Making Sense Without Sense

August 31, 2005 by

While on the treadmill the other day at my local gym, a TV in the distance captivated me. I usually don’t care to watch the “devil box” (as my mother used to call it) when I am working out, so I didn’t have one of the wireless headphones that pipe in the audio from any of the TVs in sight.

What struck me were the visuals that held my attention without even being able to hear what was going on. It started with a “got milk” ad, then a Verizon cell phone spot, and then back to the local news.

Without audio, TV becomes in someways a web site on auto pilot. An array of moving images and graphics that come together to tell a story. I kept watching to see if I could put the story together without the sound. It didn’t always work, but when it did, I am sure the gods of advertainment rejoiced somewhere.

When you communicate, does your story make sense without all the senses? Try watching a video of your service without sound. What does the body language of the worship team and pastor say? What do the sermon illustrations look like? In other words, when a sense becomes paralyzed, overwhelmed, or incapacitated, will the other senses compensate or collaborate?

Lest my fascination and sincere curiosity with the psychological and physiological realms of possibility continue, I concede that I am in territory I do not know. Regardless, something intrigues me about how our senses perceive communication and translate that into the story we are intended to comprehend.

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Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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7 Responses to “Making Sense Without Sense”

  • Betsy
    August 31, 2005

    You have really got something there. When I watch religious television, which is almost never, the one thing I am struck by is how ANGRY all the preachers look. Their faces are screwed up and they are spewing the words.
    There are a few exceptions, especially Joel Osteen. And that’s probably why he’s one of the few pastors I’ll watch on TV.

  • Greg Vennerholm
    August 31, 2005

    It’s funny you mention Joel Osteen… I was just sharing with someone the other day that he (Joel O.) is one the of the few pastors that actually inspires me to become all that God intended for me.
    I think it’s in large part due to his overall “positive” tone, body language included. I’m going to turn the sound down next time the Lakewood broadcast is on and test the theory.
    Great topic!

  • Arlan Daniels,SpG
    August 31, 2005

    Greg V. – not to get on a Joel O. kick BUT, I have no doubt that you will be just as inspired by ‘not listening’ to him simply because there’s two things Joel does very well: He smiles alot & he uses his body to illustrate his points. Body language is approx 60 – 75% of most visual communication. How one “displays” oneself can say plenty.(ex: front cover of magazines)

  • Greg Vennerholm
    September 1, 2005

    Arlan, our church just got a new pastor, and I’ve been amazed at the difference it’s made already inthe general “attitude” of the congregation. Our retiring pastor was (and still is) a visionary man of God, but his “style” presented barriers for today’s generation. I’m just thankful that the Lord is in control, and all we need to do is our part.
    I’ve long been a proponent of presenting oneself to make an impact… something about 1 Corinthians 9:20.

  • Strategic Digital Outreach
    September 1, 2005

    Where Is The Sound In Your Website?

    Well, I'm sure that title may have brought at least a few folks who cringe at the thought (rightfully so in most cases!) of including audio on your website (the kind that plays automatically whether you like it or not). But actually, it's …

  • Phillip Ross
    September 4, 2005

    To suggest that Christianity can be communicated without an appeal to the totality of human senses is idiotic, but so is the suggestion that Christianity can be communicated without intellectual content. Watching worship without the sound (which means without intellectual content) reduces worship to subjective feeling, tone and/or style. All you get is a general emotional empression, and if Christianity is anything, it is more than a general emotional expression.
    Of course, Christianity cannot and should not be communicated without emotions — emotions do play a significant role in life and in Christianity. Faithfulness requires attatching the correct emotional content/context to the correct content. And that cannot happen with the sound turned off.

  • Brad Abare
    September 4, 2005

    Sorry Phillip, not my point at all. I was going to address this argument in my original entry, but it was getting too wordy and off track. To suggest we limit our praise, worship, and preaching/teaching to a one-track sensory experience is ridiculous. If that was the case, God certainly didn’t need to give us all five! I was simply suggesting that we consider how we are coming across in our individual senses. If you close your eyes and listen, what do you hear? If you cover your ears and just watch, what do you see? And so on…

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