Most people can recall a time in grade school when they had to bring an item to school to show and explain it to class. The exercise was called “Show and Tell.” It was a drugging exercise for many students who did not want to speak in front of the class. Instead, they were content to show the item and let the others figure out the details on their own. Today, there are many Christians who take that same approach with sharing the gospel. They only want to show, not tell, and in so doing, they disobey the word of God (Orrell, 2019, par. 1). In Overhearing the Gospel, Fred Craddock (2002) leans on the model of Soren Kierkegaard, who used two styles of communication – direct and indirect. This short essay explores the application of direct and indirect forms of communication using both biblical and modern-day examples and how that model is vital to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The phrase “actions speak louder than words” is timeless and, more often than not, undeniably true. Fred Craddock (2002) shares that Kierkegaard viewed the direct method to convey data from one person to another. As for the indirect method, he considered that to be a means to elicit or prompt others to take a specific action (p. 70). Kierkegaard’s view is accurate when it comes to sharing the gospel, and it models how Jesus taught His disciples. In the book of John, the apostle John records the time when Jesus rose from dining at the table, laid His garments aside to then gird a towel around His waist, and He washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:3-5, New American Standard Bible). Jesus used indirect communication that exemplifies how His disciples are to love and help one another. Once Jesus finished, He asked His disciples, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; If I then, the Lord and Teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:12-14). In the example given, Jesus used both the method of direct and indirect communication, which is to say He took the time to both “show and tell.”
The use of indirect communication can be a powerful tool in marketing. For example, at one time, movie theaters would splice in a few frames of film that picture a beverage or a bucket of popcorn. The image flashed by so fast on the screen that moviegoers did not even notice, but their sub-conscience did, and concession sales increased. That form of indirect communication is known as a subliminal message. The pages of Hollywood history provide another excellent example from the 1960s. The science fiction series Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, told the adventurous stories of Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise. Roddenberry used the guise of science fiction to get around network censors so the show could address the social issues of that time. The episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” discussed the issue of racism. It featured two aliens who were half-white on one side of their bodies and black on the other. The two men violently hated each other because one of them was white on the left while the other was black on the left. The idea was a brilliant way to indirectly speak to the social issue of racism in the 1960s through the direct telling of a science fiction adventure.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus commands the disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). In so doing, we, those who are followers of Jesus Christ, must follow our Lord’s example to show and tell the gospel. In other words, we are to practice what we preach and live out the gospel, not with just our words but also through our actions. In other words, be what Terry Glaspey (1996) refers to when writing about C. S. Lewis, “The voice of truth” (p. 35). Andy Crouch refers to as More often than not, it is through the indirect communication of the gospel by the way we live and how we act that captures the interest of those who are seeking answers to questions the world cannot answer.
Coon, G. & Crawford, O. (Writers), Taylor, J. (Director). (1969, January 10). Let that be your last battlefield [Television series episode]. F. Freiberger (Executive producer), Star Trek. Los Angeles, CA: Desilu Productions.
Craddock, F. (2002). Overhearing the gospel. Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press.
Glaspey, T. (1996). The spiritual legacy of C. S. Lewis. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing, Inc.
Orrell, D. (2019, August 28). Show and tell [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://afaithfulsower .wordpress.com/2019/08/28/show-and-tell/.
A Faithful Sower Publishing is a limited liability company that is dedicated to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and help guide people into a relationship with God and grow in that relationship. The publisher, editors, and authors achieve that end through prayer and the careful exposition of the Bible to best explain and illustrate Scripture in a meaningful engaging way so others can apply its truths to their everyday life. The mission of the the A Faithful Sower ministry team is to carry out the Great Commission issued to all who choose to follow Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Jesus commands us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
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