For the past four or five months I’ve been doing a one-minute program on Sirius radio on FamilyNet channel 161. I’m really not a Christian radio kind-of-guy. I’m not saying that to be hip. I just tend to listen to NPR if I’m going to listen to the radio at all (where else can you hear Terry Gross hacked off at Gene Simmons?). But I’d rather have The Afters or Mute Math turned up really loud. I actually backed into a twenty-something’s jacked-up pickup with a serious sub in it at a Best Buy’s parking lot because I never heard their frantic honking over Spoon. Now that’s embarrassing for an old guy. But that’s another story.
I actually started doing “Outward-Focused Thoughts” on our local Christian radio station (WAKW) here in Cincinnati several years ago. The spots were a little over two-minutes long and done at the behest of Jim Smith, who was the morning host in those days. I’m pretty sure he suggested it (he denies it now and says it was my idea—no one wants culpability…) but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a show for Christians. And, again, I didn’t think I would be good for Christian radio audiences.
But as time passed, I thought: am I stupid? If a personal dream is to help believers become more outward-focused, less concerned about their rights and evangelical hot-button politics, and simply more servant-oriented, then sheesh, you’ve got a built-in audience. It’s ideal. I mean, really—what would happen if the church was known less for its whining and politics and clamoring for its rights, and more for the way it serves those who don’t yet know Jesus? Whoa. But again, that’s another story for another time.
The real reason I’m writing is this: the outward-focused thoughts on Sirius radio have to be sixty seconds. Actually, more like fifty seconds to get the music bumpers and tag in. Fifty seconds. Have you ever tried to say anything cogent in fifty seconds…or 150 words or less? A really short blog post for me is 500 words. My appreciation for copywriters who do fifteen second TV commercials is through the roof. But at least they get visuals.
Anyway, it got me thinking. How much fluff is in church pastors/priests/ministers/communicators’ messages? When I started writing out my messages word-for-word, I was amazed (many of you weren't...) how much was redundant, how much was overkill, how simplistic it was, how much was hackneyed and clichéd, how much were typical ways of communicating what should be the atypical message of Jesus…and how much was simply fluff.
Which took me further. If I’m a missionary in a postmodern, post-Christian, "raised-on-sound-bites-and-one-second-music-video-edits" culture, how well is my message heard? One of the biggest barriers in communication is the receptor: how do they hear? Context-wise? Culturally? And when I whine about thirty minute messages not being long enough to develop a theme, who am I kidding? All of the Sermon on the Mount fits neatly into a 13 minute time frame…and what an outward-focused punch that has.
What about you?
How well can you tell your personal God-story? How much fluff is in it? Could you explain simple Christianity in fifty seconds? And I don’t mean just the information; is there a place for a responsive hook? Is there a built-in “what about you”-factor in your message? There’s a reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.
I recently recorded this Outward Focused Thought (and in 50 seconds, thank you…):
Sometimes a lot of evangelism training focuses on knowing the answers to every possible question people might ask us. And sometimes I think that we Christians think we have to have all the answers. But doesn’t it drive you crazy when someone thinks they’re always right…and wants to make sure you know it? Even if by some miracle they were always right, if they come off as self-righteous you’d diss them. I love the Message paraphrase of Jeremiah 28: “…Don’t pretend that you know all the answers yourselves and talk like you know it all. I’m telling you: Quit the ‘God told me this... God told me that...’ kind of talk.” Wouldn’t it be interesting if we discovered listening as a major first step in evangelism?
Food for thought, that’s all. And, uh, I just hit seven hundred and twenty-seven words.