Monday, March 02, 2015

BookPastor >> "Communication Theory for Christian Witness" (Charles H. Kraft)

TITLE: Communication Theory for Christian Witness
AUTHOR: Charles H. Kraft
PUBLISHER: Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991, (180 pages).

We all believe that communications is important. Whether it is work-related, family-oriented, marriage-centered, or community-work, we all communicate, for we are social creatures. As Christians, we are called to speak the gospel and to communicate it in ways that recipients can understand, and in faithfulness to the pure gospel. In Communication Theory for Christian Witness, Professor Charles Kraft of Fuller Theological Seminary shows us the way ahead to communicate the gospel. For communications is essentially about bridging gaps made by differences in sex, social class, age, education, occupation, subculture, dialect, etc. Kraft begins with the central Messenger: God, that we communicate simply because God first communicates. We learn rules and principles of effective communications. We examine the way of Jesus and how he relates to common folks. Communications has to do with not only sharing the right message but also avoiding what is wrong. He mentions ten myths concerning communications before venturing to talk about a communication theory for outreach.

  1. Hearing the gospel with one's ears is equivalent to "being reached" with the gospel.
    (God's method is incarnational)
  2. The words of the Bible are so powerful that all that people need to bring them to Christ is to be exposed to hearing or reading the Bible.
    (Relevance is needed).
  3. Preaching is God's ordained means of communicating the gospel.
    (The word for preach/proclaim (kerusso) basically means communicate).
  4. The sermon is an effective vehicle for bringing about life change.
    (Life involvement is needed).
  5. There is one best way to communicate the gospel.
    (Jesus adapts. So should we).
  6. The key to effective communication is the precise formulation of the message.
    (One can only be precise up to a point. Even then, there are chances of misinterpretations no matter how careful one is).
  7. Words contain their meanings
    (Words can mean many things in different contexts).
  8. What people really need is more information.
    (Witnessing is not about dispensing information. It's to stimulate people to seek God).
  9. The Holy Spirit will make up for all mistakes if we are sincere, spiritual, and prayerful enough.
    (Dangerous assumption for it throws off one's responsibility. Moreover, how much spirituality is ever enough?)
  10. As Christians, we should severely restrict our contacts with "evil" people and refrain from going to "evil" places lest we "lose our testimony" and ruin our witness.
    (This is the way of Pharisees, not that of Jesus).
We need to debunk the above as they are not in line with what the Scriptures say. For God communicates out of love. He uses us to spread the Word. He continues to communicate and we ought to do the same. In communication theory, we need to know that three things are required. The sender, the receiver, and the message. Kraft is heavy on the receptor front, constantly putting the onus on the communicator to do what it takes to communicate well. We learn about the different "depths of human assuming, valuing, and committing." Kraft points out four different worldviews to assist our understanding that communications vary from culture to culture.
  1. American worldview: Our way is the best way
  2. Scientific humanism worldview: Scientific and humanistic approach is the best. Religion is best reserved for the private domain, personal and irrevelant
  3. Progress worldview: That change is good and the belief in progress propels us to seek changes and be future-oriented that we sometimes dispense with history
  4. Individualism worldview: Worship success and fear failure above all.
Kraft takes a critical-realist viewpoint in which while one is critical about the world we live in, its flaws and its problems, one also needs to be realistic about limitations. He opts for the "dynamic equivalence Christianity" in which there is a sense of acceptance of what we have now and at the same time a hope for a better future. He puts forth several good tips with regards to Christian communications.

  1. Learn to segment our audiences
  2. Incarnate our presence among a specific group at a specific time in order to understand contexts
  3. Restrict interactions with the common folks rather than trying to reach everyone
  4. Communicate with the receptors' interest in mind
  5. Respect the receptors' right to listen or not to listen
  6. Distinguish between someone understanding our message versus accepting our message
  7. Be credible. Be relevant
How to communicate more effectively? Kraft gives six points
  1. Accurately analyze the communicational situation we are in
  2. Study the Bible from the angle above
  3. Pay attention to the receptors' interest
  4. Begin with the concerns of the people rather than mere biblical texts
  5. Do not be overformal in communicating the Christian message.
  6. Transmit less information, more illustrations and applications
These and many more are reasons why this book continues to be influential in the communications world. For me, the book is slanted more toward a receptors' view in communication. I can understand because until we appreciate where the listeners are coming from, our communication attempts may very well be in vain. The biblical explanations could have been described in a little more detail, but I suppose it would have made the book even thicker. That said, Kraft's purpose is to ensure the most optimal delivery of a message from one person to another. This is not simply a need to improve human to human communications, it is a biblical injunction to communicate for Christian witness.


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