed on display. It’s the art of verbal economy.
We must be interesting. We must paint verbal pictures for the uninitiated, preoccupied mind to see. To do this we need energy, subtlety, relevance, and changes of pace.
We must be practical. Communicating the Scriptures is more than dumping out a truckload of biblical facts; it means using those facts to meet practical, everyday needs.
Communicating is like fishing. We need to provide the right lures and bait to attract our listeners.
Check out Paul’s address on Mars Hill (Acts 17) or Stephen’s defense before the Council (Acts 7) or Jesus’ great sermon on the mountain (Matt. 5-7) or His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3). Not a rusty hook in the bunch!
Funny thing about fish: They keep their eyes open even when they’re bored and sound asleep. Myopic communicators tend to forget that.