Staying on message almost as important as having one


    The no-nonsense directive, four simple words, has become an oft-cited model of effective messaging. “It’s the economy, stupid.”
    James Carville used the blunt language to keep Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign on course. Carville well understood the dangers of getting sidetracked and losing focus while addressing secondary issues.
     There is an old expression, “If you stand for everything you stand for nothing.”
     Carville understood the danger.
     Over the years, ineffective communications and muddled messages have resulted in lost wars, broken marriages, failed elections and shuttered businesses. It is a lesson every great football coach, military strategist, CEO or political leader understands. Keep is simple. Stay on message. Do not get distracted.
      But the fine art of message discipline did not begin with James Carville. The sharing of the Gospel is the ultimate high-priority communication.
       “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.
      At the recently completed Annual Conference in Athens, Bishop Watson made it clear that evangelism remains the core DNA of United Methodists. In sharing his vision for North Georgia and the various mission and ministry efforts, Bishop Watson emphasized the importance of building Bridges of partnerships, across continents and nations as well as throughout our local communities.
      The 2012 Annual Conference was a reminder of our personal call to evangelism, to share the Good News. How often do we fail to maintain “message discipline” and get sidetracked by other issues?
      The Apostle Paul knew the risks of getting tangled up in local controversies, political squabbles and civil disputes, as did Jesus did before him.
     The religious hierarchy sought to drag Christ into the political quicksand: “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matt 22:17).
      Jesus refused to be diverted from his core, life-saving message.
      There are no shortage of hot-button topics to be passionate about these days, from health care and taxation to women’s rights, environmental issues and immigration. My question: In articulating my insightful, learned, well-reasoned arguments, am I bringing anyone closer to the cross or potentially driving them away?
    Stop. I know the answer. I have never won anyone to Christ by sharing my passionate, thoughtful arguments for tort reform or a comprehensive energy policy.
     Let’s be honest, many people believe the church in the U.S. is, at its core, a quasi political organization with more interest in pushing legislation and winning elections than expanding the number of Elect.
    What is our message? How are we communicating it?
    In a pre-conference letter, Bishop Watson wrote: “For the last forty years World Methodist Evangelism has labored to see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus throughout the whole world through word, deed, and sign that the world may know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is a holy calling and it is still our calling today!”
    Is this my message today or am I expending precious time and energy on secondary issues that divide more than unite?
        I know this much. When it comes to our core message as United Methodists it is not the economy, stupid. It is Jesus Christ and him crucified.
You can contact North Georgia Advocate editor Glenn Hannigan by email at