Content-Controlling Communication

I have been reading an excellent article by J.I. Packer called “The Gospel–It’s Content and Communication: A Theological Perspective” from volume 2 of the Collected Shorter Writings of J.I. Packer (Serving the People of God).  His first point is that

“the content of the Gospel must always control the method of its communication, and that we must judge the value of the various techniques proposed for use of evangelism by asking how far they can and do succeed in getting the message across” (215).

In a day where people say that “we don’t change the message, just the method,” this is a salient point by Packer.  The message in many ways controls (regulates?) the method of our communication.  For many years we have adopted the pragmatic measurement that if it works, then we must do it.  However, Packer is calling us back to the real question we must be asking, namely whether our method or technique succeeds in honoring the message and faithfully communicates that message across to the hearers.  In other words, faithfulness to the gospel message is what should matter, not pragmatic success of the method.

Does that mean that we do not care about whether the evangelism we practice results in the conversion of sinners?  Of course not.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and if people are going to be converted, it will not be because of the slickness of our presentation but in the power of God.  It will not be because of the effectiveness of a technique or method but faithfulness to the gospel message that God honors by attending it with His Spirit to give new life to sinners.

This is a good reminder for us today.  We need to seek to be effective communicators of the gospel to reach as many as we can for the glory of Christ, but the way in which we do this is not to seek a new method but an old message and stay faithful to it.  Both old methods and new methods can work contrary to the gospel, and we need to apply the same standard to all that we do in the name of evangelism–that is, are we being faithful in communicating the message of the gospel?

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One Comment on “Content-Controlling Communication”

  1. kplunk Says:

    Great word, brother.


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