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, the father of late-night television, once declared: “The greatest sin is to be dull.”
These two statements ought to haunt anyone who regularly practices the fine art of communication. Boredom is a gross violation! Being dull is a grave offense! Unfortunately, however, both are crimes that go unpunished — and the chronic offender is seldom even made aware of his or her habit, much less reprimanded.
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, 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,” “Murder She Wrote,” 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. This includes being accurate, logical, and knowledgeable, yet well aware of opposing positions or opinions. 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. With a careful choice of words and methods of approach, we must paint verbal pictures for the uninitiated, preoccupied mind to see. To do this we need energy (a natural flow of enthusiasm, force, or intensity); subtlety (communicating without overdrawing the conclusions); relevance (in touch with today); and changes of pace (understanding the listener and being sensitive to his or her reactions).
We must be practical. We are communicating with people who have needs, people who are asking: “So what? Why bring this up? How does this relate to me, personally?” Communicating the Scriptures is more than dumping out 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.
“But,” say some, “the fish are there and waiting; just let down the line, wait awhile, and reel ’em in.”
Well, friend, even hungry fish know a naked, dull, rusty hook when they see one. They aren’t going to be attracted when dozens of more-appealing prospects are dangling nearby.
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.
Excerpted from The finishing Touch, Word Publishing (c) 1994, All Rights Reserved.

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