We’ve all probably heard the adage that the majority of communication is nonverbal. This notion is from Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of the book Silent Messages. In his research, he found that only 7 percent of any message is conveyed through words, the rest (38 percent through certain vocal elements and 55 percent through nonverbal elements) is unspoken.
What we say is more about how we say it and the influence of other factors that make the message. Our smile conveys sincerity. Our dress imparts seriousness (or the lack thereof). A head nod implies conviction. This isn’t just for the person talking, but also for the one listening.
I know when I preach, the non-verbals of the crowd affect my message. Are they disinterested? Am I making my point? Am I being confusing? Do they agree? Are they about to throw tomatoes?
The sad thing is, I know that often times peoples’ non-verbals are not at all directed towards the lesson. His scowl isn’t about the sermon, but about the argument he had with his wife before services. That bored look is a person considering his schedule for the next week not over the content being offered. That nod isn’t agreement but a person trying to stay awake!
Still, the message is being sent even if it is unintended.
What other messages might we be sending during worship? Could our apparel be sending a message of worldliness or lack of caring? Could our isolation say we are unloving or aloof? Can our seating arrangement say no one really wants to be a part of this so we cram in the back? Does our decor say no one has put much effort into things for a long time?
Worship is praise to God and encouragement to others (Hebrews 10:25). Let’s make sure in all we say (and all we don’t say), that it is on message!
Barry Haynes, Hope church of Christ Hope, AR