Making holes, not drills

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“Toto, I have the feeling we are not in Kansas any more”
– Dorothy, in Wizard of Oz

In a rapidly changing world, we need to make frequent conceptual leaps for effective ministry.

A few years back, a European manufacturer of industrial drilling machines was suffering badly with competition from products manufactured in the Far East. Wisely, they called in consultants to help them see a way forward. “So, how would you describe your business,” asked the consultants. “Well, we sell drilling machines, of course,” they replied. “Well, actually, you don’t,” said the consultants. “You enable people to make holes.” This new way of perceiving their role led them to switch to making laser-equipment for cutting holes, with renewed business success.

Lateral thinking is so often a key to success. For instance, food-processing engineers were trying to create a machine that could crack nuts. Problem was to adjust the squeeze according to the exact size of the nut and the strength of its shell. Unless they could precisely calibrate the exact pressure needed for each nut, many were damaged. As so often, the answer was completely different: put the nuts in a vacuum and the shells would just burst off with zero damage or loss. Here’s another example of lateral thnking – The Tale of Two Pebbles.

Often, what we believe to be our goals are in fact merely strategies. We can change strategies radically in order to reach the same ultimate goals, as this cartoon demonstrates:

Cartoon comic evangelism
The world is changing faster than ever. Those of us born in the 50s, 60s and 70s grew up in the tailend of the ‘print communication culture’ that had been launched by Gutenberg’s printing press; and before postmodernism had changed public understanding of ‘truth’ from absolute and universal to relative and personal.

Wired up differently

The brains of people brought up in an oral culture, a print culture or the new digital culture are actually wired up differently. They process information differently. They perceive the world differently. Visual story is becoming integral to effective communication in this new cultural environment. Digital communication culture in fact has much in common with oral communication.

Story is everything, as Daniel Taylor explains in this short video. (View more videos from Professor Taylor, including a longer presentation at the Desiring God conference.)

Even those gifted with an evangelistic apologetics ministry, such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, claim that they must now embed their apologetics material within personal story in order to get a hearing. Does this not sound faintly familiar? Jesus’ primary means of spoken communication to the ‘unchurched’ was to embed truth within visual story (‘visual’ in the sense that he painted pictures in words). And, of course, this was in the context of hanging out with people socially. All. The. Time. (See Luke 15:2, Matthew 9:11, Mark 2:16 and John Piper’s comments.) He was building relationships and meeting felt needs.

The question should no longer even be, “How can I embed some short illustrations into my presentation of propositional truths?” but “How can I embed essential truth into a memorable visual story?”

One increasingly strategic way of telling a visual story is a the video short. And it no longer needs expensive equipment and lots of training, as this useful presentation explains:

Traditional story-telling has become a popular movement in many countries. A local festival in our county town always has a story-telling tent, where amateur story-tellers can hold me spell-bound for hours: just the tradional folk story genre we knew as kids.

Our stories can be positioned according to the spiritual awareness of the listeners on the Gray Matrix. There is special value in creating stories that start people thinking and asking questions: check some amazing video shorts. These have growing evangelistic value, not only as embeds in websites and blogs, but also installed on mobile phones.

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