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Want to Communicate the Good News? Try This.
Instead of shouting loud enough to drown out the competition, choose the way of Jesus.
We are exposed to 4,000 – 10,000 ads per day. But exposure does not mean acceptance or response. That is why marketing and PR practitioners work intelligently and tirelessly to create ads that move us to accept their pitch and buy what they are selling. To do so, they have to break through the clutter of not merely thousands of competing ads but the countless other inputs to our brain each day.
We have been exposed to so much advertising that its goals and practices have become a common part of human endeavor. Promoting our personal cause or brand, with related calls to action, is now an intuitive part of life. And sadly, if the cause is deemed great enough, it can rationalize almost any tasteless behavior. A classic example is the reactions from some politicians during this year’s State of the Union speech. Other examples include screaming matches in marriages, demeaning remarks in boardrooms and condemning comments on social media. Even Christians often respond with contempt when our desires, wants and needs are frustrated by someone in our way.
I’m curious. What if, regarding conversations of faith, the best way to be heard today is not to shout louder or yell disparagingly, but to be like a chime, which, while quiet, cuts through the loud instruments around it? The chime contributes to the performance with intrinsic gentleness. Instead of seeking to drown out other players, it is effective simply by being the strategically-placed, humble instrument it is.
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The Allure of Gentleness
In his book of apologetics lectures, The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus, Dallas Willard suggests it won’t work to simply insist that we have truth and reason on our side. That’s because human beings are more than their brains. Finding faith and following Jesus also has to do with our deepest desires and dearly held hopes for humanity. Jesus’ beautiful model of life, his love, humility and gentleness are equal to or exceeds doctrines about him.
Dallas explains why:
Our apologetic happens in a context: an age shaped by feuding intellectual commitments and cultural battles over religion, science, truth, and morality; this context is strewn with enmity, hostility, abuse, and other opposition, which ultimately contradicts the very things our message lifts up. That is why our apologetic has to embody both the message and person we want to communicate. Only with gentleness and reverence will people see, verify, and be persuaded to respond to what we have to say.
Jesus’ proclamation was made powerful by his person. His words flowed from an internal quality of being that gave them superiority. Everyone in Jesus’ day would have listened to rabbis and various religious leaders hold forth. But only of Jesus did the crowds say:
Where did this man get this wisdom…this power… No one has ever spoken like this man…His teaching has authority… The people came to him from everywhere… (Matthew 13:54; John 7:46; Mark 1:27; Mark 1:45)
It was the gentle, chime-like life of Jesus that drew people to God. Jesus specifically describes himself as gentle and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:29). On this basis, we can have the confidence to accept Jesus’ invitation: Come follow me. His gentle manner of being, along with his words and deeds of power, cut through the clutter of noise—both ancient and modern.
The Gospel Takeaway
The most important thing to remember is that we don’t just have a message, a truth, a few doctrines, a couple favorite scriptures, or crucial points of dogma. We have a Person to lift up, to describe, to set forth—and embody.
This brings into focus our need to become the kind of person that communicates the Good News of Jesus with a whole life—not just a message. We don’t have to be flawless. Reasonable people do not expect Christians to be perfect. People do, however, intuitively expect that the way we interact with those outside faith does not undermine the plausibility of our message.
Words are a necessary component of evangelism, apologetics and setting forth the reality of Jesus. But words do not arise from out of the blue. They come from people. People, as Jesus taught, have specific qualities of heart. Some hearts are gentler than others. Gentler hearts are more easily heard today.
Gentleness creates a healthy context for conversations about the content of Christian faith. If I am going to make my best contribution as an ambassador of God’s kingdom, I must seek both to understand Jesus and to have his gentle heart. Gentle, calm hearts, teaching the way of Jesus, will stand out in the midst of an understandably fearful, desperate and angry moment in human history.
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