Living on the Edge - Radiant

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Living on the Edge

Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

As promised, today we’re going to deal with the concept of terminology that might offend. Really, this post is about how using language that is a little edgy can actually be a tool you use to attract attention to an otherwise numb audience. While providing some insight into one way in which to communicate with people, this post also serves as part 2 of our response to Pastor David’s comment on last week’s post about PC’s vs Mac which included terms like “suck” and “iPee”.

First off, I need to lay down some context. We at Electricurrent/AdvancedMinistry believe that many churches in North America in particular, are missing the boat when it comes to communicating the Gospel. While I know that the use of the terms marketing, advertising, branding and the like are considered taboo in many Christian circles, to our minds, it is a shame that many churches have dismissed these powerful tools.

The apostle Paul and even Jesus Himself, show us examples of how they tailored their messages to reach out to an audience. The heart of the message itself never changed, but the method of communicating it did. Why? So as to communicate the Gospel message in a way that would resonate with the audience in play. And although we have seen marketers/advertisers across the globe take their tools and apply sinful means in achieving carnal goals, does not then automatically mean that the tools are inherently sinful.

It’s for those reasons that our overarching mandate as a company is to use our gifts to fulfill a similar mandate to the organization that bears the name Church Marketing Sucks (to frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ).

In fact, the people over at Church Marketing Sucks have already taken it upon themselves to write what is, for the most part, a great articulation of our position on this topic. You can check it out here.

Now, unlike the people at Church Marketing Sucks, we aren’t going to offer another, less-offensive version of our blog. However, I want to outline what is it that we have, and will continue to do.

To be clear, we actually agree generally with Pastor David’s concern. By that I mean that there is a line that we draw when it comes to the words that we would consider acceptable on our blog. We also believe that gratuitous use of edgy language isn’t helpful either. We aim to be people “beyond reproach” as the Bible dictates. However, our perspective on the church today, is the perspective that we are clearly shown in the lives of the nation of Israel as documented in the Bible. Amongst other things, the story of the children of Israel, is a story of warning - warning about how we humans so often miss the boat when it comes to living a life that is honouring to God.

The penultimate example of them missing the boat is in the life of Jesus. The spiritual leaders of the nation were so caught up in their rules and rituals (similar to not using edgy language), that they missed the arrival and ministry of the Messiah altogether.

The church of North America is in danger of missing our calling again, but we are complacent about it. And as the example of Tony Campolo in the article referenced above shows us, sometimes we need to say something shocking in order to get the attention of a church that is in danger of missing the boat.

Pastor David brought our attention to Colossians 4:6 which talks about how our speech needs to be seasoned with salt. There are a few ways to interpret that verse. One way is to focus on our connotations of seasoning and to approach salt as a preservative. There’s nothing wrong with that interpretation and in fact, it is undoubtedly a part of what is being communicated in this verse. However, the other side of the coin is that we need to consider that salt is also an irritant. When you pour it on an open wound, it stings and brings attention to the wound.

What all that boils down to is that we do not want to be using edgy language simply because we can. Rather, we only want to do it when it is necessary or is a strategic choice so as to attract the attention of our primary audience (Churches, Ministries and Faith-Based Non-Profit Organizations) to a message that we feel called to communicate to them. It is also our belief that those outside the church who might stumble onto this conversation would actually be encouraged by the transparency.

Admittedly, we have dropped the ball in the past few weeks in ensuring that we only used edgy terms in a strategic manner. For that reason, we have removed an instance of it in the comments area that wasn’t necessary. The rest we have left for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to provide context to this post.

However, we appreciate David’s willingness to convey his concerns via his comment and we accept his rebuke as far as it has challenged us to be more careful about fulfilling our own convictions with how and when to use edgy language. As such, we will re-commit ourselves to the goal of only using edgy language in a strategic and meaningful manner. For the record, I think you’ll find that the use of these types of terms will be few and far between.

A closing thought.

This past Monday, Seth Godin, one of the most popular bloggers on the Internet, had the following thing to say about blogging: “I typically write posts that are three to six paragraphs long. I try to be clear and direct. And yet, just about everything I write is misunderstood by someone. (Not the same someone, alas). They write to me and I try to explain. It's hard to imagine how one could write something that 100% of the recipients will understand as written.”

While I feel like yesterday’s post was as clear a communication as I could provide on that part of our response, as I finish writing this post, I am aware that there are many blanks that you, the reader, will need to fill in, in order to appreciate what I’m saying. Communication is as much about the listening and reading as it is about the talking and writing, so, as ever, I’ll do my best to communicate clearly and lovingly, but I am leaning on you to ensure this message gets through.