Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hello out there! Is anybody listening?


Pastors' throne from days long gone

“He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (John 1:23, KJV).
               Well I’m not John the Baptist, but I know why he quotes Isaiah when asked to identify himself. I’ve been involved in numerous discussions in the arts world, in the church world, in the pseudo-political world about communication. What it generally boils down to seems to be this: I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU? HOW CAN I GET YOUR ATTENTION??
               There are a few assumptions that need to be considered: 1) Is my message critical to the potential hearer who’s not getting it, or to me. 2) Would the hearer change his thinking or acting if only he would attend to my message? 3) Are thoughtful listening, reading and discussing activities of the past, lost unless revived? 4) Is there a trend going on here, or a blip that will pass when Facebook and Twitter no longer fascinate?
               In other words, what’s the nature of today’s wilderness into which so many are crying for attention? Heaven knows there’s a lot of yelling going on: mailboxes full of flyers and appeals for donations, hundreds of TV channels, robocalls and telephone blitzes, billboards and neon signage. Emails, spam, Facebook, You Tube, etc. clawing at the public through their computer screens. (Blogs like this one.) How many voices can one person attend to before his immune system begins to reject them all?
               Eventually, a voice is attended to only by those who choose to attend; only those who want to hear it, hear it. People who long for a good Lenten sermon go to church; those who want to hear Don Cherry’s ranting turn on Hockey Night in Canada.
               So here’s a communication question that’s haunting me, and it illustrates a technique straight out of the annals of the great propaganda and advertising successes in history. The military in the USA (and to some degree, in Canada) has wormed its way into the consciousness of millions by developing an association with sports; every football game in the US seems to include some tribute to the military. What if half-times in football featured ballet, or poetry reading, or a rousing hymn-sing and sermon?
Is this a technique worth considering for those who feel they’re crying in the wilderness? Find out what message most people are already attending to, and tie your wagon to its back bumper?
It’s an uphill battle, this crying in the wilderness business. It brings to mind another Biblical adage: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14).  I’d probably get a lot of protests for quoting this proverb so soon after a sports anecdote . . .
. . . except  that almost nobody reads this.
I’ve never been able to get the attention of hockey fans for some reason.   

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