Talking Above the Noise – Chat with Mark MacDonald

Content is written by Rev. Micah James, CCA

In her book, Less Clutter. Less Noise, Kem Meyer prophetically claims that “a person needs to be reachable before they’re teachable.” In this age of constant communication and even more noise, I wanted to know how churches could communicate better. I also wanted to see how churches could take part in social conversations without getting bogged down in the mud of politics or partisanship.

In trying to understand that better, I reached out to a friend of mine, Mark MacDonald. Mark is a wealth of knowledge. Below is just a fraction of the wisdom Mark imparted on me in our conversation…

After catching up on life, I asked Mark how churches can participate in the larger conversations in this world. “The key is to always to remember that people are leaning the other way.” In my opinion, it was a noble and respectable place to start because it is almost impossible to avoid a binary argument anymore. The idea of always, not just sometimes, considering the other voices before crafting a message is important.

Mark shared with me a story about his own experience leading a Bible study. The study was going great. It was almost over and Mark felt compelled to “speak to the audience.” He said some things he thought those gathered wanted to hear. After class, one of the participants came up to him and said, “You know those things you said, it instantly turned me off to anything you would have said.” He learned a huge lesson that day. Not to assume everyone in any group is of one mind or expecting one message. You have to be able to speak to something bigger than the thing that will divide them.

Mark said that in his work in church communications, “I have to be careful to not divide on something that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of spirituality.” While he was sharing, I pondered what that message might be for my community. What are the issues of spirituality and faith that would unite and overcome division?

In regard to recent political fights and banter, Mark strongly proclaimed “ultimately our goal as ministers are to discuss biblical principles. The Gospel is so much bigger than politics.” If we teach scripture, they will experience the Gospel and engage in the world. If we teach politics, they will hear politics and not experience Christ.

Mark’s tip for church’s social media presence is “don’t fight, come out FOR something.” For Love. For Grace. For Healing. In Mark’s opinion, “that will make your voice different and draw attention,” and create “a little oasis in the middle of all this anger.” I continued to wonder, what would my community’s positive FOR message communicate?

Once you have a presence in social media, then you have to figure out how you want to monitor and engage. Here’s an example Mark shared:

“Our church has chosen to not be political, but someone may posts a political comment – the easiest way to delete, but the Gospel writers didn’t delete opposition. We as a church have to understand they represent the church, not themselves, and they have to speak out in a way so that their answer becomes attached to the thread that the church is known for.”

Ultimately, our whole conversation was about one BIG thing. The church needs to get back to basics. OR as Mark put it, “We need to learn to get back on message. Our messages need to get back to the thread of Jesus Christ.” … then and only then will we be able to talk above the noise.


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BIG thanks to Mark MacDonald for sharing his wisdom. Mark MacDonald is a Bible teacher, speaker, writer, and communication strategist for BeKnownForSomething.com. He empowers churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. Since the 1980’s Mark has served as designer and creative director at one of Eastern Canada’s largest agencies and now at his branding agency in North Carolina. Mark and his wife, Tammy, have two sons ministering at churches in Calgary and Chicago. He’s overseeing the development of the national Intensive Lab and Church Communicator’s Certification. Follow him: @markmac1023 and his blog (http://www.beknownforsomething.com/articles/)

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