I haven’t added to this blog for over 5 years. Today something happened that made me look for somewhere to express my feelings. This seems as good a place as any.
On my way home from a brief shopping trip in Croydon, I walked to West Croydon tram stop and was approached by two men handing out small bits of paper. Out of interest, I took one. As I suspected, it was a home-grown religious tract.
‘Religious tract’ has to be a loose description, it was religious… it was a tract… but as a piece of communication it was a dismal failure any way you look at it. And it was being distributed on behalf of a major Christian denomination.
It was a scrap of paper, roughly trimmed to about one-eighth of a sheet of A4. On the paper was a stream of apparently unconnected scripture verses and comments. Scripture references were abbreviations – unhelpful for anyone unfamiliar with the Bible.
Perhaps it was designed, not as a medium for sharing the gospel but as a talking point – a conversation starter? No. As soon as I took hold of the note they dashed off to distribute more of these bits of paper elsewhere. No attempt at conversation.
Normally we say “don’t shoot the messenger” – meaning the person carrying the message is only doing his duty… faithfully delivering information. And if you have a problem with the message you take it up with the sender. In this case I have to seriously question what message has been delivered.
SO, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?
Let’s look at what has actually been communicated. Firstly, the words themselves, though mainly scripture, do not engage the reader – there is no ‘story’, nothing to help the reader relate to the content. So if the tract is connected to the church, it communicates that the church has nothing to say, no point of common interest with the reader. The tract ends “If you are interested and would like to join xxxxxxx, please contact…” Why should the reader be interested? Nothing interesting has been said. Secondly, the quickfire manner in which the leaflets are distributed says “we have no interest in you, we just need to get these pieces of paper out to as many people as possible”.
So, shoot the messenger? I commend the individuals for recognising that the message must be delivered – and for being prepared to do something about it when so many Christians are too complacent or frozen with fear to share the Good News. However, I do not believe that all publicity is good publicity, and that to communicate badly can undermine the message.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?
The real point of this I suppose is the challenge it faces me with. Like many people, I do not find it easy to share my faith ‘cold’. And while I firmly believe in the value of good communication tools I have to concede they are just the medium – the message is best passed on person to person from personal experience. It’s going to mean reaching beyond my comfort zone but who says comfort is important anyway?
What is the Good News? Ask me.