Context Part 2: "Town Criers"

Continued from: Aug 31

In Jesus day the common way to receive news was by way of a “town crier”. Actually, this is where we get the word “preach”. Preach means to “cry aloud” and gospel means “good news”. This, however, is no longer the way we receive news. Furthermore, it hasn’t been in over a hundred years. Still when we imagine the evangelist, we see he/she on the corner of some street shouting at people.

Just like the violinist in my previous blog, this archaic method is largely ineffective because people are not in the mindset to hear what we’re saying. We are out of “context”. Preaching is still a beautiful art form and is still incredibly relevant and essential in the right place. But to hear someone “crying aloud” on the street corner today is likely more of a repulsion than a draw.

Let me make it clear though, this blog isn’t about preaching. It’s about how we do whatever it is we do. This is just an example of how I think we’ve been misunderstood. The story of the gospel is beautiful and deserves to be told with real sophistication, mystery, and beauty.

The buzzword of the day seems to be “permissive marketing”. I’m not necessarily saying that what we need is some new marketing strategy. However, the heart of real marketing is the telling of a story and we certainly have a story to tell. Because of the progress of culture we have to gain permission of the listener in order to tell this story. I for one don’t think it’s such a bad thing.

The issue here is that you can’t really tell someone a story anymore until you have won the right to tell it. People must give you permission into their world if they’re going to hear you.

My dream has been to tell stories through music with a level of artistic integrity that could win the trust of a listener. I realize that I certainly have not arrived, but I’m excited about the progress I’ve made.

My question for you is this:

What story are you telling people? Do people hear the heart behind you, or do they hear something else?

What we say is not as important as what they hear.

  1. oh you've arrived! much more arriving around the bend i'm sure. 🙂 take care, keep writing, it helps.

  2. benward said:

    I agree in principle that context matters, but the idea that the Gospel should always be presented with sophistication might be a little much. Maybe sometimes and maybe with simplicity others. Paul talks about how the Corinthians had gotten away form the simplicity of their faith (2 Cor. 11:3). There is something beautiful about how God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).

  3. To answer your question.I feel like in my songs I'm trying to tell a story of hope and of love and how the power of God's love can change people's lives. I think people hear the heart behind my music because I don't people would listen to me they didn't hear it.

  4. Sean said:

    that last line is so true, it was like a punch in the face for me.

  5. @benward – I think what Paul's talking about in 2 Cor 11 is diluting the truth about Jesus with false doctrine, not necessarily gospel presentation. That verse actually works in favor of the point John Mark's making – if we don't care about what they hear and only think about what we say (and don't recognize that there is often a difference!) then what they will hear is not the "simple gospel" we think we are presenting. They will hear something else – the angry gospel, or the awkward out-of-place gospel, or the intrusive or rude or threatening gospel. The gospel may be "offensive" (must take care using that word) to "those who are perishing", but this should not be because those who present it have been thoughtless or heedless of culture in their presentation.I agree that in some contexts the word "sophistication" might not necessarily fit, but there are many contexts where that would certainly be appropriate; the point is to have a discerning and open mind, and a willingness to be creative, so that each opportunity can be measured on its own merit rather than applying some kind of cookie-cutter method of presentation each time.I think the place that needs the most careful thought is this: understanding exactly what you're getting permission from your listeners to do. We are (as you said) getting permission to tell a story; but the best stories have beginning, middle, end, plot development, tension, climax, resolution. We live in a culture (in America at least) saturated with all kinds of such stories, on many different levels, and different people have different levels of exposure to / acceptance of these different stories, requiring careful thought on our part in terms of how our story is structured and about how much background information / knowledge we must put forth in order to make the story both meaningful and complete.These truths about context do fit well into just about anything anyone tries to do in terms of story, marketing, advertisement, or even conflict resolution, but they find admirable application in the realm of gospel presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts-

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