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GEMLOsm.gif (1973 bytes)     Article 2. 
Topic: Communication.    Title: Mixed Messages.  Author: Grant Eaton.
Date:  Original: March, 1998 Last Modified: 28 July, 2002 bar2.gif (999 bytes)

Mixed Messages 

by Grant Eaton.

Communication: the great paradox of our Age. We live in the Communication Age, but we are such poor communicators! How easily we get the wrong idea. We are so good at saying one thing and meaning another. To get ahead, we present a public image which conveys what we want the world to see, while in reality our self talk conveys a very different picture to our own souls. It is any wonder that we are so confused?

So many mixed messages!

A well known Communications theorist coined the concept:

The Medium is the Massage The Medium is the Massage - Marshall McLuhan, 1967

I suggest that the medium is at least a part of the message. The medium that conveys our message, of itself, communicates something. Why else would we bother choosing Greeting Cards, or Birthday presents or diamond rings? I know it's the "thought that counts" but that old excuse wears rather thin when the vehicle or medium we choose to convey that thought, doesn't count for anything at all.

That's a mixed message.

Of course a simple and sincere "I love you" is far more effective communication than a thoughtless, obligatory gift.   At the same time, you couldn't blame someone for being confused by constant verbal assurances like "You mean everything to me", when the lifestyle communicates "I'm really mean to you!"

That's another mixed message. Which one is true?

Christian musicians can very easily convey mixed messages. This table gives some examples. But first, the disclaimer: Any resemblance between these rather extreme examples, and any actual pieces, performances, styles or forms is purely coincidental. It is a case of taking note, lest the cap fits!


1. Christians Awake! : said the hymn, > Go to sleep : said the tempo.
2. Holy, Holy is the Lord: said the chorus, > See my hips move! : said the performer.
3. Praise the Lord: said the lyrics, > Do ya wonna dance: said the music.
4. Our God is a consuming fire: said the chorus, > Middle-of-the-road and bland: said the style.
5. Into Thy Presence we come: said the song, > Come into my Night Club: said the genre.
6. Neither will I offer a sacrifice that cost me nothing:  said the Psalmist > We're too busy to rehearse: said the worship team.
7. In all that I do, I'm committed to You: sang the choir, >

I couldn't care less: said the performance.

8. Teach me Thy way, O Lord: sang the voice, >

I'll do it my way: said the life.

9. My Jesus, I love You: sang the spirit, >

Look at me: said the body.

10. Turn you eyes upon Jesus: sang the voice, >

What's for lunch?: said the mind.

11. I was lost, so deep in sin: said the song, >

Hee Haw! : said the song writer.

12. etc.    

Beware, of sending mixed messages. Our audience can become confused. To which message should they respond?

To minimise this confusion, two things need to happen.

  1. People communicating the message need to carefully marry the medium and the message so that the communication is consistent and effective.
    bulletjudge a song on the total package:
    bulletscriptural, unambiguous, worthy, lyrics
    bulleta musical setting that enhances the lyrics, and is compatible in style and mood
    bulletsensitivity to particular congregations' range of needs,
    bulletthe heart attitude & stylistic integrity of the musician(s) to communicate the essential message.

    It may sometimes come down to a food-offered-to-idols situation,
    where, in deference to a weaker brother or sister,
    we can take it or leave it.

  2. People receiving the message need to be receptive, discerning, and tolerant. We are often able to "read between the lines" and so we should apply this skill to discerning the intended message. We can choose not to react to external, cultural, or personal taste issues which may limit our ability to be touched by a communicator's real message.

God seeks people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Truth!  No confusion there!

May there be no mixed messages between our lips and our lives.

Grant Eaton.

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