the pastor's story file
a resource file for pastors/teachers/speakers
THEME: COMMUNICATION Number 4 — February / 1985
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION STRATEGY As the mother said goodbye to her son who was returning to school after spring vacation, she reminded him to write often. Another woman standing nearby heard the plea and gave this advice: "The surest way to get your son to write home is to send him a letter saying, 'Here's 50 dollars, spend it any way you like.'"
"And that will make my son write home?"
"Yes indeed. What you do is forget to enclose the money."
COMMUNICATION FLOW — WHICH DIRECTION? I recently have been reading Henry Trewhitt's McNamara: His Ordeal In The Pentagon (Harper and Row, 1971 pp. 12,13). In it I found this story which illustrates the problem Christ must have had with the establishment of his day who didn't understand the direction the real communication flow was to go. Trewhitt writes of the early days of McNamara at the Department of Defense:
At lower levels, McNamara sponsored a group of young intellectuals who ultimately caused more fuss than those at higher ranks. These were the "Whiz Kids," a term carried over from McNamara's own management group at Ford, so called because of their self-assured disrespect for tradition as they ranged happily among the sacred cows of the Pentagon. The group included Alain C. Enthoven, thirty, dark and intense, towering in both physique and intellect, an economist who earlier, at RAND, had specialized in strategy and strategic weapons.
Enthoven did not lack self-confidence, and one often told Pentagon story concerns an occasion when he visited U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Germany. He was met by an assortment of generals, with decades of accumulated experience and yards of ribbons. Enthoven, fresh-faced and youthful, listened with growing impatience as the number one general outlined plans for briefing the visitor. Finally Enthoven interrupted. "General," he said, "I don't think you understand. I didn't come for a briefing. I came to tell you what we have decided."
EMERGENCY NUMBER As my boss prepared to go on vacation in another state, I kiddingly asked him to leave a telephone number where we could reach him at least once a day. After he left, I found a note from him with a number we could call in case of problems. The number was local and unfamiliar to me, so I dialed it at once, it turned out to be Dial-a-Prayer.
Loretta Roberts, Reader's Digest
GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS There's a story that once a constituent wrote to President Harry Truman, asking the meaning of the Post Office motto: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
Truman replied: "It means they deliver the mail in the wintertime."
ENHANCED TRANSLATION NEEDED There is the story of an old missionary out in the field who needed an assistant. They sent him a young scholar with a Ph.D. in Theology. When he arrived, the young man had to speak to the natives through the old man because he didn't know the language yet. In his first talk to these simple but wonderful people, the young man delved deep into his learning and said: "Truth is absolute and
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relative. The Gospel is absolute truth but its application is relative to immediate needs." When the old missionary heard this, a frown came over his face for a moment. Then he arose to translate and said: "He says he's glad to be here."
Sunday Sermons Treasure of Illustrations, Vol. I, James Colaianni, page 90,
#179. (Voicings Publications, 1982)
COMMERCIAL COMMUNICATION In the first twenty years of an American kid's life, he or she will see something approaching one million television commercials at the rate of about a thousand a week. This makes the TV commercial the most voluminous information source in the education of your child. These commercials are about products only in the sense that the story of Jonah is about the anatomy of whales.
A commercial teaches a child three interesting things. The first is that all problems are resolvable. The second is that all problems are resolvable fast. And the third is that all problems are resolvable fast through the agency of some technology. It may be a drug. It may be a detergent. It may be an airplane or some piece of machinery, like an automobile or computer. The essential message is that the problems that beset people — whether it is lack of self-confidence or boredom or even money problems -- are entirely solvable if only we will allow ourselves to be ministered to by a technology. . . Commercials teach these important themes through parables. Repeatedly, the parable is structured in the same way. The problem is stated: then, in eight to ten seconds, the middle part comes, which is Hawaii or a new car. Then there's a moral. The moral is nailed down at the end, where we are shown what happens if a person follows this advice. And the actor, of course is usually ecstatic. One has simply got to wonder what the effects are on a young adult who has seen a million of these little vignettes. One has to ask, "What is being taught?"
Neil Postman, NYU, from interview in US News & World Report, January 19, 1981 as
reported in Christian Communication Laboratory.
FACE THE FACTS BOLDLY An Englishman went abroad leaving his much loved dog and servant home. While away, the man received a cablegram from the servant with the message, "Your dog died." The man was most distraught both at the news and the abrupt manner it was sent. Upon returning home he upbraided the servant for not breaking the news to him more gently. Confused, the servant asked his master how such news could have been delivered more gently. The man said he could have sent a first cable saying, "Your dog is stuck on the roof." This could be followed the next day with the message, "Your dog fell from the roof and is doing poorly." Later a third message could have said, "Your beloved dog has gone to his eternal reward."
Some time afterwards, the man went abroad again. While there, he received a cable from his servant, "Your mother is stuck on the roof."
This story was told by Sister Rhoda, Society of St. Margaret. Submitted by Wade
Renn, Grace Church, Nutley, New Jersey.
NAMES I went to a restaurant one day recently wearing a shirt with the designer's signature on the right sleeve. As I stood in line to wait for a table, an elderly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. Pointing to the label, he said, "Nice name."
Then, in a curious tone, he asked, "What do you call your other arm?" Melissa Francis of Tampa, Florida. Reader's Digest
Copyright 1985 by Saratoga Press. Third-Class postage paid at Saratoga, CA. Published 12 times per year, monthly, for $24.95 (US$) per year. Subscriptions to foreign countries — $30.95 in US$ or equivalent value. Postmaster, please send address changes to The Pastor's Story File c/o Saratoga press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, CA 95070. PHONE (408) 867 4211
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CLARIFYING THE MESSAGE From a father's letter to a son in college: "Am enclosing $10 as you requested in your letter. Incidentally, $10 is spelled with one zero, not two."
FORCEFUL PERSUASION Suppose most folks at one time or another have shuffled through their mail and have dropped certain pieces into the wastebasket unopened. It isn't a very recommendable practice, because something important could accidentally be discarded.
Take for instance the time I mistook an envelope containing a car title for an offer to buy seatcovers or some such nonsense. Oooh! I don't ever want to go through that replacement rigmarole again.
Don Boell, Mason City engineer, waterworks superintendent, chief of sanitation and snowmobile jockey, is apt to drop unopened mail into the round file.
He dropped a piece last week but retrieved it quickly when he spotted this notation on the side of the envelope: WARNING-If you throw this into your wastebasket unopened, a capsule of water inside will break, spilling onto a dehydrated boa constrictor. He will then crawl out of the envelope and CRUSH YOU TO DEATH.
Couldn't help but notice the envelope had been opened.
"Well," remarked Boell, "wouldn't you have opened it?"
From Mason City, Iowa GLOBE GAZETTE. Submitted by Pastor Schoepf of the Baptist Church, Storden, Minnesota.
DOUBLE MESSAGE A young woman quickly signed for a library book, the title page of which read: HOW — To Reach Men, How — To Hold Men, How — To Win Men, How — It Has Been Done. When she got home and examined the fine print at the bottom of the page, she read: A__Manual of Useful Information on How to Build a Men's Bible Class.
Leo Aikman in Atlanta Constitution Submitted by Pastor Al Reutter. A special thanks to Al Reutter who contributed a number of items we've used this month. He'll get an extra four months extension to his subscription for each item used.
COMMUNICATION DETERIORATION A school superintendent told his assistant superintendent the following: "Next Thursday at 10:30 a.m., Haley's Comet will appear over this area. This is an event which occurs only once every 75 years. Call the school principals and have them assemble their teachers and classes on their athletic fields and explain this phenomenon to them. If it rains, then cancel the day's observation and have the classes meet in the auditorium to see a film about the comet."
Assistant superintendent to school principals: "By order of the superintendent of schools, next Thursday at 10:30 Haley's Comet will appear over your athletic field. If it rains, then cancel the day's classes and report to the auditorium with your teachers and students where you will be shown films, a phenomenal event which occurs only once every 75 years."
Principals to teachers: iSBy order of the phenomenal superintendent of schools, at 10:30 next Thursday Haley's Comet will appear in the auditorium, in case of rain over the athletic fie"d; the superintendent will give another order — something which occurs only once every 75 years."
Teachers to students: "Next Thursday at 10:30 the superintendent of schools will appear in our school auditorium with Haley's Comet? something which occurs once every 75 years,, If it rains, the superintendent will cancel the comet and will order us out to our phenomenal athletic field."
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Students to parents: "When it rains next Thursday at 10:30 over the school athletic field, the phenomenal 75-year-old superintendent of schools will cancel all classes and appear before the school in the auditorium accompanied by Bill Haley and The Comets."
Submitted by Pastor Al Reutter? San Jose, California.
COMMUNICATION WITH KIDS One day while living in Louisville, KY and serving as a student pastor of a small church in the county, our daughter, Pam, who was only three at the time, was playing with the two children next door. They were of the Catholic faith and had obviously been talking about their priest. Their mother walked up on them just in time to hear Pam ask, "Just who do you keep calling 'Father' all the time?" She knew they didn't mean their Daddy.
Then the mother chimed in so as to shed some light on the conversation, "You see, Pam, we call our preacher, Father."
Not to be outdone, Pam simply replied, "Huh, that's nothin1, so do we!"
On another occasion, we were riding along with this same lady and her children and Pam in the back seat. I had previously lectured Pam on proper English, explaining that she was never to say, "I don't have none," but rather, "I don't have any."
We had gotten no more than five blocks from the house when Pam pointed out two Catholic Nuns and clearly shouted, "Oh, Daddy, look at the 'ennies.'"
Totally embarassed and wondering what our neighbor lady must be thinking, I quickly replied, "They're not 'ennies,1 Pam. They're Nuns."
She curtly answered, "Well, Daddy, make up your mind."
Submitted by Fred D. Musser, The Tabernacle, Lawrencevilie, Georgia.
CLEAR COMMUNICATION The phone rang at 3 a.m. at the home of the local librarian. At the other end of the phone, the voice asked, "What time does the library open?"
Disgustedly, the librarian retorted, "It doesn't open until 9 a.m. Why in the world would you be calling at this hour to get in the library?"
"Get in?" said the little boy at the other end of the conversation. "I don't want to get in, I want to get out!"
Ben Merold, Minister of First Christian Church in Fullerton, California.
Submitted Pastor Bret G. Nealis of Kirklin, Indiana.
COMMUNICATING LOVE Ole and Olga lived on a farm in Iowa. Olga was living on a starvation diet of affection. Ole never gave her any signs of love, and Olga's need to be appreciated went unfulfilled. At her wit's end, Olga blurted out, "Ole, why don't you ever tell me that you love me?" Ole stoically responded, "Olga, when we were married I told you that I loved you, and if I ever change my mind, I'll let you know."
That is not enough. Daily we need to express our love for one another just as God does for us daily in His Son Jesus Christ. Love is new each day.
From 40 Ways to Say I Love You, James Bjorge. Submitted by Pastor Vernal G.
Anderson of St. Matthew's Bethany Parish of Evan, Minnesota.
WORLD SERIES The Minnesota Twins' 1980 program explains the game of baseball: You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
Each man that's on the side that's in goes out and when he's out he comes in and the
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next man goes in until he's out.
When three men are out the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out.
Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When both sides have been in and out nine times including the not outs, that's the end of the game.
Submitted by Pastor David C. Newhart of St. Peter's Lutheran Church of
A TURN OF PHRASE The following story is from Bruce Larson's commentary on Luke from The Communicator's Commentary, p. 250.
I heard about two children who studied the story of Lot's wife in Sunday school and were discussing it.
"Do you believe that story about Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt?" asked one.
"Sure, I believe it," said the other. "My mother went out driving the other day and she looked back and turned into a telephone pole."
Submitted by Rev. Robert D. Smith of First Presbyterian Church in Badin, North
COMMUNICATION AND CRIME Peter Drucker, often called the "father of American Management," claims that sixty percent of all management problems are a result of faulty communications. A leading marriage counselor says that at least half of all divorces result from faulty communications between spouses. And criminologists tell us that upwards of ninety percent of all criminals have difficulty communicating with other people.
Nido Qubein, quoted in Christian Communication Laboratory
COMMUNICATION FEEDBACK William Barclay, world-famed Scottish Bible scholar who died in February 1978, claimed that his unique ability to communicate the Gospel was due to an old Scot lady who lived alone in an humble house when he was a minister of Trinity Church, Renfrew. During her illness one winter, Barclay visited her regularly until she recovered.
On his last visit, she remonstrated, "When you've been here, talking to me, and sometimes putting up a wee prayer, it's been grand and I've understood every word you said. But man, when you're in yon pulpit on the Sabbath, you're awa' o'er ma head!" From Christian Communication Laboratory
BIG BUCKS COMMUNICATIONS I recently read William Meyer's new book, The Image Makers: Power and Persuasion on Madison Avenue (Times Books, 1984, pages 79-82). In it he tells the stories behind many of the large budget advertising wars in which modern giant corporations endeavor to communicate the message of their product with greater zeal and effectiveness than that of their competitors:
Back in the 70's Pepsi was going to come out with one of it's biggest "warm-fuzzy, tear-jerker" campaigns — the "Marry Me, Sue" spot.
In this 30-second soap opera, folks from a prairie town are out under the broiling midday sun watching a skywriting show. Among the spectators is a cowboy and a young woman. As the camera pans the crowd (drinking Pepsi), we notice that these two are exchanging shy glances at one another. There's definitely something going on between them. The viewer is then shown some of the skywriting and more shots of the
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perspiring audience drinking Pepsi. Finally, the camera scans the heavens where the skywriters ultimate message — "Marry Me, Sue: — takes form. Sue, with tears welling up in her eyes, nods her head. The cowboy reaches over and hugs her. The them music, which has been playing throughout this half-minute, suddenly builds to a crescendo.
But meanwhile, over at Coca Cola, they had a six-months advance warning of this impending campaign for Pepsi. They told their ad agency they had to come up a equally mushy and moving commercial to beat Pepsi to the punch, or lose a $750 million world-wide account. Coke's agency worked around the clock for several weeks and came up with the famous Mean Joe Greene commercial where he is offered a coke by a little kid and he downs it all in one long gulp. Coke and a little kid have brought Mean Joe Greene back to the land of the living — and then Joe tosses the kid his jersey.
The cola wars continue. In 1983 Pepsi spent nearly $300 million on promoting the "Now" theme. Coca Cola laid out close to $400 million to tell us that "Coke Is It."
Don't tell Coke or Pepsi that the quality of communication isn't important. Together they've bet $700 million in just one year that it makes a big difference. What are we willing to do to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ?
VALS According to William Meyers in The Image Makers, Madison Avenue's most widely used categorization of people in our society is that suggested by SRI International's VALS (Values and Life-Styles). This divides people into five basic groups, as follows:
BELONGERS: The typical traditionalist, the cautious and conforming conservative. Archie Bunker is a Belongerj he believes in God, country, and family. These are those who are the staunch defenders of the status quo (33% of the population).
EMULATORS: Not so set in their ways, a small but impressionable group of young people in desperate search of an identity and a place in the adult working world. They will do almost anything to fit in. They lack self-confidence and are discouraged about their prospects. They are into hedonism, and finding solutions to their postadolescent dilemmas (about 15% of the population).
EMULATOR-ACHIEVERS: America's materialists, have it made already — own a Mercedes, drink Dom Perignon, shop at Tiffany's or Gucci's. They are a bit frustrated, just below the top rung on the ladder. Though affluent, they are somewhat dissatisfied (20% of the population).
SOCIETALLY CONSCIOUS ACHIEVERS: These are the flower children of America's consumer culture. Baby-boomers, they care more about inner peace and environmental safety than about financial success and elegant surroundings. They are looking for personal, not necessarily professional fulfillment. They will try things from Zen to acupuncture. These are the gradually graying hippies. They shop for their clothes by mail from L.L. Bean, and have dropped out of the commercial rat-race to run an antique store. They have organic gardens and they hike in the woods. They are Madison Avenue's toughest challenge (20% of the population).
NEED-DIRECTED: These are the survivors, those who barely subsist on low incomes. They are on welfare and/or earn minimum wages. Ad Alley ignores them because they don't have much in the way of disposable income (15% of the population).
Meyer says that if you are going to communicate in the 20th century —■ you need to know what kind of group you are trying to get through to.
THE POWER OF PRAYER The board of deacons was being briefed on techniques for making church calls. One newly elected member was obviously timid about her
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responsibilities. The pastor hoped to encourage her by stressing the power of prayer. "You'll find it helpful, before you make the call, to spend a few moments talking to God about it," he said.
When the deacons met later to report, the timid one waylaid the pastor and said enthusiastically, "Oh, thank you for what you said about prayer. I tried it when I went out on my call, and it works."
"I'm glad to hear that," beamed the pastor. "Tell us what happened." She replied, "Well, I prayed the people wouldn't be home, and they weren't."
Presbyterian Life Submitted by Al Reutter, San Jose, California.
UNIQUE LOVE COMMUNICATIONS The following item was sent in by Dick Underdahl-Peirce, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Cottage Grove, Minnesota. It is similar in kind to Chapter 15 in Erma Bombeck's Motherhood The Second Oldest Profession.
Dear First Born: I've always loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage and the fulfillment of young love. You sustained us through the hamburger years, the first apartment (furnished in Early Poverty), our first mode of transportation (1955 Feet) and the 7-inch TV we paid on for 36 months. You were new, had unused grandparents, and enough clothes for a set of triplets. You were the original model for a mom and a dad who were trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb, the open safety pins and three-hour naps. You were the beginning.
Dear Middle-Child: I've always loved you best because you drew a tough spot in the family and it made you stronger for it. You cried less, had more patience, wore faded hand-me-downs and never in your life did anything first. But it only made you more special. You were the one we relaxed with and realized a dog could kiss you and you wouldn't get sick. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married. And you helped us understand that the world wouldn't collapse if you went to bed with dirty feet. You were the child of our busy, ambitious years, without you we never could have survived the job changes and the tedium and routine that is marriage.
To the Baby: I've always loved you best because, while endings are generally sad, you are such a joy. You readily accepted the milk-stained bibs, the lower bunk, the cracked baseball bat, the baby book that had nothing written in it except a recipe for graham-cracker piecrust that someone had jammed between the pages. You are the one we held onto so tightly. You are the link with our past, a reason for tomorrow. You darken our hair, quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision and give us a sense of humor that security, maturity and durability can't provide. When your hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your own children tower over you, you will still be our baby. A Mother
IT'S ALL IN HOW YOU ASK A Jesuit and Dominican priest who had been boyhood friends having gone to school together, then went into priesthood in their respective orders at the the same time. Determined to stay in contact with each other, they met once a month. At one such meeting, they were discussing whether their respective superiors would allow them to smoke while they were meditating. They met a month later, and the Jesuit asked the Dominican how he came out. The Dominican said that his superior said absolutely not! The Jesuit said that he had received a positive response. The Dominican asked the Jesuit how that could be, especially since the Jesuit order was believed to be the more rigid order. "Well, the Jesuit said - I asked if I could smoke while I was meditating, and my superior said, absolutely not!" "That's where you made your mistake," said the Dominican, "I simply asked my superior if I could meditate while smoking - and my superior said, well, yes, I suppose you could."
Submitted by Rev. Wilbur Mandigo of the Lakeport Christian Center, Lakeport, CA
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THE DIFFICULTY IN COMMUNICATING ABOUT LOVE Lucy says to Charlie Brown: "You know what I don't understand? I don't understand love!" He says, "Who does?" She says, "Explain love to me, Charlie Brown." He says, "You can't explain love. I can recommend a book or a poem or a painting, but I can't explain love." She says, "Well, try, Charlie Brown, try." Charlie says, "Well, let's say I see this beautiful, cute little girl walk by." Lucy interrupts — "Why does she have to be cute? Huh? why can't someone fall in love with someone with freckles and a big nose? Explain that!" Charlie: "Well, maybe you are right. Let's just say I see this girl walk by with this great big nose ..." Lucy: "I didn't say GREAT BIG NOSE." Charlie: "You not only can't, explain love, you can't even talk about it."
Submitted by Rick Hardison, Tabernacle Church of Norfolk, Virginia.
COMMUNICATING DELICATE TRUTH TO TENDER EARS Each week a New York youngster would bring home from Sunday School an illustrated card that dramatized one of the Ten Commandments. The first week showed people worshipping at church. Another week, to illustrate "Thou Shalt not kill," the picture showed Cain in the act of slaying Abel.
The child's father reports: "I waited with considerable alarm for the seventh week. But fortunately, tact and delicacy prevailed. Under the caption, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' was a picture of a dairyman, leering villainously, as he poured a huge pail of water into a can of milk."
Submitted by R. J. Strand of Grand Junction, Colorado
COMMUNICATING TRUTH THROUGH THE FAMILY TREE A Sunday School teacher asked a group of children in her class, "Why do you believe in God?" In reporting some of the answers, the teacher confessed that the one she liked best came from a boy who said, "I don't know, unless it's something that runs in the family."
Submitted by Dick Underdahl-Peirce, Cottage Grove, Minnesota
COMMUNICATING PERSPECTIVE They tell us that the following prayer was offered by Dr. Blake Smith before a football game in Texas:
"In Thy presence we know that no issues of great importance are going to be settled here this afternoon. No souls are going to be lost or saved by the official figures on the Scoreboard. No great cause is at stake. It is one of those pleasures which Thou hast meant for Thy children to enjoy. Do not let us spoil it by forgetting that it is just a game to be enjoyed today, talked about tomorrow, and forgotten the day afterward. Amen"