Houston, TX (ANS) – During the decade of the 1980s, while serving as chairman of a coalition of a few hundred ministry and mission organizations, I had the opportunity of being part of fact-finding delegations to foreign countries. It was a major eye opener for me in becoming more aware of how things are often very different than they appear to be. The news and entertainment industries often give a very different perspective on what is actually going on in the world. I became aware of how important it is to verify before making judgements or taking action. Multiple sources of news and information can add clarity and perspective. However, spiritual discernment and godly wisdom are also vital aspects in determining how we are to live our lives, honor God and advance His Kingdom.
Reality of Spiritual Warfare
In the current cultural, ideological and political climate, it seems that many people tend to believe what they want to believe; what supports their own opinions and viewpoints. There is a growing need these days to examine the sources of information we receive. Finding credible and trustworthy sources is not always easy. Asking the right questions and seeking out those who have informed facts and godly wisdom is vital. Jesus told us not to judge according to appearance, but to judge righteous judgement. We need to consider our sources and not take things at face-value. It is important also to pray, seek God’s perspective, trust Him, and recognize that we are living in a season of intense spiritual warfare.
Consider the Source
Everyone is subject to being deceived and misled in some way. Sadly, we are living in a time when the majority of the people of the world are being deceived or mislead, especially in the spiritual realm. Prophets of old warned of a time when there would be great deception and darkness, where good would be called evil, and evil good. As followers of Jesus and as ambassadors (representatives) of the Lord, it’s important that we have a safeguard against being deceived or mislead ourselves. Otherwise, we could be subject to misleading others. For those of us who have access to the Word of God in written form, in a language we can understand and the ability to read it with comprehension, it is a great blessing and privilege indeed. However, a large percentage of the world’s population, even today, do not have access to the Scriptures. Many who have access to Scripture do not read or know it.
Trust and Verify
When you hear news reports, or when someone tells you something, how do you know if it’s true or not? How much confidence can you have in the source of information you receive every day? These are pretty important questions, and in some cases, could be a matter of life and death. Over the years I have had the opportunity of spending a considerable amount of time in our Nation’s Capital of Washington D.C. I frequently attended or participated in various conferences, conventions and events. Sometimes they were covered by major news media sources. On occasions I would see the evening news reports of those events. Seeing the news coverage was often very different than the actual event that I had attended and observed first hand. In fact, from the news coverage, one would hardly recognize many of them as the same events.
Value of Face-to-Face Communication
Interestingly, in ancient times, in hearing dominant cultures, people had more confidence in a face-to-face spoken communication than a written document. In modern, Western cultures written documents are perceived to be more credible and authentic than spoken or other means of communication. Actually, just because something shows up in print (text-books, newspapers, magazines, etc.) it doesn’t mean it is true or reliable. The same would apply to radio, television and social media. There is increasing distrust these days regarding the news media and the entertainment industry. Reliable and credible sources seem to be in short supply. In the church world there is a growing recognition that followers of Jesus need to demonstrate authenticity and credibility. Lessons we are learning from the more relational, communal, Oral Cultures (primarily in the Global South) are actually very transferable to the West and the Global North. Their methods of communication and instruction are more universal and reproducible than our modern Western text-based methods. Although we should use all ways and means available.
Applications to Ministry
Many of the more text and technology dependent societies today have lost many important ways of communicating, learning, remembering and building relationships. For example, simply making eye contact and having personal face-to-face conversations are not as common today as in past times. Having community gatherings and group discussions are vital activities we could improve on. A pastor in an African country where Living Water International has conducted extensive Orality Training made an important discovery. After modifying his preaching methods to a more oral learner friendly style, he observed a big difference in the way people responded. Most of the people in that region do not have Bibles or other written materials. So, for his preparation, he began reading, studying, reflecting on and internalizing a passage of Scripture. Then in his delivery, he could make eye contact, ask questions (use dialogical overtones) and engage the congregation in the message. We might call that Scripture engagement for oral learners and communicators. The participatory aspects make a huge difference, not only in oral cultures, but also in the Western and North American context.
Our Divine Mandate
When we consider personally communicating the gospel and making disciples, sharing the Word of God from our hearts and personal experiences is more powerful than just a transfer of information. It builds trust and confidence when we have a genuine experiential message to communicate. People can just sense the difference in the sincerity and authenticity of our lives and our words. We can have confidence as well that the Holy Spirit will be baring witness to our words, as we share His Word. When we are sharing the Good News of Jesus, a critical factor is trusting God for the results, trusting and believing that the Holy Spirit will touch hearts and change lives. Scripture speaks of our being able ministers of the New Covenant. Of course, it’s the indwelling Christ and the work of the Spirit that enables us to be fruitful for His Kingdom purposes.