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The Law of Communication -- Building Bridges

About three years ago, my wife and I bought our first house.  Let me tell you, it was quite the learning process for me.  In fact, it was a frustrating process.  Reason why?  I didn't know any of the lingo when it came to getting a loan and talking with the agents.  They used terminology I had never heard of, and many times I had to stop them to clarify what they were saying.  It reminded me of something very important as a pastor, namely, I need to make sure that I'm communicating in such a way that my listeners can understand what I'm saying.  Of course, working with children helps in this regard.  If I try teaching the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement and the imputation of Christ's righteousness without using other terms and visuals they can understand, I've lost them.  I haven't communicated to them because they haven't understood.  You see, communication is much more than transferring information; it's building bridges with your listeners in order to impart the truth effectively.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the fourth law--The Law of Communication--from our book, Teaching to Change Lives, by Howard Hendricks.  Instead of giving a summary of the chapter, today I want to make some brief comments on a few of the quotes that stood out from this section.  Let's begin with the law itself.

  • To truly impart information requires the building of bridges

Hendricks says that before we can communicate effectively, we must establish common ground with our listeners.  In fact, the greater the commonality, the greater the potential for communication.  When we look at Jesus' life and teaching, we see that he intentionally built bridges into people's lives in order to effectively communicate to them.  We must do the same with those we teach.  For example, if we're teaching a class of young married couples, we must be willing to know them and spend time with them if we expect to speak into their lives effectively.

  • God's method is always incarnational.  He loves to take his truth and wrap it up in a person

I love this quote.  It reminds me that true communication comes out of the overflow of my life.  If I am passionate about what I know, and feel it deep inside my bones, and if I'm seeking to live it out (not perfectly but authentically), than by God's grace I can change lives through my teaching.  I want to say with the Apostle Paul, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard, or seen in me, put it into practice" (Phil. 4:9).

  • Your lesson needs structure.  It needs to be packaged.

This is so true.  Good communicators are able to organize their information in such a way that their listeners can follow them.  That means that as teachers, we've got to know where we're going or we'll end up somewhere else.  We need to have a plan, a target we're aiming at, or else we'll miss the target we intended to hit. 

(Here's my PROPOSED PLAN to help in your teaching for a target)

  • Get feedback.

If we really want to grow as teachers and communicators we must get feedback from those we teach.  After all, true teaching happens when there is true learning.  So we need to find out if our students have learned what we've taught them.  Sometimes this is best done by simply asking questions like, "Does that make sense?" or "How then would you apply this to your life?" or "Do you have any questions at this point?"  Getting feedback requires humility.  It requires every teacher to have a learner's heart.  But it's all worth it when we see our students grasp what we've taught them and are just as passionate as we are to live out these truths.

  • Questions for Reflection
  1. What will you apply from this chapter?
  2. How do you seek to build bridges with those you teach?
  3. Do you walk into each teaching setting with a plan and a target?
  4. Are you getting feedback from others about your teaching?
  5. How can you improve as a communicator?