Communicate Like Jesus
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2004 23 Sep
Information swarms at people from all sides as messages compete for attention in our world full of hype and spin. Yet even the slickest techniques, flashiest images, or catchiest soundbytes aren’t enough to get your message across in a way that changes people’s lives. To make authentic connections with people in your congregation and truly impact them in lasting ways, you need to follow the lead of Someone whose communication principles are both timeless and uniquely powerful: Jesus.
Here’s how you can learn to communicate like Jesus:
Realize that communication is a way of living, not a skill set. Understand that Jesus – who never conducted a media campaign or traveled the globe or took university courses in communication – has influenced the world more than anyone else who ever lived because of who He was. Know that people will respond to your character much more than they will to any communication techniques you use.
Be attentive. Understand that the one sure way to be heard is to give attention to other people. Take your focus off yourself and place it on the people you’re trying to reach. Know that, when people feel that you genuinely care about them, their hearts open to your message. See every interaction with people as an opportunity to learn from them. Try to listen more than you talk. Ask people thoughtful questions. Eliminate distractions while you’re meeting with others. Let your body language show that you’re interested in the conversations you have. Ask for clarification and confirmation of people’s points to make sure you’re hearing them correctly. Pay special attention to people who others often ignore, such as those who are poor or disabled. Seek to understand people’s backgrounds in life. Take the time to notice things that people do well and express appreciation for those things. Be willing to sacrifice your own agenda and schedule so you can give others the attention they need.
Seek authentic connections with people. Know that people will listen to you if you build genuine relationships with them. Decide to draw near to the people you’re trying to reach, no matter what the cost. Always convey your messages on your audience’s terms and on their turf. Keep your communication simple, familiar and concrete. Make use of stories often. Draw on experiences that you and your audience have in common. Honor the things your audience values. Be open and honest in discussing your own failures so your audience can see that you’re human just like them. Be humble. Find out what best communicates love to your audience, and speak in their heart language rather than your own.
Ask good questions. Realize that questions start revolutions by inviting others to discover and take hold of truth for themselves. Make your questions sincere; really care about what the responses will be. Tune your questions into the uniqueness of each situation. Fit your questions to your audience by showing thorough consideration of their beliefs, biases, background, assumptions, fears and priorities. Use your questions to penetrate to the heart of the matter you’re discussing. Ask open-ended questions whenever possible. Don’t be coercive; give your audience space to make decisions on issues for themselves.
Be authentic. Understand that people will respond to you if they see that you’re being real with them. Be willing to be vulnerable, letting your true self show through even in messy situations. Speak forthrightly. Make yourself accessible to those you’re trying to reach. Strive to develop a real sense of trust between yourself and your congregation. From trust, strive to build intimacy with your congregation. Choose to tell the truth over making an image. Build your own character rather than managing impressions people have of you. Be realistic; offer what you have, rather than what you wish you could give. Avoid clichés and pat answers.
Tell stories. Know that facts mean virtually nothing to your audience unless they are part of a story. Use stories to capture people’s attention and provide a context for your message. Understand that no other form of communication better meets people where they are. Keep your stories succinct and focused on a central theme. Move from the general to the specific, including details to draw people into the story. Describe things so your congregation can feel as if they are actually there as the story is taking place. Show, don’t tell. Engage all the senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. Make your audience wonder, “What happens next?” Use props, your voice and your body language to express stories with dramatic flair.
Recharge yourself in solitude. Realize that you won’t have anything left to give your congregation if you don’t daily take time away by yourself to think and pray in silence. Seek inspiration for your messages during your times of solitude. Target activities you can remove from your schedule to make more time for solitude. For example, you could watch less TV or switch the radio off while you commute to work. Choose a purpose for each time of solitude – study, prayer, rest, or reflection. Make your solitude times a priority in your life by planning them in advance and keeping these appointments with yourself except for when genuine emergencies arise. During your times of solitude, ask God to help you see yourself and the world around you as it really is. Seek to get away from the information overload that numbs your senses and achieve the clarity God wants you to have.
Define success Jesus’ way. Understand that success isn’t getting what you want, but giving what you have. Don’t strive for status, applause, clout, admiration, financial gain, professional advancement, or any other form of recognition for yourself. Instead, decide to serve. Know that people who serve others are the ones who have the deepest influence in life. Align your own success with other people’s success, trusting that you will achieve the most when you help others the most. Heed Jesus’ advice: If you seek to gain your life, you’ll lose it. But if you lose your life, you’ll gain what truly matters in the end. Ask God to orient your heart in the right direction and give you the grace to walk well on that path.
Persevere. Expect disappointments and failures in our fallen world. Realize that your audience won’t always respond to you as you hope they will. But decide to remain faithful, trusting that God will ultimately accomplish His purposes in your life and work – including using the messages you deliver to bring about good, eternal results.
Adapted from The Revolutionary Communicator: Seven Principles Jesus Lived to Impact, Connect, and Lead by Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe, copyright 2004 by Relevant Media Group. Published by Relevant Books, a division of Relevant Media Group, Inc., Lake Mary, Fl., www.relevantbooks.com.
Jedd Medefind is a chief of staff and former communications director within the California State Legislature. In addition to campaign and legislative posts, Jedd has provided communication services to national and international organizations, ranging from the C.S. Lewis Foundation to PriceWaterhouse, Moscow. In 2000, he became co-director of the California Community Renewal Project, which provides training and resources to groups revitalizing inner city communities. Medefind graduated from Westmont College with degrees in economics and communication studies. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Siena in Sacramento, Calif. His first book, Four Souls, explored faith, community, and purpose amid the real-life stories of a journey around the globe.
Erik Lokkesmoe serves as the director of communications for a cultural agency in the federal government. A former cabinet-level speechwriter and press secretary to several members of Congress and national political campaigns, his work has been featured in major newspapers and publications, including Vital Speeches of the Day. Lokkesmoe also serves as Chairman of the Board for The Voice Behind, a faith-based organization dedicated to cultivating both transcendence and excellence within the arts and the media. He has earned an M.A. in public communications from The American University in Washington, D.C. and a B.A. in political science from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Erik and his wife, Monica, live outside Washington, D.C.