Please… shoot the messenger!


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.

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.

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.


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2 Responses to “Please… shoot the messenger!”

  1. Neil Says:

    What is the Good news?

  2. sauceforthegander Says:

    I’m glad you asked that Neil.

    The Good News is that Jesus, who is God himself, was born into this world to undo the mess the human race has made. Once we were connected with God, our creator, but through our disobedience each of us has inherited this condition of being disconnected from God.

    Jesus accomplished this ‘re-connection’ between us and God by taking responsibility for all our mess and wrongdoing. He took the blame and our place when we deserved death and separation from God, and died instead of us. Furthermore he demonstrated his identity as God by rising from the dead after three days.

    Jesus sums up his purpose as “bringing Good News to the poor, proclaiming release for the captives, sight for the blind and freedom for the oppressed .” (Quote from the Old Testament book of Isaiah).

    The Gospel of John tells us that all who believe him and accept what he has done for them become children of God by right. Their previously dead spirit becomes alive.

    My own story, very briefly, is that at school through the help of others, I realised that God wanted me to make this change in my life and follow him. So I made a decision to put my own plans for my life aside and to go and do whatever he asked me to. Over the years, the new life I received has changed me and continues to change me for the better (I hope no-one would disagree with that!). I say a little more about it on the ‘Root of Worship’ page elsewhere in this blog.

    As I said above, putting it on paper is OK but telling the story person to person is so much better. Next time you’re passing pop in for coffee and we can talk more. (Actually not for the next couple of weeks because we will be your side of the Atlantic but further south).

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