Yesterday, I saw an amusing video for one of my more obscure Coursera classes on the manuscripts of Medieval Spain, and the professor of the course was pleased that most of the people in the class already had degrees (many of us advanced degrees) and were taking the course not for a degree but out of an interest in further intellectual development. He said that he had reached his target audience, which is a pleasant thing for someone to do, seeing as there are few cases where I consider myself to be the target audience of anyone . Of course, I may not be sufficiently self-aware of how often I am a target audience for the communication and appeals of others to put such matters in their proper and full context.
While doing my occasional internet wanderings for random information, I came across a story  about a fellow who happens to be the only police officer in a very lonely and remote island in the South Atlantic that few people have likely ever heard of, Tristan da Cunha. I only know about it because I look in vain for someone from the island to visit my blog like so many other obscure islands . This fellow, who not only happens to be the only police officer on the island (and has been for the last 22 years), but has also been the Chief Islander (a magistrate of sorts) for three years between 2007 and 2010 and also was the first person apparently to ever write a book on life in Tristan da Cunha, in 2005 . According to him, he has never had to lock anyone in the holding cell at his police station in all of the years he has ever been a cop, and that (sadly) no one wishes to take over his position as the loneliest cop in the whole world.
I would think that a police officer would want a peaceful island almost free of crime, enough time to run for political office and write a book while serving on the beat, without having to arrest anyone and certainly without having to deal with the risk of violence. Here is a man who has been awarded for his service to his island, and has been a local leader in politics and culture besides his work. To be sure, he probably has a great deal of respect in his local community, and one would think that it would be an honor to serve as he has, although one must admit he probably has left some big footprints to fill that might be daunting for an island that appears to be little thought of by the world at large. Yet, one would think that a career of dutiful service without a lot of danger would be precisely the target of a cop. Does that not mean one is doing something right?
Marketing is not a skill I consider myself particularly proficient in. Nevertheless, despite my own lack of skill in the area, I am pleased when other people are able to target their message effectively. There are people who are paid good money (and I happen to know at least some of them) who study such matters as branding and name recognition and the way that a message can be tailored to fit an audience. As much as it would be nice for content alone to drive interest, there is a great deal more to success than merely quality. There is always the matter of communication, something that is one of the banes of my existence. Before what we do can help others, there must be some medium of communication to connect what we do to others. Do we use the right words in the right situation to get our point across, or do we require people to interpret us correctly, something that cannot be relied upon in our interactions with others.
The Apostle Paul had to deal with this problem himself, as has anyone who has ever attempted the difficult task of cross-cultural apologetics . Of course, his statement about his efforts is well-known but often misinterpreted, in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”
There are many who try to twist Paul’s words to say what he precisely did not say, that he was without law towards God. Yet Paul’s approach, described briefly here and in greater detail in Acts and in his letters to various congregations, is not too difficult to understand. Wherever Paul went, he sought to understand the people he was dealing with. He read up on their reputation, he walked the cities and got a glimpse of the people, from the slave girls and the people of the marketplace to learned scholars and elites. He was honest and forthright in his delivery, but despite being direct and guileless he was also discerning in seeking to frame the Gospel in terms that would be relatable and understandable to his audience, which was everyone. To be sure, not everyone was willing to accept what Paul had to say, but all the same Paul wanted to make sure that his message was not hindered by any barriers to reaching its target audience, an audience as wide as the Roman world of his day, and through translation, to the ends of the earth itself.
Yesterday, I happened to notice that someone (and, judging from the pattern of views, I assumed it to be one person) had looked up a variety of posts that I had written on the subject of love and marriage. Without going into too much unpleasant detail, it is not an area of my life that has gone very well. What I say about the subject of love and relationships is generally very consistent (and not very surprising): I am not in a romantic relationship right now (nor have I been for almost a decade), I am someone who happens to be very amorous and romantic by nature who would like to marry and have children in the right situation, and I tend to find it a frustrating and unsuccessful area of life where there has been little progress in a long time. Yet someone (and I do not know whom) found it of interest to look up a variety of posts, as if they cared what I thought about love and romance, yet without comment (at least to me) about what they found or why they were looking in the first place. How am I to know if my target audience for such writings has been met at all, or what that would even mean? I suppose all who cast their bread upon the waters, or cast their art out into the world at large, wonder the same thing. In the meantime, I guess I’m a lot like that cop in Tristan da Cunha after all.
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 The book is called Rockhopper Copper: http://www.tristantimes.com/art_1481_32_18.html
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