Intercultural Communication 101: Part 3

Effective intercultural communication seeks a great degree of congruity between different systems of code in a variety of mediums.

The perceiver/receiver determines whether or not the two systems of code are intentional or credible based on their congruity, or lack thereof (Mark Young, Course Lecture, Spring 2008). For example, if the communicator attempts to share the gospel with a perceiver, without any sort of voice tone, hand gestures, or facial expression that seem congruent with the content of the gospel, the perceiver may see the communicator and/or message as not credible or appealing. John Piper tells of the importance of congruence: “Lack of intensity in preaching can only communicate that the preacher does not believe or has never been gripped by the reality of which he speaks — or that the subject matter is insignificant” (Piper, p. 103, emphasis added). He urges, “We simply must signify, without melodrama or affectation, that the reality behind our message is breathtaking” (Piper, p. 104, emphasis added). To further illustrate, he says, “Albert Einstein gave a devastating indictment of preaching fifty years ago that may be more true today: Charles Misner, a scientific specialist in general relativity theory, was quoted like this:

‘[The design of the universe] is very magnificent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as a basically very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had ever imagined, and they were just not talking about the real thing‘” (DesiringGod.org, emphasis added).

This phenomenon of congruity between different systems of code relates possibly more heavily to the significance of the code itself than to the message. The German poet, Klopstock wrote, “The tones of human voices are mightier than strings or brass to move the soul” (quoted in Samover, p. 214). This “paralanguage, which involves the linguistic elements of speech — how something is said and not the actual meaning of the spoken words,” was displayed in the apostle Paul (Samover, p. 214). He said, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2.1-5).

Notably, Jonathan Dodson illustrates this very point when he says:

In the end, the evangelist must first have faith in the gospel himself, this authenticates our words more than any saying, method, or defense. All too often we share the gospel without believing it.

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