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Futral counsels seminarians to communicate as Jesus did

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Recounting his visit to an adult mental facility near a church he once served, Mississippi Baptist Convention Executive Director Jim Futral shared how he was taken to see certain patients, whom he described as humanoid figures because of their enormous disfigurement, who could not see, hear or talk.

In the building where the patients with the most extreme needs were housed, Futral watched as a man, all twisted and snarled, unable to do anything else but lay on his cot, had a seizure. A nurse immediately knelt down beside the screeching and shaking man, took him in her arms and holding him close to her, rubbed his back. When the screeching subsided and the trembling stopped, she helped him back down to his cot.

“Not one person in this room can see anything, say anything, or get up and do one thing for themselves,” the facility director explained to Futral. “They only know one thing … they know that we love them.”

The show of love inspired Futral.

“When Jesus stepped down here out of heaven and came and sat down beside you in your pew and to walk with you and me, he came to tell us that he loved us,” Futral told students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in a Jan. 31 chapel service. “And he sent us out into a world of hate and hurt and said, ‘I want you to communicate with those folks out there, folks who can’t see and can’t hear and can’t talk and can’t get along by themselves'” to tell them of his love, Futral said.

He reminded the chapel attendees of God’s Word: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, because you have love one to another.”

The substance of Jesus’ communication — and the substance of his followers’ communication — is love, Futral said. Equally important is the style of Jesus’ communication, he said. Calling Jesus “The Great Communicator,” Futral noting how Jesus communicated love through speech, silence, sight and scribbling.

More than 90 percent of communication is nonverbal, Futral said, pointing out that one of the styles Jesus used was speech itself. Emphasizing John 6:63, he pointed out that the words Jesus used were spiritual and life impacting.

“Sometimes we lose sight of the importance or the impact that will be made on somebody’s life when we simply say a word,” Futral said, reminding that the word God has placed on a Christian’s heart may encourage or make a difference in another person’s life.

When Jesus spoke to the two men shuffling on the dusty road to Emmaus, they had not recognized him, Futral recounted, then their hearts began to burn as he spoke to them. “Do we recognize when Jesus is speaking to us?” he asked.

Jesus also used silence when communicating to people, Futral said, noting that Jesus, like a lamb dumb before its shearers, used silence before his accusers. Futral referred to Matthew 26:62 when Caiaphas asked Jesus: “Answereth thou nothing?”

“You don’t have to come up with a response for everything,” Futral said. “Sometimes your best response is no response.”

He illustrated the power of silence by sharing how West Point cadets are often disciplined by its use. When cadets are silenced, he explained, no one is allowed to talk to them, and the effect is so dramatic that cadets often lose weight and become disoriented.

In a similar way, sometimes sight says it all, Futral continued.

Referencing Luke 22, when Jesus had been denied three times by Peter, Futral pointed out that when the cock crowed, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.

“Can you imagine what it must have been like?” he asked.

“I don’t know about you but I’ve had him look at me. I’ve seen his eyes of sorrow that cut into the heart of my rebellion, my needs, my faith, my denial — and Jesus with compassion and care simply turns to look.”

Another style of Jesus’ communication was what Futral described as scribbling, as Jesus did on the ground when he was presented with an adulterous woman. As Jesus wrote, each of the accusers left one by one. “Where are your accusers?” he asked the woman. Finding them gone, he told her to go and sin no more.

In a like manner, “You can use your words to write down things and make a powerful difference in people’s lives,” Futral said.

“In every case, in every way, Jesus kept trying to get people to understand, whether in speech or in silence or whether it’s in sight or whether it is scribbling on the ground, that God wants to come and do something wonderful in your life.”

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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