Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling have teamed up to explore the dynamic connection that occurs when spirituality/spiritual practices are combined with effective communication practices. Churches and other religious organizations depend on the ability of their leaders and members to communicate (speak, teach, and preach) within their congregations and beyond. This important, practical guide will reveal Campolo's preaching secrets and Darling's wise counsel as a professor of communication.
|Publisher:||Augsburg Fortress, Publishers|
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About the Author
Mary Albert Darling is a professor whose teachings in communication, spiritual formation, and justice have taken her outside the United States to Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mary is a spiritual director trained in Ignatian spirituality, a certified Enneagram teacher, and coauthor of Connecting Like Jesus.
Read an Excerpt
Spiritually Charged Communication
Relational Practices for Connecting Like Jesus
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Two are better than one. ... For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.
— Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
— Jesus, John 15:12
MOST OF US, from our earliest years, are taught that God existed before anything else was created. Did that mean that before creation God was a big lonely Being, all alone and surrounded by darkness? No — not if you believe in the Trinity: God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. If the Triune God is true, God never existed in isolation; instead, God has always been in relationship. Genesis 1:26 in fact says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness" (emphasis ours). This divine relationship existed before anything else was created. And because relationship implies communication, the Triune God has always been a communicating God. As people created in the image of God, we too were made to communicate. Being alone and isolated from others goes against God's intention for all humankind.
Alcatraz, the infamous island prison in the San Francisco Bay, was known not only for its isolated location but also for an area of cells designated for solitary confinement called "the Hole." When Mary and her family toured Alcatraz during a road trip out west, their youngest son Michael, then ten, stood in one of these cells. Mary explained how the Hole was designed to inflict what is considered one of the most extreme forms of punishment: minimal to no human contact. Michael's unexpected response, "I don't think it would be that bad," was, Mary assumed, not an argument against the awful conditions of solitary confinement, but instead a testimony to having just spent forty-five hours in a van with his parents and older brother.
Although there are times when most, if not all, of us need to be alone, extended lack of communication with others is what has driven people in solitary confinement to insanity and even suicide. God never intended for us to exist without others. That does not mean, however, that we were made to be in just any type of relationship with any kind of communication. We were created to follow the perfect example of unity found in the Trinity. As author and speaker Brian McLaren said in our interview for this book, "The ultimate reality is communication or communion between Father, Son, and Spirit. They exist in an eternal connection, eternal community, eternal communion." From the beginning, God wanted creation to live that way too: in harmonious, peaceful relationships. That is what the Kingdom of God is all about. Yet throughout all of history, human relationships have been much more messy and chaotic than they have been harmonious and peaceful.
Even God's chosen people, the citizens of Israel, couldn't get it right. They fell away from the good life God had planned for them and found themselves in captivity, longing to see God's peaceful plan actualized in history. They knew what it could be like because their prophets had given them very concrete images of this Kingdom. The prophet Isaiah foretold that it would be a society in which children would not die in infancy, and elderly people would be able to live out their lives in health and well-being. It would be, according to Isaiah's prophecies, a socioeconomic order in which everyone would have a good job and workers would receive fair payment for their labor. When God's Kingdom would be established here on earth, Isaiah declared, every family would build and inhabit a house of its own, and the suffering of the earth would end (Isaiah 65:17 – 25).
That is the Kingdom of God. A place where people are healthy, happy, and safe and everyone lives in soul-satisfying relationships. That's the life God intended for us all. God calls the church to be a model for the rest of the world of what the harmonious Kingdom will be like when Christ returns — with the hopes that others will want to be a part of that peaceable Kingdom too. As Jesus prayed in John 17:22 – 23, "The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Jesus' mission was aimed at gathering followers who would be willing to join him in a radical movement that would make the Hebrew prophets' images of a peaceful Kingdom a reality for anyone who believed. In our interview, Brian McLaren said that joining Jesus means "God is setting the agenda, and we are to join in with God's agenda. It means we are to fit in with harmony rather than disharmony. The purpose of our communication with God and others is to harmonize and bring ourselves in agreement with God's Kingdom reality." Brian is echoing what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome — that they were to love one another and live in peace (Romans 12:10, 16, 18). That was their purpose in life, and it is to be ours too, as the body of Christ. Our churches are to be models of the Kingdom of God. People who observe us are supposed to say, "See how they love one another! See how they live in harmony with one another — I want to be a part of this body of believers!"
Why isn't the church perceived this way in the world today?
The answer lies in the painfully obvious fact that a peaceable Kingdom is not yet a reality for those of us who claim to be the body of Christ. As much as we might crave and even strive for the harmonious relationships God intended for us, we still find ourselves in shallow, nit-picky, and even destructive relationships. As speaker and social activist Shane Claiborne said in our interview, "People can be in love with a vision and really wreck each other trying to build that vision." Far too often, others are disillusioned with how Christians relate to one another and to the world. As David Kinnaman discusses in his popular book, Unchristian, "Outsiders ... think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be." Kinnaman found that strikingly high numbers of non-Christians categorize believers of Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical, and antihomosexual. From churchgoers who gossip about each other (with their concern sometimes masquerading as prayer requests) to religious leaders who intentionally misrepresent their religious opponents' views on national TV to those who protest with hate speech, Christians often relate to others in ways very much at odds with the transforming love of God. In the newsletter from an organization called the Transforming Center, founder and president Ruth Haley Barton mentioned an experience with a church elder who related to a staff member in a way that was "mean and even slanderous." She goes on to write that "When confronted with such blatantly bad behavior, the best the elder could do was to acknowledge that her communication was 'less than artful.'"
Less than artful?
It's not likely negative perceptions of Christians will change if we can't see how wrong our own harmful communication patterns are. Loving others amid difficult circumstances can be extremely hard, but it's still what God commands us to do. The Bible has much to say on this topic. In his letters to the early church, the Apostle Paul wrote that everything they did was to be done out of love for one another. To limit any confusion or excuses, he got very specific with several lists of "dos" and "don'ts." He told them that as followers of Christ, they were not to be jealous of anyone for any reason, and they weren't to brag about themselves either. They were not to get angry too easily or even to keep track of anything anyone did to them that they thought was wrong or unfair. They were not to complain or argue about anything! Instead, he told them to be kind and patient with one another; to forgive one another as God in Christ forgives them. In short, they were to be devoted to one another and humbly consider others better than themselves (1 Corinthians 16:14, 13:4 – 5; Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 2:3, 14). And these were not the only directives to the early church for how they were to demonstrate love for one another. There are dozens of "one another" verses in the Bible that tell followers of Christ how to relate to each other. We may wish there were exceptions written into these verses — "forgive one other unless" or "do not complain unless" — but there aren't any.
The "one another" verses in scripture can make for great sermons, Bible studies, and readings at weddings, but once the sermon, study, or wedding is over, they seem next to impossible to live out on a daily basis. Instead, we often live with disconnects between saying that we want to imitate Christ and actually following Christlike ways of communicating with one another. We sing the popular Hillsong worship chorus, "Tell the world," but what are we really telling the world with our actions toward one another? We claim to be transformed by Jesus, but cannot seem to transform the ways we relate to those closest to us, much less to the world. As Mohandas Gandhi once said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." It's not that there aren't any Christians who communicate in radically loving ways like Jesus. Christ followers can and do get it right. But the number of people who call themselves Christian is much larger than the number of those who intentionally and regularly practice Christlike communication in their everyday lives.
Our hope in writing this book is to change those numbers. We affirm that the meaningful, fulfilling, unifying relationships God intended before the beginning of time are truly possible. We believe that the "one another" verses in the Bible really can be lived out in how we daily communicate. The key is in learning to relate to others as Jesus did when he walked the earth. When Jesus communicated, he did so in ways that consistently connected him to his audience.
What Does It Mean to Connect?
As we pointed out in the Introduction, it can be one thing to communicate but quite another to connect. We can use a variety of solid communication techniques and still feel a lack of connectedness with others. Not connecting to others can be a very lonely and estranged feeling. It's possible to feel this disconnect and alienation no matter the setting or how well we know someone.
Connecting is a different level of communication than talking in an interesting manner or using solid communication techniques in our interactions. Connecting suggests a depth of mutual understanding and sharing. Saying we connect with someone means we sense a special bond, or even feel a sense of unity, with that person. We may even experience what Hasidic philosopher Martin Buber called an "I-Thou" relationship, whereby a person encounters another not as an object (I-it) but as a sacred being made in the image of God. Seeing others this way bridges our separateness. The unity that results is at the center of what it means to connect in Christlike ways. There is an intense hunger in our world for this kind of connectedness that can make the "one another" verses a reality.
Connecting Like Jesus
Throughout time and history, no one has connected to others like Jesus did. Jesus related in "I-Thou" ways not only to his peers but to those whom his culture considered beneath and beyond his own social class. A hodgepodge of people followed him, from outcasts to government officials to fishermen, everyone wanting, for as many reasons as there were followers, to connect with him. Roman soldiers who had been sent to arrest him returned empty-handed because they had stopped to listen to him. Jesus so powerfully connected with them, touching the very depths of their souls, that they forgot why they had been sent. They could only explain to their supervisors, "Never has anyone spoken like this!" (John 7:46). Men who had spent a lifetime as fishermen, upon hearing Jesus say, "Follow me!" dropped their nets and became his disciples. The charisma that was evident in what he said magnetized crowds so that they not only listened to him for hours but then would follow him wherever he went, hoping to hear more (Mark 6:30 – 33). When Jesus spoke, he changed lives. The impact was so noticeable that even his enemies could tell when his followers had been with him (Acts 4:13).
What was it about the way Jesus connected with others that made him attract so many people? Even the best communication strategies are not enough to produce the powerful connections that Jesus had with others — connections that held the attention of both the simplest child and the most elite religious scholar; connections that resulted in person after person dropping everything to follow Jesus; connections so powerfully transforming that because of Jesus, all of history was changed.
The answer to the question "What made Jesus connect in such powerful ways?" might appear to be the obvious: "Because he's God!" Although it seems safe to assume that Jesus had an unfair advantage — after all, he was and is the Son of God — that is not the only reason he knew how to dynamically connect with people. He did not automatically know all things because he was the son of God. At four years old he did not walk around in WWJD fashion and ask "What should I do?" and then just know. As the Apostle Paul told the church at Philippi, even though Jesus was "in very nature God," he came to earth as a baby and "made himself nothing" (Philippians 2:6 – 7, NIV). Jesus was born a nobody — in a stable. He had to grow and learn just like we do. In Luke 2:52 (NIV) we are told that "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." At the age of twelve he was found "sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46). He learned from his teachers; from studying and reflecting on scripture; from his times alone with God; and most important, he learned from being obedient to God and trusting God with his entire life, death, and resurrection. As the Gospel of Luke tells us, Jesus' obedience to God, along with his times alone with God, filled him with God's Spirit so that he could be prepared to do Kingdom work in the world (Luke 4:1, 14; 6:12 – 19).
As a result, Jesus developed what Aristotle called ethos or what we generally think of as credibility, meaning that who he was — his entire character and being — was interwoven with his message and his ability to influence others. Jesus' styles of relating fl owed out of being totally committed to living for the glory of God. Through seamlessly connecting his relationship with God and his knowledge of scripture to his daily life, Jesus dynamically connected with others. He knew that times of prayer and reflecting on scripture were essential to knowing God more intimately and being spiritually prepared and empowered to connect with others in ways that would best advance God's Kingdom. And he counted on his followers to follow in his footsteps.
Developing Credibility Like Jesus
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. They must have wondered how in the world they could ever communicate his message — especially with the same credibility he had. But then he told them how. Jesus finished his commission with these words: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b). He told his disciples not to be troubled or afraid because he would shortly give them a spiritual power from "on high" that would enable them to do what he had done, and do even greater things (John 14:12). Jesus never expected his followers, then or now, to go out on their own. He knew we could not do it, at least not with any lasting effectiveness. Jesus knew that for us to have the same relational credibility he had on earth, we needed the same Spirit that was in him, at work in us too.
The Holy Spirit is the key. We can experience God's transforming love that connects us to others if we are empowered by the Holy Spirit through spiritual practices that include praying and "waiting on" the Spirit, just as the early disciples did. In our interview, Mindy Caliguire, president of Soul Care, said that the most important thing we can do for our relationships is "cultivate the capacity for prayer so that we can be connecting with God and others at the same time. Can you hear God's words of love and blessing and presence while you are speaking with someone? Can you silently express gratitude and even worship as you listen to a friend?" Mindy believes that "we can function on both levels at once when we learn different ways of praying that help connect us to God and others."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Connecting Like Jesus"
Copyright © 2019 Fortress Press, an imprint of 1517 Media.
Excerpted by permission of 1517 Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
An Introduction to Spiritually Charged Communication, 1,
Part One: Connecting Like Jesus, 5,
1 Spiritually Charged Communication: Relational Practices for Connecting Like Jesus, 6,
2 Soul Healing: Connecting Like Jesus Through Care of the Soul, 20,
Part Two: Practices for Soul Healing Mary Albert Darling, 33,
3 It Is About You: Knowing Yourself as the Starting Point for Soul Healing, 34,
4 From Fear to Freedom: Overcoming What Keeps Us from Others, 52,
5 Sacred Listening: Hearing with the Ears of God, 64,
6 Connecting Through Questions: Why Asking Is Better Than Telling, 87,
7 Conflict: An Opportunity to Connect, 98,
8 Redeeming Conflict: Prayers and Other Practices for Oneness, 116,
9 When Stories Tell the Story: The Power to Shape a Narrative Mary Albert Darling and Tony Campolo, 128,
Part Three: Practices for Teaching and Preaching Tony Campolo, 149,
10 Preparing the Soil: Laying the Groundwork for Spiritually Dynamic Speaking, 150,
11 Planning Your Message: Crafting the Shape of Your Talk, 171,
12 Presenting Your Message: Why It All Leads Up to the Finale, 192,
Postscript for Spiritually Charged Communication, 209,
"One Another" Verses, 211,
Using This Book in Small Groups or Classes, 213,
The Authors, 225,