The first thing we need to do, then, is allow the Spirit of Jesus to have full sway over our lives. The second idea is particularly important right now, and also for those of you who work cross-culturally regularly, or possibly feel a call to missions. We must learn to share the good news of Jesus in a way that is understandable to our audience.
When Jesus began his public ministry he had some decisions to make.
First, he chose to teach in Hebrew and Aramaic (maybe Greek also). Of all the languages in the world, he chose the language of those with whom he would be living. Seems obvious, I know. But, the implications of the fact that Jesus didn't require his followers to first learn to understand a new way of communicating before they could hear the good news is critical.
Second, he chose to relate the message to them in terms with which they were most familiar. Have you stopped to think about how often Jesus related the Kingdom of God to agriculture and nature? Jesus related his message in terms with which they were most familiar.
Finally, Jesus communicated truth through narrative. When Jesus opened his mouth, more often than not a parable came out. This was because Jesus lived in an oral milieu. Oral learners prefer to receive, process, remember, and pass along information in story form.
Jesus, the missionary par excellence, was deeply committed to receptor-oriented communication. His metric was not the number of sermons he preached, but by the number of people who understood. Charles Kraft said:
“Communication must be measured not by the messages we send but by the messages the people receive.” (Kraft 1979)
Receptor-oriented communication is characterized by humility, service, sacrifice, and love. We must take the responsibility in the communication process. And that means placing our preferences aside and learning to communicate in a way that truly speaks to our audience.
“As communicators we must test to see whether the people understand us, and if they do not, we must take the blame and go back to our drawing boards.” (Hiebert 1985)