Friday, May 24, 2013

Using Words People Can Understand

Sitting in the doctors office recently as my wife and I listened on what to expect going into her last week of pregnancy, I realized that although I am familiar with the birthing process because this isn't our first child, but that the doctor still used many words that I really am not sure their meaning. It reminded me of my own conversation when sharing the gospel on Monday of this week with the taxi driver from my last couple of post. Although I have lived overseas for some time now and I know to use simple English because my own Hindi skills are limited, I still catch myself wanting to use the big words.

As I was sharing God's story, I caught myself continually going towards a big word that this Indian man would have no clue the meaning or perhaps even many people reading this would have no clue. That caused me to throw a red flag on myself as there needs to be clarity in what we are communicating. My tendency is to blame this problem on seminary in my own life because after all I spent over three years studying the deep theological truths and using these big terms so I could come across as smart in my classes and even sound it outside of the classroom.

But, the average person is not impressed with big theological terms and most people do not understand them. I must also confess that at times other seminarians use words that I am not even sure their meaning so I have to secretly google the term on my phone during our conversation so that I can continue to carry my own with the theological big boys.

Most people would prefer that you use everyday vocabulary when communicating with them. By using the big theological terms only makes you look like you are out to prove something and make people feel dumb, which is not what we are called to do in making disciples. To my theological buddies, do I believe there is a time and place to use theological terminology? Absolutely, but not as often as you probably think. And if you just cannot get away from using some of those terms as I myself get stuck sometimes, then use them, but along with a clear definition of what the word really means. Don't leave people puzzled after you have a conversation with them, but ensure that clear communication took place so that life change can take place as a result of the truths these large terms often represent.

1 comment:

  1. I struggle with this a lot. I have a healthy vocabulary combined with a difficulty relating with many people. So I don't know what people can understand and what they can't. Many ideas that I can express using a few finer words are only expressible in a simpler way with much discourse. Most people won't tolerate a lengthy discussion with me. When I teach using a translator, I've taken to writing everything down to be translated more easily: short phrases devoid of idioms and difficult words. It helps to have some contact with the translator beforehand so I hear how the translator uses English so I have an idea what words are better to use.