Vol.XVIII No.VI Pg.2
August 1981

Play Up The Truth

Robert F. Turner

We were talking about audience contact, and one preacher said he disliked even a speaker's stand between himself and the hearers. Various ones contributed to the thought: elevate the speaker, put a railing between him and the audience, hide him behind a huge, ornate lectern — and you create an "ex cathedra" atmosphere, as if the speaker had some official authority to "hand down" a decree.

A retired military man told how he had been taught to come from behind his officer's desk when he needed a more personal contact with his men; and a business executive agreed — but added that he stayed behind his desk to conduct official company business, or to ward off salesmen.

Teachers discussed the difference in the atmosphere of a class seated in a deep narrow row of chairs, or in a shallow semi-circle about the instructor, or all sitting at a table. Several personal workers reported the importance of sitting at the kitchen table, with a very small group. I recalled "rap" sessions with students, all of us seated on the floor. I was less "the preacher" and more one of them. We were hammering home the mechanics of "getting close" to our students or prospective converts.

But "mechanics" are far from the whole story, and cannot teach any part of gospel truth. In fact, they can be used almost as an "end." We may get very close by holding hands, dimming the lights, having periods of silence, singing or praying softly, speaking some phrases in unison — and when the emotions are sufficiently activated, you may encourage someone to "speak in tongues." People can be manipulated by circumstances that play up the emotions, and play down cool, objective use of the intellect.

Some may say, "Preachers must manipulate people, or they could make no converts." Maybe that's why I do not baptize a lot of people, but I understand people must be taught, before they can come to God Jn. 6:45). Circumstances that establish better rapport between teacher and student and thus contribute to the teaching and learning processes are good. But we must judge the process by its true end — a properly taught, obedient person. Genuine humility will produce a certain informality — no "stuffed shirt" atmosphere; but genuine respect for God's word, worship, etc., will also produce limits to that informality. Large public gatherings cannot be conducted in the same way one might conduct a "kitchen table" study. And at no times should mechanics take the place of spiritual goals!