Getting The Word Across (by Robert Jacks)

If the Word of God is the most precious thing in all the world, then reading the Word of God clearly and effectively would easily the most important job in the world.  Yet how often it is that we hear garbled renderings of that

supposedly precious commodity from both pulpit and lectern!  And how few books there are (Christian books especially) on the market on clear and effective speech communication!  Well, if you feel as frustrated as I do, I have good news for you.  Help is on the way.
Robert Jacks' book, Getting The Word Across: Speech Communication for Pastors and Lay Leaders deals with the principles of Speech Communication for Christian ministry.  The author is an associate professor of speech communication at Princeton Theological Seminary.  The book is a rare find, the only one in its category as far as I know.
The book comes in two parts.  Part One, entitled "The Word Springs to Life," deals with issues concerning how to handle a written text.  The author dwells at some length on the balance between technique and transparency.  We need all the technical skills we can acquire to do the job properly; and yet, in the end, the question is whether we will be transparent enough for people to see through us to the wonderful truths of God, or whether they would only be dazzled by a dramatic performance.  And some useful techniques include having presence of mind, maintaining an expressive demeanour, being able to highlight important idea by way of emphasis, and communicating effectively through correct phrasing and visualization.
Part Two is entitled, "The Instrument Comes Alive," and the author likens a proficient speaker or reader to a Stradivarius (reckoned the violin of violins!), a well-crafted instrument fit for the Master's use.  Well, what makes good music?  Most of it has to do with clarity and resonance.  With speech, the resonance part can be improved upon with the right breath control; and the clarity part comes from well-formed sounds.  And so the book spells out the method for correct breathing - what is known in speech and vocal training as diaphragmatic breathing.  And then it closes with a section on phonetics, on how we can speak more
clearly through an understanding of the science of sounds, and through the practice of more effective articulation and vocalization.
The book is written in a rather unique style, which is both an advantage and a drawback.  The drawback is that it is not written like the average speech training manual, and so the material does not seem terribly systematic.  For example, there is no chapter numbering, and the titles of each chapter does not tell you exactly what the issue is that he intends to deal with.  But herein lies also its strength.  It is a book written for the average layman, and attempts to be user-friendly (as well as entertaining) by
not adhering to the conventions of a standard textbook.  You can almost hear the speech teacher in Robert Jacks speaking directly to you. 
For those who are trying to find something to help them speak or read nicely, this may be just the book they are looking for.

[P.S. The book is available at the BGST library; but it is on the reserved list as it is the textbook used for a course currently being taught.  But take heart!  You can purchase a copy from the Bethesda Book Centre].

(Review by Ng Seng Chuan)

Chapel last week (January 2) consisted of a series of readings and reflection on the Book of Jonah led by Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

The Prologue
The story begins with Jonah removing himself from the centre of God's concerns:
Nineveh (reading of chapter 1).  He goes in the opposite direction: Tarshish, always located in the text as being "away from the presence of the Lord."  Is this "running away from God" something so "unnatural" or "unspiritual"?  Perhaps not.  Os Guinessargues in The Call (watch out for a book review on this book some time this month!) that it is as ridiculous for men to seek after God as it is for mice to look for cats!
Be that as it may, we acknowledge the godlessforces of covetousness (whether for success, viability or identity) that drive us from the quietness of God's heart and presence, and pray, through the singing of the hymn, "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind," for a restoration of spiritual centredness.

The Preaching
The next movement of the story finds Jonah preaching with an awesome success (reading of Chapter 3).  Yet with that Jonah was not happy.  Why not?  For two reasons.  First, because Nineveh was set up as a model of godly repentance for Israel to follow!  (Is this God's sick joke?)  And secondly because, thus "humanized" through Jonah's preaching, the Assyrians (previously annihilating populations wherever they went) would become a more usable instrument in God's hands for God's judgement against Israel.  Jonah fled from the call of God precisely because he understood the will of God!
The final movement of the story (reading of chapter 4) comes with God attempting to mollify Jonah by providing shade from the heat, and then apparently alienating Jonah further by the removal of that comfort.  And the lesson?  God has a "bigger picture" than we, and is under no obligation to pander to our desires or perceptions of what God ought to do or be!
The reflection segment ended with a hymn of commitment, "O Jesus I Have Promised."

The Epilogue
The chapel closed with a reading of Jonah's "psalm" (chapter 2).  It is a poignant reminder of our own conversion experience: that moment when time stood still and only God mattered.  And we were exhorted to affirm as Jonah did: "What I have vowed I will make good!"

Chapel speaker for this week (9 Jan) will be Dr Douglas Milne. See you at 12 noon at Rm 302.

  1. Welcome Dr Douglas Milne to BGST! We are privileged to have Dr Milne conducting 2 courses, Bioethics and Christian Ethics.

  2. Mrs Esther Quek will be organising a Garage Sale to raise funds for BGST. We would be grateful if you could help as volunteers on 11 Jan (Friday) and/or 12 Jan (Saturday) in sorting out the items for sale. If you are available to help, please contact Serene. The Garage Sale itself will be held on 18, 19, 25 & 26 Jan from 9am to 10pm at 40 Bloxhome Drive.

  3. All friends, supporters and students of BGST are invited to join us in celebrating our 11th Convocation & Thanksgiving Service on 19 January 2002. Dr Douglas Milne will deliver the Convocation Address entitled: "What is Man in the Biotech Century?". Reception will begin at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall. If you are able to join us, we appreciate if you could let us know so that we can cater accordingly.

Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!
Mr Tang Oyi Chuen  01/07
Rev Jeremiah Sang Dun  01/07
Mr Low Keng Shin  01/10
Mr Choo Ming En  01/11
Mrs Jung Hi Heo Park  01/11
Mr Tai Kok Wai  01/11
Mr Tong Ming Hung  01/11
Miss Maureen Tan  01/12

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This page is updated on 8 Jan 2002.
Oct 2000