TWO THINGS EVERY COMMUNICATOR NEEDS TO KNOW
I shared a post a few weeks ago about my time at the SALT Conference. Joey Santos and I had the privilege to speak to a group of people about our online campus and the effects that is having on culture. The conference was all about the behind-the-scenes skills and strategies that make many church worship services work. The audience was mainly sound and light and video technicians, web experts, and other unseen workers from their churches’ worship teams. As one speaker told them, “You’re the ones who bring flavor” to the Sunday-morning experience.
That may explain the title for the conference: SALT.
It also sets the stage for two lessons illustrated to me as I attended SALT October 10-12 this year. And the lessons don’t have anything to do with technology, which is the main emphasis of SALT. Instead, what I experienced there led me to two personal reflections about my task as a communicator of the gospel.
1. Know Your Audience
“This is a group of introverts,” the conference director explained to leaders before they took the platform. He pointed out that most SALT attendees are unnoticed, even invisible, to the worshippers at their congregations. “Don’t expect the same reaction from this crowd you might receive in a typical conference or worship gathering.”
So when it was my time to speak I looked for ways to engage them. I asked questions and asked for a show of hands. I used humor, but I didn’t expect loud laughter. A chuckle was good enough.
The experience reminded me of how easy it is for the speaker to think first of himself. How do I look? Will my opening illustration get a reaction? Do I understand the Scripture I’m explaining? None of that’s bad, of course, but it’s easy to think of every audience as a generic blob of humanity just like any other audience. It’s easy to be absorbed with what I’m doing and to forget the particulars of how they might perceive it. I was glad for the reminder to think first about my audience anytime I stand to speak
2. Know Yourself
Matt Redman led worship this year at SALT, and I was impressed—but not because he tried to be impressive.
I recognized him the first morning he appeared for his sound check. He stood at the mic and sang through a few bars and then he was finished. “We’re good,” he said. It took maybe 10 minutes, not the hour I’ve seen some Christian artists require as they’ve demanded the sound person to endlessly readjust the settings.
I watched him in the green room before the session started. He gave 100 percent of his attention to each one who spoke to him, as though they were the most important person in the room. I never saw him avert his gaze to glance over their shoulder, looking to see if someone more important had come in. I call this the “Green Room Effect.” It is the moment in any large room where the person you are talking too is continually looking over your shoulder to see if someone more important than you just walked in. That is usually followed by a quick wrap up of your conversation so they can move on to the “more important” person.
I listened as he led worship. Here’s a guy with a long list of recorded hits, a major contributor to the worship music of the last decade. He’s won 10 Dove Awards, 2 Grammies, and received the Billboard Music Award for the top Christian song in 2013. But he didn’t use one of his own songs in his worship set. He didn’t mention his latest album. He didn’t have a table of CDs to sell at the back of the room.
He introduced one song, that I can’t seem to remember the title of, by telling the story of a group of Christians facing a firing squad in a hostile land. In unity they sang the song as their executioners were aiming their rifles, he said. “I know you are on the front lines of Christian service, and sometimes you feel like you’re facing the Enemy, too,” he told them. “As we sing this song, know that God is with you even as he was with those persecuted Christians.”
He followed the first rule I mentioned above, “Know Your Audience.” And it was also clear he knew himself.
All of us are nothing without God. Each of us successfully serves him only as he blesses and guides and sustains. If it’s true for a guy who could be seen as a Christian celebrity, it’s certainly true for me.
Facing that fact again was the greatest blessing of the SALT Conference for me. What about you? What are the greatest lessons you have learned from watching others around you? Share your thoughts and comments below.