I am on my friends email list. Steve and I ran cross-country and track in high school. He provides us with about 3 quotes and a passage of scripture that the quotes relate to every day.
Tuesday (3/2) I received this from him. “Most people are bothered by those passages of scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” Mark Twain said that.
I am a preacher. Some call us pastors, some ministers, some brother so-and-so, but I prefer preacher because that is what I do. I wear those other hats from time to time, but I am first and foremost a preacher. Since I am a preacher, I a communicator. I’m not as effective as someone like Lynn Ragsdale, Ken Idleman, or Bob Russell and thousands of others, but I have one responsibility when I am in the pulpit, or sitting on a stool down in front of the auditorium as I have over the last few weeks (partly due to a knee injury) and that is to communicate a portion of God’s word and truth to those who share in the community of faith I serve.
I have struggled with communication. I have encountered over the years people who passively sit and listen but do nothing else. They complain if they didn’t understand what I said because it went over their heads. I have the responsibility to communicate as best as I can the word of God, but, the listener has responsibility too. They’re not there just to listen and if they do not understand, its not only my fault, they have a responsibility to try to understand.
One of the women in my congregation was telling us about the time she heard a preacher and she had difficulty understanding what he was getting at and commented to him that he had spoken over her head. His reply, “Then raise your head!”
Though his reply is true, it was also cruel and harsh. If I am hearing someone speak and I don’t get it, I had better try to get it, even if I have to ask them to clarify it to me, at the same time, if I am the speaker, I had better try to make it reachable for everyone who will hear me speak. Honestly, unless the audience listening to my sermons is in grade school, its hard for me to imagine that I could preach above their heads. But I’ve been told I can and that I have.
Let me help the listener to get to the point of being able to understand the preacher, so that we lessen the likelihood that he will preach above your head. In other words, in order to get on the same page with the speaker:
1st – Get to know the Bible in a more complete and comprehensive way. Reading the Bible, every page, every word is that important. It provides a level of familiarity that makes grasping the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the Bible that much easier.
2nd – If you know the topic or the passage(s) to be addressed in the message ahead of time, read and study them. The greater my familiarity and understanding of a passage is, the better I get what the speaker is trying to communicate.
3rd – Give your mind and your heart time to digest what you’ve heard preached and taught. Sometimes, for some of us, it may a few moments or a couple of days before it comes together in our minds. For me, it might help if I could defrag my brain like I can my computer, LOL.
4th – If you don’t get, ask the preacher or teacher to clarify things for you, to help you, as the harsh preacher above said, to raise your head.
There are probably more ways, these are the some that struck me tonight.
I promise as a preacher, that I will always do my best to communicate at everyone’s level by learning how my hearers think and learn and compose my messages in a way that matches their abilities. I can’t promise that for every preacher, but I will try.
Some of the difficulty for the preacher is that different people learn in different ways, but expect that everyone learns in exactly the same way as they do. I have a 73-year-old man who was confused by a word picture I painted to explain regeneration (Matthews 19:28; Titus 3:5), but I understood the concept better because I could visually picture it, where a simple this is what it means was his way of learning.
“The true Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God, all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are his marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which he nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered!” — John Wycliffe
(Found this quote here; http://biblicism.wordpress.com/about/)
Let’s get the Bible into us so that we get it. Not so much getting the preacher, but getting what God says.
PS: If you’d like to judge my communication abilities for yourself, go to this link and listen to the messages on Sermon Player http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/Sermons.dsp