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God the Communicator

By Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad

The God of the Bible is the God who communicates with the human being. As Johannes Henrici points out: ‘Communication is deeply rooted in God’s nature and it is this nature he imparted to humanity when he created us in his own image (Ref.1)

Communication is a God-given capability given to the created human being and is “the only way to be fully human” (Ref.2). In principle, to be a human is to be a communicator.  Communication – the ability to express oneself – remains God’s gift to humanity.

This basic understanding of communication as a result of God’s creating act in history deepens our understanding of God’s own desire for a relationship with His created beings. God wants us to communicate with Him and He with us. Throughout history, as reported in the Bible, we can see how God has communicated through His prophets and then through His Son and how He calls us to respond. Hearing the Good News, living by it and witnessing to it, is the basic calling for all Christians.

The reformer Martin Luther underlines this fundamental link between creation and communication: “he claims that to be created in God’s image has to do with relationship and communication …That means I am created for dialogue: God’s communication with me takes the form of a conversation. This is the basic theme in all of Scripture: God is continually seeking man (sic) out to talk with him, from the story of Eden until the proclamation of the new heavens and the new earth. In the same way the concept of covenant is based on two-way communication” (Ref.3).

God moves into the receptor’s frame of reference, namely, the culture and the language. “He goes beyond the predictable and the stereotype in his communicative efforts” (Ref.4). He uses the language and thought patterns of those with whom He speaks.

I have been a journalist in mainstream media for more than 30 years. I do think journalists oftentimes in a special way can understand the issue of Gods passion for communication. News reports, articles, presentations or audio/video programs demand a lot of work and oftentimes becomes a “baby” for many journalists. There is an act of “creation” in the very process of communicating a message, directing a program or writing a story.

God has revealed His passionate heart by choosing a significant method of communication, namely incarnation. The almighty, supreme God is really a “God who bends down and, lowering himself, speaks that we might hear and understand This ‘bending down’ means that all God’s communications are incarnational: God reveals Himself in and through the ordinary situations of human life…. And that leads us into history and culture, into created life as well as its vulnerability and brokennes.” (Ref.5).

God’s heartfelt desire to communicate His eternal message of love and redemption has profound consequences for the basic understanding of every Christian’s calling to communicate – in any way possible – the good news of salvation. We are called to be “ambassadors of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul’s life and work are significantly marked by his skills as a highly effective and successful communicator. Paul’s success as a communicator not only in preaching and teaching the gospel, but also in manifesting the truth in daily life brought him into persecution, imprisonment and torture. His methods were dynamic, focused, pastoral and passionate. The apostle related to the needs of people in a particular place and situation. He never lost track of the essential message, the gospel.

All of this comes together in the fact that Paul lived out a holistic theology in his ministry. “Paul showed in many ways and in various situations that he was concerned with people in their total life, and with the effect that the gospel could have on the whole of life. He was, before everything else, the evangelist, calling for the heart and mind to be put right with God. … practical application of Christian truth was more important to Paul than apprehension of all the content” (Ref.6).

Communicating the gospel in today’s world also needs to be carried out in a holistic way, with an evangelistic focus, and a pastoral heart authentically caring for people to be reconciled with God. As Christians the Lord Jesus has commissioned us to be his communicators. Our task is to communicate the good news about Jesus Christ in any way possible to every human being (Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21). This task was given both to the Church as a whole and to every Christian, to the craftsman as well as the journalist.

This understanding of every Christian as a communicator is based upon God as the Creator of the universe. Yet, it is organically woven together with our commission to share the good news of the gospel with other people. Dr. Charles Kraft reminds us “the messenger himself/herself is the major component of the total message. … We are a major part of the message that we seek to communicate.”

(Ref.7). Our challenge is to “embody Christ” in our lives, so that not only our words but also our deeds may converge into a holistic testimony of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In other words, our testimony is our story, our life is our story, and our story must be woven together with God’s story. Dr. Leighton Ford has pointed out, the story of God “… goes on forever, weaving its way through countless human lives, countless human stories. We are all part of that great narrative, as we join our stories to His. And we expand that narrative as we call others to join their stories to His” (Ref.8).

The heart of all communication is that it takes place in a person-to-person encounter. It is never only a ‘transmission’ of messages. Communication is to be involved, and must “result in Christ becoming flesh and blood in ever new settings. It is the very nature of the Good News that it will sound differently in Addis Ababa and in London, because it is the Good News about the Word that became a human being. The gospel is the same, but its form will differ according to the situation (Ref.9)

This “holistic” and “organic” view of every Christian as a communicator and inevitably a “missionary” is a result of “the two mandates of creation and mission.” Dr. Vinay Samuel writes, “As humans made in God’s image we are empowered with stewardly responsibility for the earth and for the gospel of the kingdom. It is in the exercise of that stewardship we affirm our identity as God’s children and also fulfil our humanity.” (Ref.10).

Yet, we need to keep in mind that communication is an intrinsic part of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some comments have already been made, but let us just note also how God in the Old Testament uses signs to remind His people about the relationship and the covenant: the rainbow for Noah, the blood on the doorframe at Passover, the circumcision to set apart Abraham’s descendants.

Jesus Christ is proclaimed as the essence of communication. He is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-14

Again, we need to keep in mind a holistic approach: Jesus is not only the spoken Word, but the Word in action. The Kingdom of God is near, He said – and it truly was and is today, through the Holy Spirit. Not only because Jesus Himself was dwelling among us, proclaiming the gospel, but equally so because He acted to heal, feed, comfort and even restore to life.

The Holy Spirit is the Communicator as well. The Bible calls Him “the Counsellor” and “the Spirit of truth” who will convince of sin and “guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

Even more so, to enable us to carry out the task of communicating the Gospel, we have been promised the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that can change the Babel of confusion into the Pentecost of genuine understanding. Martin Luther is taking this even further when he explains the 3rd Article of faith in this way: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” (Ref.11).

Our challenge is to work in the power of the Holy Spirit to reach out to the human heart. We are called to be Spirit-filled communicators linking our personal stories to God’s ongoing story in this world. We are called to be humble, honest and transparent communicators always ready to listen, to answer questions and to share the most important story ever told – the real story of our Lord Jesus Christ that can change a life – forever.

END NOTES

REF 1 Johannes Henrici, “Towards an Anthropological Philosophy of

Communication.” Communication Resource. March 1983. 1.

REF 2 Viggo Søgaard, Research In Church and Mission, Pasadena, CA: William

Carey Library, 1996, 11.

REF 3 Knud Jørgensen, “Christian Communication: Remote Control or

Incarnation?” World Evangelization. December 1996/January 1997, 5.

REF 4 Charles Kraft, Communicating the Gospel God’s Way, William Carey

Library, Pasadena, CA, 1983, 11.

REF 5 Jørgensen, ibid.

REF 6 Dean S. Gilliland, Pauline Theology & Mission Practice, Grand Rapids, MI:

Baker Book House, 1983, 15.

REF 7 Kraft, ibid., 31.

REF 8. Leighton Ford, The Power of Story. Rediscovering the Oldest, Most

Natural Way to Reach People for Christ, NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 1994, 179.

REF 9 Jørgensen, ibid., 7.

REF 10. Vinay Samuel, “Journalism and the Two Mandates: The news profession

as vocation. The role of journalism in creation and mission.” Available at

http://www.gegrapha.org/VinaySamuel.asp

REF 11. Martin Luther’s explanation to the 3rd article of faith. Available at

http://cat41.org/WhoWhat/Confessions/SC.htm

2 Responses to “God the Communicator”

  1. God the Communicator Says:

    [...] post is a personal response to God the Communicator by Arne H. Fjeldstad. All quotations are taken from the article. All commentary is the personal [...]

  2. God the Communicator « Shawn Shipman's Blog Says:

    [...] is a great article and I would like to encourage you to read it.  The article can be found at http://www.ocrpl.org/?p=20.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Below is my essay on this article.  [...]

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