These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. (Prov. 6:16-17 KJV)
Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18 KJV)
Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. (Jer. 9:23, 24, KJV)
Most of this book is filled with encouragements—but this entry is a caution. It is a warning about pride, which C.S. Lewis described as “the essential vice, the utmost evil.”
Why, you may wonder, would I be talking about the sin of pride to church communicators? Outside the reality that all of us are capable of any sin at any time, in most instances, in the church, especially small and medium size churches, I’ve seldom seen pride as a danger in church communications. For an overworked church secretary or administrative assistant, for the pastor of a church too small or poor to afford paid help, for the volunteer putting together a flyer or Facebook site for the youth group at the end of a long day—most often these valiant workers are so aware of their limitations in communication production that pride is seldom a temptation.
A new type of church communicator creates new dangers
But the advent of the computer, the growth in skills and tools available for creating church communications, and the development of larger churches, have created a new type of church communicator: the “professional.” Sometimes the professional works at the church; sometimes it is a person hired at an outside design firm, or a design or PR professional who volunteers as a consultant. Though many wonderful people work in these positions, I have found this is often the person who is in danger of what Lewis describes as the heart of the matter of pride where he says: “Pride is essentially competitive….Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”
Those in danger of pride in the work of church communications are those who seem to believe that because of their professional or technical expertise, their computer savvy, or the kind of computer they have and the software they use that somehow, those things make them a better church communicator. I have seen it at times in my seminars—the superior look, the knowing smile, the patronizing dismissal of any suggestion that does not involve high-end software or advanced graphic arts techniques—and it always saddens me. Usually that look is followed at the break by the bestowing upon me of some admittedly often gorgeous samples.
That the samples look great (from an earthly design standard) isn’t at question, but I when I ask, “How are people responding?” I often get a blank stare. I repeat, I’m not asking if your audience thinks these pieces are beautiful or not, obviously you’ve got that covered—but the only two criteria that count in church communications are:
#1 Are people coming to know Jesus as Savior?
#2 Are they growing in their Christian lives?
Again, I ask, “Are these two essential purposes of church communications being accomplished by your work?” Often these questions are answered by silence.
It does not take extravagant design or production to make significant spiritual impact
A simple postcard, sent out regularly and with a repeated email to remind young Christians to come to a discipleship Bible study, perhaps one with few or simple graphics, but a verse added for encouragement, can accomplish measurable, eternal results. So can a gorgeous bulletin if it moves people to the next step of coming to know Jesus or of Christian maturity. It’s the response, not only the look, which matters most in church communications.
I never heard anyone, when giving their testimony of how they got saved said something like, “It was the typeface that drew me to Jesus” or “Their use of white space was so impressive, I knew their God had to be fantastic.” Great graphic design is a good thing, please don’t misunderstand me, but it is not the most important thing.
Meeting needs is what makes the most effective church communications
People respond to church communications that meet needs. Meeting people’s needs is always the most important thing, not how great something looks or what it cost to produce the piece. Often, in the church we don’t have the time or money to always create gorgeous, perfect publications. Things go out with typos because there wasn’t anybody around to proof it and if we didn’t get it out, people wouldn’t know about an event in time. Volunteers might create a flyer that is flat-out ugly to a professional designer, but if it is the only thing the church has time to produce and if it lets lonely, fearful people know the church loves them and offers programs that meet their needs, we need to learn to be thankful for the volunteer and put aside our pride on the “quality” we wish we could always produce.
The bottom line is we have no reason for pride in our communication products, no matter how they look or don’t look—because it is only by the gracious hand of our Lord, not by how impressive our software or our graphic design quality, that people respond and that lives are changed. Remember he, who could at any time command the stones to praise him, can use anything to accomplish his message, whether we use MS Publisher or Adobe Creative Suite; PCs or Macs, Facebook or Instagram. It is never our tools, but our heart, that is most important to Jesus in accomplishing his work.
If he graciously allows us to be in the ministry of church communications, pride can never be a part of our work. Doing our work with an attitude God hates, will never result in communication pieces he can bless.
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20, NIV) Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing. (Luke 10:20b MSG)
Note: the above introduction is from the book, Devotions for Church Communicators by Yvon Prehn, Each week I’ll share the weekly devotion from the book on this site. Sign up for our email newsletter so you will receive automatic notification of them.
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