30037621I really liked the guy. I asked him “why should I switch from PC to Macs?” I expected a long and enthusiastic exposition of the superiority of Apple technology. I thought I’d receive fresh revelations of the more recent plots of the wintel axis of evil to fool the people. I was waiting for him to tell me that “the truth is out there” and that the truth is that Apple is clearly the superior product. I was pleasantly surprised. He gave me none of that.

Instead I received a clear and concise rundown of the strengths of the two systems. The Apple Centre manager was friendly and professional. He answered my questions. He showed me the product and asked me to try it out. (I had my eye on a G4 iBook going for RM 4499 [USD 1184].) When the other staff were free they also came around and told their stories. They too were ‘converts’ from PCs and they still used both systems.

As I was listening to them I thought to myself, these guys really understand what it means to communicate in today’s world. Some things they did right.

*No hard sell. People are just so tired of being pitched to. *No triumphalism. That is such a big turn off. *Respect. They didn’t insult the intelligence of the customer. And they left the decisions to the customer. *Honesty. They answered questions clearly and were clear that they were still using PCs though they enjoyed their Apples. They came across as real. *Friendly. They had a natural sense of humour. They went out of their way to help. *They let they product speak for itself. They gave me literature to read. They let me try the iBook for as long as I wanted. Nobody was looking over my shoulder.

Maybe what they did is the result of good Apple sales training. Or maybe they were just nice guys. I noticed that they were young. The manager himself had just graduated from university. Perhaps they knew how to sell to the modern customer because they were products and denizens of the new millennium. Whatever it was, I was sold. I also felt that they had so much to teach Christians about communication.

As Christians, we communicate all the time. In our evangelism, preaching, teaching, counseling etc. we are trying to get across to people. We are trying to move hearts and minds and wills. Often with stakes that are very high. And often we do it badly. We could do worse than learn from these guys at Apple.

Indeed what they did reminded me very much of some of the advice given by Bond and Kirshenbaum in their book, UNDER THE RADAR: Talking To Today’s Cynical Consumer (New York:John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998). There they recommend that modern ads:

1. Don’t say it. Demonstrate it. 2. Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad. 3. Be Honest to a Fault. 4. Involve the Consumer. 5. Use Humour to create Camaraderie with the Consumer. 6. Don’t Chestbeat.

You may ask what has advertising got to do with Christian communication. More often than not the advertising industry takes their work much more seriously.

Advertising is a multi million dollar industry. Paying clients want results. Advertising experts have to know what they are talking about. We need to discern what they say through the grid of Scripture but I take what people like Bond and Kirshenbaum say with utmost seriousness.

More often than not, Christians get lazy in the way we communicate. Either we don’t work at our communication at all. Or we approach communication in ways that are suitable for another era. And then we wonder why our listeners get bored. And why often have so much difficulty getting through.

The bad communicator often blames his audience. “They are spiritually immature.” “Kids these days just have short attention spans.” “Television and the internet have made our people incapable of being good listeners.”

Perhaps there is some truth in some of these allegations. But the primary onus of communication still lies with the communicator.

A quick glance at how the apostles did evangelism in the book of Acts will show that they worked hard at adapting their communication approaches to their audiences. Paul took a different approach when he was preaching to Gentiles than when he was preaching to Jews. (Compare for example, Acts 17:1-15 and Acts 17:16 – 34.)

The facts of the gospel never change. But Paul seems clearer than many modern Christian communicators about the need to tailor your communication approach to your audience. This is indeed one area where we need to be as wise as serpents, well, at least we need to wise up.

I found out that my new friend, the guy in charge of the Apple Centre, wasn’t a Christian. I hope to drop by again. I have lots more questions to ask. After all I am a new convert!

But in between chats about Panthers and Entourages (go Google what they mean if you don’t know what I am talking about), I hope to have some serious discussions about the gospel. I only hope that I can be a good a communicator as him.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan