There is an old saying that if there is a mist in the pulpit there is a fog in the pew. The meaning is simply that if the preacher is not 100% sure what he is trying to say and how to say it then the people will have no clue what he just said and why he said it.
Ronnie Ding tells the story: after a church service, the pastor shook hands with members of his congregation, and one of them commented on his sermon, saying “Pastor, you are smarter than Albert Einstein.”
The pastor was surprised and flattered by that statment, but he didn’t know how to respond. In fact, the more he thought about the comment, the more mystified he was by it. He couldn’t sleep properly for a week!
The following Sunday, he finally asked the member what he meant by it.
“You see,” the man responded, “Albert Einstein wrote something so difficult that only ten persons could understand him at that time. But when you preached, no one could understand you.”
Speaking of Albert Einstein – he once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.”
Ah! Here is the problem with most of us who want to go out witnessing telling others about Jesus. It is also the issue when we look at those who do go out and tell others about the Lord. We simply do not know the Gospel nor the culture (target audience) well enough to speak in such as way as to connect and be understood.
We need to study the Gospel inside and out. It is our only message. We need to know ten to fifteen different ways to explain it depending on the person we are with and the situation we find ourselves in. We need we read books on reaching others and sharing the faith. We need to really know what it is we are attempting to communicate – looking at it from all angles and deeply understanding these profound truths so that we can present them in a simple to understand way without using a lot of Church words. This takes time and a serious investment of money and effort.
We need to practice explaining the Gospel out loud so we hear ourselves do it and actually hear what we are saying and how it is sounding. We need to practice fishing. We need to connect with another believer and share the gospel with one another receiving input as to how we are coming across. We simply need to become comfortable speaking the Gospel out loud. It may make sense when you are “preaching” to yourself in your head but do not assume that this means it will make sense when you are sharing it out loud with someone else. It seldom translates.
And, it would not hurt to do some reading in the area of apologetics. Yes, more money, time and effort. In today’s culture (world) people are asking questions – good questions – and we, as believers and followers of Jesus, must be able to correctly and properly answer their questions (this is the field of study known as apologetics). And, do so without being defensive or offensive.
I personally am continually reading books on soul winning and evangelism. I look at and often purchase many of the newest books on the market. Going on the internet many of the bookstores now have a system of allowing you to read reviews, see the table of contents, and sometimes even read a chapter before purchasing the book. I also read widely on the culture in which we find ourselves. When going overseas I find history books on the country I am going to visit as well as other available literature about the culture (a lot is on-line) so that I am familiar with the background and cultural context of the nation or region I am going to be ministering in. With the constantly changing landscape of culture here in North America I am constantly browsing through magazines and books (biographies, best sellers and self-help areas of the local Chapters store -over a Starbucks coffee) to keep in touch with my own nation and the people I am trying to reach for the Lord.
This is the work of the Church and of every true believer and follower of the Lord. This is the mandate the Lord left us – for each believer to reach non-believers with the Gospel. No cost is too great to do it. Jesus said, follow Me and I will make you fishers of men. In the natural, people spend money on boats and fishing equipment so they can catch fish. It is no different when fishing for men. It will cost each and every believer a great deal to do as the Lord commands.
As one who drives a lot of foggy roads in the spring and fall … I believe it is worth the effort to be able to communicate clearly so that everyone can see and understand.