This is the start of a blog series where I will give some real-life true stories of what I call cringe communication from the church. I want your feedback: do you agree that my example is bad communication? If not why not? You can vote in the poll below.
I believe that the way people outside the church see the church has a massive impact on their understanding and appreciation of and for the church. This then affects any possible engagement with the church and the story of the church (or using in-house speak: the gospel). All of this comes down to communication, in particular communication from particular church representatives to those outside of the church (the society in which we live). I believe we can improve the communication of the church by eliminating cringe communication.
My post 2 weeks ago about Bible classes in schools had plenty of engagement in the comments section. One commenter by the name of Dylan, who appears to be outside the church, made mention of:
an angry man on a Queen Street corner [in Auckland] will actually point at people who walk past and scream at them that they are going to burn in hell.
Dylan carefully says of this man:
I find it difficult to believe he’s getting a lot of converts.
It was this comment that gave me the idea of some blog posts that expose what I would call examples of bad communication. You may have some to share as well.
Student survey tricksters
Within one week in February 2013, I had two pairs of Asian students stopping me on the streets near the university campus asking if I would help them with a “short survey” they were doing for their study.
Being a researcher myself, I am often willing to help others as they gather data so I agreed to help these students. They had an iPad and told me I just needed to watch a short video they had made, so I agreed and they pressed play.
The opening title on the professional looking video was “Introducing the Bible”.
I had been conned
I watched the first 30 seconds to confirm my suspicion that they were Christians getting me to watch an evangelistic video trying to convert me to their faith. I could see the video was five minutes long, and I was not interested in watching it so excused myself.
Maybe their “research” was gauging the reactions of people to their video, but I suspect they were intentionally tricking people into watching their version of church propaganda.
I felt cheated, that my goodwill and intelligence had been taken advantage of. What they presented was not what I had expected. It wasn’t research. They tricked me.
Motivation versus strategy
Notwithstanding my criticisms here, I do not necessarily doubt the sincerity of the Christian beliefs underpinning the communication I am taking issue with: I am sure that if I were to have open conversations with these Asian-student-Christian-survey-tricksters they would have well-intentioned reasons backed with passionate commitment to the cause of their interpretation of the Christian church and tradition.
In hindsight I wish I had taken the time to discuss this with them – I think it was the difference between a “short survey” and a 10-15 minute conversation that was too big a diversion from the mission I was on at that particular moment…
The nature of this communication is, in my opinion, through my own observation and understanding, at odds with the kind of communication that could be more accessible with people outside of the church, or at least done in a way that shares common ground and understanding.
Do you agree?
I’m interested in your feedback, please take a second to anonymously vote in the poll below, or leave a comment sharing your own stories or experiences.
Other posts in this series
Image “Cold man freezing in miserable winter snow storm” courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt at flickr.com