Mar 17, 2010

An Interview with Tony Jeary, Author of Purpose-Filled Presentations

When I was asked to speak at the Slot Art Festival, I confess to being nervous. Not only would I have to speak before people I had never met, but I would be working with a translator. To help me communicate as best I could, I sought out the wisdom of Tony Jeary, author of Purpose-Filled Presentations.

While I appreciated his advice in helping me to prepare these formal presentations, I also found that his advice proved to be very helpful in navigating those everyday interactions that we all have with other people. Here are some of the high points I gleaned from speaking with him about his work.

How would you define "communicating with excellence”?

Whether people communicate by phone, by email, or in person, and whether their communications are planned or impromptu, to large or small groups or even one-on-one, there are certain objectives they want to achieve. Those objectives may include helping their audience understand a certain passage of Scripture or a scriptural concept, or they may include communicating their testimony in a way that will impact their audience. When they share in a way that enables them to reach those objectives, they are communicating with excellence.

Why do you say that communication is a gift from God to his people?

The God-given ability to communicate with those around us is a very special gift. He created our bodies with the tools necessary for speaking and with a brain that makes both verbal and nonverbal communication possible. If we had no way to communicate, it would be a very lonely world. It would be difficult to have meaningful relationships with other people, which so greatly enrich our lives on earth. And without God’s Word—his communication to us—we would likely be ignorant of his love, his ways, and his will, and even of the fact that he sent his Son to die for us.

Given how many prophets didn't claim to be great public speakers, why do Christians need to learn how to communicate effectively?

God commanded us in the great commission (Matt. 28:19) to share the good news of the gospel. Communicating effectively supports our efforts toward fulfilling that commission in so many ways. In many cultures today—and certainly in America—a highly educated population expects, and even demands, a certain level of proficiency from those who are trusted to speak into their lives. When people are perceived to be ineffective communicators today, their credibility is often questioned, and they lose the power of influence. While the Holy Spirit can and often does transcend that barrier, Christians will do well to remember that, as Christ’s ambassadors (1 Cor. 5:20), we are told that whatever we do, we are to work at it with all of our heart, “as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). In other words, whether we are working at our jobs, playing with our children, or communicating the gospel, we are to do our very best for the Lord. We also need to remember that our message of life and hope to the world competes with a very compelling message of opposite persuasion that is blasted throughout our media-driven culture, couched in extremely effective communications.

How can one communicate one's testimony when working in a situation where one cannot share one's faith in the particular workforce? 

Life is a series of presentations. Every interaction with a coworker, supervisor, customer, vendor, or partner speaks your message loudly. Whether you are conscious of it or not, you live that message every day and model it for those around you, and others can see the Holy Spirit in you.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • How do you typically communicate with people throughout the day—in person, via email or computer, via phone, or in some other way?
  • How does your method of communication affect the way you are able to relate to people in a meaningful way?
  • For more about the challenges of 21st century communication, read our two-part interview with Daniel Lohrmann, Chief Technology Officer for the state of Michigan.

Part 1: Surfing Your Values

Part 2: Maintaining Your Virtual Integrity

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