Megaphones and Funnels

Romans 10:13-15 is one of my favorite Bible passages:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

The middle section of this text features a chain of communication events always in play whenever anyone becomes a Christian. Heralds of the good news must be sent. Sending them links to their preaching.  Preaching links to an audience hearing. Hearing links to the believing. Believing links to an audience calling on the name of the Lord. Calling on the name of the Lord links to being saved:  “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

This chain of communication—sending, preaching, hearing, believing, calling, and being saved—is God's blueprint for spreading the gospel, and I am totally committed to it. The rub comes in understanding exactly what it means to "preach" the good news. The original Bible word for "preaching" means to cry out or to proclaim, conjuring up visions of someone announcing a message like a town-crier, stepping into the public square with fanfare, raising his voice for all to hear. But the original Bible word also describes the work of an ambassador, someone charged with the near sacred duty of passing on messages from the king. Ambassadors always sounding like town criers seems unimaginable, especially when situations call for more personal one-on-one interaction.

Whether town crier-like or not, preaching the gospel includes all of the basic elements found on any communication model: sender, sender-encoding, message, receiver-decoding, receiver, receiver-encoding, feedback, and sender-decoding. 

How any preacher of the gospel puts the model into practice is a matter of rhetorical philosophy. This is where things get interesting, since rhetorical philosophies have their differences, in regard to preaching the gospel the distinctions best represented by megaphones and funnels, rich metaphors for two broad categories of rhetorical philosophy. 

Communication megaphones are particularly useful for one-way communication; that is, for listener-targeted communication, communication flowing from senders to receivers, giving little emphasis to message decoding and feedback, the kind of communication represented by the top half of the basic communication model, the kind most people hold in their minds when they think of preaching the gospel. 

As listener-targeted communication devices, megaphones blast through background noise to gain the attention of an audience, while requiring speakers to stick with a single, efficiently-crafted single message. Wise communicators know that no one listens for long on the receiving end of megaphone communication. 

So communication megaphones (1) stress one-way, listener-targeted communication; (2) blast through background noise; (3) utilize single messages; and require (4) message efficiency. In my next post, I'll write about communication funnels, the second broad category of rhetorical philosophies connected to preaching the gospel. I'll also share more on why it's best to embrace both approaches, megaphones and funnels.

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Randal Gilmore