Communication requires the risk taking involved in any relationship where understanding is the goal.

We want to communicate; it is our business, our calling. We dream of holding an audience spellbound as we present the gospel. We study the “how-to’s” of sermon preparation. We spend hours researching, organizing, and developing our messages. And yet, we feel sometimes they get across and sometimes they don’t. This tension between our need to communicate effectively and our inability to do so consistently drives us to search for a communications method that really works.

But that is our problem: we search for some formula that will enable us to become master preachers. But there is none. Communication by itself is too complex a process to be squeezed into a formula or model.

If we are to increase our effectiveness we must not look for a process, but look rather at the process of communication. The question is not, “How do we communicate?” but “What is communication?”

What is the function of communication? Is it to move people to commitment? Is it a means of getting people to integrate information? Is it correct to see communication in terms of behavioral changes?

We talk about “getting the message across,” and there is the rub: too often pastors—by the very nature of their training—see communication only in terms of the message. We think communication is the process of getting our message to the people. Effective communication must therefore occur when the receivers (the people) receive 100 percent of the sender’s (preacher’s) message.

Early studies in the field of communication show this same focus on the message. The Shannon-Weaver model of communication (1949), which has dominated the direction of thinking in communications for ...

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