If you want to be heard, speak in a language people understand - good news instead of gobbledygook

Gobbledygook is defined as a language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms. Texas Congressman Maury Maverick coined the word in 1944 to describe the frustrating jargon used by policymakers in Washington. It reminded him of the sound of turkeys gobbling. Here's an example "My geometry teacher was speaking English, but it was all gobbledygook to me." This is how I felt in my physics class as a teenager. My teacher, Mr Rae would excitedly speak about his subject, looking at us, hoping we would get it. I would glaze over because I just didnt connect with Brownian motion or Boyle's Law. It was all truth and all important, even affecting my daily life but I made no connection to it. The same can be true of the gospel. If we are not careful we can speak gobbledygook rather than gospel, even though we are excited and convinced ourself, we are not communicating our passion to others.

In Acts 22 we have an example of Paul speaking in a language that connected with his listeners. In Acts 22:1 Paul has been arrested by the Roman guard, accused of stirring up a mob in Jerusalem. He asks permission to speak and says "Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defence."

In this one sentence there are some masterclass techniques in communication. First he shows respect by addressing the crowd as brothers and fathers. Paul is trying to connect before he communicates. He is trying to show their family history as fellow Jews. Looking for a point of connection and reference is a bridge building tool that makes it easier to be heard, especially if there is already a lot of antagonism.

Paul asks to be heard, he says "listen now." The word listen in New Testament greek akouō means "to ask for an audience, to attend to, consider what is being said." Paul is connecting with them and asking for their permission to be heard. He asks "listen to my defense." In Greek it is the word apologia, from which we get our word apologetics, a formal defence of what we believe and why.

So there are three stepping stones used before Paul even makes his case 1) a personal connection 2) a request for an audience, and 3) laying the case for a defence or apologetic.

Acts 22:2 is important to notice. It says "When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic (their own language), they became very quiet." This is the key to good news being heard. Are we speaking in a language that helps people want to listen? Remember the crowd previously wanted to kill him so this is a big shift in attitude.

What does Paul say next? What is the content of his message? He begins with his own story, of his Jewish background, his love for the Hebrew traditions, his training under an esteemed rabbinic teacher, Gamaliel. He tells them of his zeal and his persecution of followers of Jesus. This is a conversion story beginning with how Paul was once just like his listeners.

Paul then introduces his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. It is the classic example of "I once was blind but now I see." In Paul's case he was literally blind and had to visit Ananias who prayed for him to receive his sight. This story has a miraculous element to it. Our stories are powerful and prophetic, they open the heart of the listener to testimony, of turn around. Stories are an essential part of good communication, people can relate to a personal account of changed lives.

Paul's account is going well until he mentions that the good news is meant to include the Gentiles, not just the Jews. His communication is clear, the people understood exactly what Paul was saying and this will receive a mixed response depending on the crowd.

However my point is this, if we want to be heard we must learn to speak in the language of the people. Christians can be guilty of using words and phrases that don't connect with people. We use words like salvation and justification, that are actually technical terms just like my physics class. Try and avoid jargon, or if you use words like that, explain and define them.

Like Paul it is good to use our own story, and find a common point of connection. We must also be prepared for kickback, not everyone will like what we say, some will be offended and angry.

What practical steps can we take? I would suggest practicing your apologetics. There are resources online to help. One example is Solas who have a beginners guide to apologetics. Here's the link

I also suggest that you find a friend to try out your story. Grow in your communication skills, fine-tune what you say, reword parts and work on the pace, timing and length of what you say. Make it a three minute challenge if you know you don't have a lot of time.

Consider what you might do if people react negatively.

This is all part of the learning curve, go easy on yourself but the rewards of persevering could be people responding and receiving Christ.

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