Shock Value: A Communications Tip from Jesus

photo credit: p-duke via photopin cc
photo credit: p-duke via photopin cc

Jesus was a master communicator and a highly influential figure.  One of his favorite techniques was unpredictability; it got attention, incited questions, challenged prevailing interpretations of Scripture and invited conversations.


Gabriel visited a teenager and announced, Mary, you’re going to give birth to the Son of GodSurprise!

Jesus announced himself to be the Messiah as he read from Isaiah in his home town of Nazareth.  No one saw that coming.

He healed physical illness, delivered people from demons, commanded the elements of nature, and forgave sinsMost unexpected.

Jesus enjoyed the company of sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes.  Shocking!

He rejected positions of religious and political power, was not a member of the Sanhedrin and did not possess a formal educationUnheard of.

Just about when his followers began to realize that Jesus really was the Messiah, he started teaching them that he would suffer and die What?!?

Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, falsely charged and crucified.  His death is arguably the most shocking, horrifying, unimaginable event in human history. The love and grace of God was never more powerfully communicated.

Communications experts recognize great persuasive potential in the combination of low predictability and high information that Jesus employed.  His miracles were often accompanied by tantalizing teaching.  After feeding five-thousand people on a hillside he taught the disciples that he is the “bread of life.”  There’s something to chew on: Low predictability; high (if slightly confusing) information.

Unexpected behavior gets our attention.  It makes us think.  We ask questions.  Therefore, it opens our eyes to see an individual or to hear a message without the interference of stereotypes.

As I think about Jesus’s followers today, I’d characterize us as high predictability; high information.  Our information might be solid, true and even skillfully presented, but perhaps high predictability dulls its reception.

Everyone expects churches to hold worship services and Sunday Schools, summer VBS camps, host PADS shelters and stock food pantries.  These are good and worthy practices, and they typically feature high information about Jesus.  But, are they influential?

More problematic is when Christians reinforce negative stereotypes by displaying judgmental, hypocritical, or narrow-minded attitudes.  Sadly, many people believe this is predictable.  Information is ignored.

 The grace and love of God have tremendous shock value.  What if we demonstrated them in unpredictable ways?

Perhaps we would generate some redemptive high information conversations.

Would you think about this with me?  Imagine unexpected behavior that is consistent with the heart and Word of Jesus Christ (shock for its own sake is not the point – it must reveal the love and/or grace of God) and ask yourself what kinds of interactions might result from such Christ-like unpredictability.  Maybe you’re way ahead of me.  If so, I’d love to hear how you do this.

Ideas anyone?

All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?‘”  Matthew 12:23

If you’re interested, this post expresses a similar thought.

10 thoughts on “Shock Value: A Communications Tip from Jesus

Add yours

  1. I’m never disappointed stopping by your place Judy, convicted a little, never disappointed. I think you give us a great taste of what may be the most unexpected move we can make… live the life of Jesus before others. No, I don’t suggest we go trying to perform miracles or the such. Simply serve others. Suffer with them, meet their needs, sacrifice on their behalf. That would indeed be unexpected. Many blessings!

  2. Judy, a great post here. I am not a project person most likely because I grew up with many who were. I was dragged into doing things I was not good at; didn’t enjoy or had no interest in to begin with. Creativity was knocked out of me for the areas I needed to work on but because I had no time to do so because I was forced to do these others it took me years to gain that knowledge of God’s purpose for me. People, especially Christians find it unbelievable I spend hours daily in prayer, reading and studying God’s word. As they are so shocked I realize how so many do not know Jesus the way he wants them to.

    1. It’s true – to spend precious hours in Bible study and prayer is shocking behavior. Has anyone asked you why you do that? I too spend quite a lot of time reading the Bible, teaching and writing about what I learn, praying and serving. I cannot remember anyone asking me why I do it. I do get some puzzled looks. Thanks Cathy!

  3. My small group is reading through Luke and LOVING rediscovering the fresh, unexpected Jesus. He was (and is) mesmerizing. I should read the gospels more often than I do… It reminds me of how winsome, frustrating, wonderful, awesome, tantalizing, authoritative Jesus is. Wonderful!

  4. My small group is reading through Luke and LOVING rediscovering the fresh, unexpected Jesus. He was (and is) mesmerizing. I should read the gospels more often than I do… It reminds me of how winsome, frustrating, wonderful, awesome, tantalizing, authoritative Jesus is. Wonderful!

    1. Hi Bronwyn, I agree that we can’t read the Gospels too often. May your current study inspire provocative unpredictability! (Ooh – I like that phrase. Wish I’d used that as the title for this post:).

  5. A friend of mine came down with an illness which made me mad. So I went to a local hospital of about 60 beds and went to every room, asking if anyone would like prayer for healing. Can you guess how many people agreed to have prayer? Two. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous? Sick people not wanting prayer.

    Like you said, maybe it was too unexpected.

    1. Wow. I can’t imagine anyone refusing prayer. I suppose you did surprise them, and maybe some thought long and hard about that later. Thanks Larry.

    2. That reminds me of the saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Or in this case, “in hospitals.” Well, maybe there are. 🙂 But of course I wouldn’t want to say that people who refuse prayer are all atheists. But I love the fact that you just DID it! I appreciate your comment — and the post, Judy; I always see things in a unique way when I read your blog!

Leave a Reply to Naphtali Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: