If you have something to say, make sure people understand you

“Jesus taught profound truth in simple ways.We do the opposite. Many “deep” teachers are actually just muddy!It’s arrogance” (Rick Warren)

I follow lots of people on Twitter and Facebook.
Many of them are pastors, teachers, theologions.
Often they post stuff. Seriously, I have been to Theological College, I have been to Bible College, all up I have done about 7 and a half years of study.
Yet when I read some of their comments, its like…what planet are you on?

If you cant explain something in simple language, then you are being dumb.
Seriously, sometimes I think people use large words and concepts because they are lazy!
Its actually harder to make a deep concept simple, than what it is to cloud it in ‘impressive’ language. I am not impressed by you choice of big words!
Make it so people can understand what you are saying! What you are saying is probably helpful….if people could understand it.

17 thoughts on “If you have something to say, make sure people understand you”

  1. Large words must have been invented by lazy people then. Let's dump words like atonement, reconciliation, redemption, eschatology, resurrection,…

    It's all about context – if you explain the use of a large word, you can then go on to use it instead of the longer explanation of small words.

    We should also realise that our stock of words is getting smaller and smaller. Clarity rather than simplicity is in order when dealing with complexity. Simplicity is fine when things are simple. But we ought to resist dumbing things down.

  2. I think you might be being sarcastic Ian…but actually I agree with your list of words to dump, except perhaps reconciliation, which in our culture is a useful word to use.
    perhaps when using some of the more modern social media when space and brevity of word useage is important, some of these cumbersome words do need to be rethought.

  3. Mildly sarcastic, yes. But, again, my strategy would be to explain the use of an unfamiliar word if it helpfully sums up in four syllables what would otherwise take many more words. Explanation, not rejection.

    BUT… I have no time for someone who use complex words to people they know are unfamiliar with them (I won't say "can't understand them" because people can pick up on complex stuff if you treat them as grown-ups) and won't explain (in a non-condescending way).

    The answer – know your audience!
    Treat them as having the capacity to expand their understanding AND their vocabulary.

  4. I'm sure some people do.

    Some people also employ reverse snobbery.

    Wouldn't it be a shame if we couldn't accept that people move in lots of different circles, think and use words differently.

    Too many people think if something doesn't matter to them in particular, it can't matter at all. And if an idea is too difficult, it can't be important.

    Others think is something is important to them, everyone else is stupid if they don't give their attention to it. Or if an idea is simple, it can't be important.

    Lord save us from both!

  5. Heh – maybe you should get Rick Warren to speak to Mark Driscoll re hypostatic anthropomorphic man-unity or whatever he made up 😉

  6. yes good on Green Poupon!
    That was a case of using a obviously theological term to good effect, shock effect, rather than just as part of normal conversation.

  7. It's not the big hard to understand words that bother me … often they best describe the point and serve the purpose. To sit at the feet of a scholar is a wonderful experience, mind you I have sat at the feet of a few pseudo scholars in my time as well …

    It's the "Christianised" words that worry me …. like "repent" for example, or maybe even the word "church", how about the word "pastor"? Words taken from a broad historical landscape and narrowed down to suit a particular cause, if this is not intellectual dishonesty and laziness it could maybe even be a case of perpetuating a fraud.

  8. Two things

    I am now worried about my twittering!!

    Dump resurrection – you can't be serious! It's long but surely not big?!

  9. I suppose my point about resurection is….I would never use it in a conversation with a non churched person…and so in the pulpit I would rarely use it, and if I did, it would always need to come with a explanation.
    Mark…I am with you on christianese.
    Pastor….I reckon most people know what that means…and church.

  10. Mark, how else would you describe someone being raised from the dead? I don't think that resurrection is a word that doesn't have meaning for most people at all.

    I think that it's an important thing for us to be aware of ways we alienate ourselves from the broader community, and I think the test you've used there isn't a bad one though: would I use this word in describing the same thing if I was talking with an unchurched person?

    Here's something to put out there though: what about a word like "grace". It's got a vastly different meaning in Christian circles than it does in the rest of the world, and yet I'm not sure there are many pastors ready to give it up.

  11. appreciate your comments Geoff
    As I said, I would use the word resurection, but I would use in conscious of the fact it would rarely get used anywhere else except church circles… (mmmm Freo have ressurected their season with a stunning 100 point thrashing of Richmond….maybe it does get used)

    and as for 'grace'….Ian did not mention that one, and I reckon most people use it and know it.

  12. How about Freo need a miraculous resurrection in order to be a decent football team?
    Of course one needs to have been alive at some stage for a resurrection to occur.

  13. Just refer them to 'Alien Resurrection' and say it's kind of like not that at all! 😉

    I started off p'ed off a bit with Mark but this is a good conversation to have. There is also the strangeness of Christian faith which can make it attractive too.

    This is one of the problems with the Warren quote. Jesus didn't go around telling simple stories that everyone simply understood. Jesus was sometimes cagey and obscure. Those who wanted to know more 'pushed in' further and others wandered away. But let's not let exegesis get in the way of a good bias!

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