At a recent visit to my dentist, I started thinking about communication. Throughout the procedure, he would occasionally ask if I was doing okay. I would respond in the affirmative, but it had to be difficult to understand. My mouth was full of instruments, so I was not very clear. I tried nodding, but it is difficult to nod while keeping my mouth open wide-as-possible with my head turned slightly toward the dentist. The dentist probably has lots of experience communicating this way, but I doubt that most of us do.
We tend to have preferred ways of communicating. We want to express ourselves in certain ways, and we want to listen in certain ways. However, just because we have a preferred way of communicating does not mean that those around us will automatically communicate in the ways we prefer. Usually the people around us communicate in the way they prefer.
In order to be successful in communication, we need to be able to communicate in different ways with different people. We need to be able to disperse and receive information even it is sometimes in a difficult-to-understand method. We who are followers of Jesus especially need to remember that not everyone speaks the language of the church, and we may be communicating a message of exclusion rather than inclusion. For example, consider the terms that are often exclusive. Hymns, pews, narthex, chancel, sacrament, and laity are all terms that are not generally heard unless they are connected to church. We then further exclude by the unwritten rules of our places of worship. For example, if everyone knows that no one in this church wears a tie, we may unconsciously snub the guest who is wearing a tie. If everyone knows that we all do or do not do something, then we are shocked about someone breaking the unspoken rule. Even worse if we bring it to the attention of the person!
Are you sending a clear message of God’s love within your congregation, or are you sending a different message? Sometimes communication is difficult, but if we don’t communicate the love of God, then who will?