In management circles in the business world I remember hearing about the Arc of Distortion. In fact, during management training we had whole segments on communication, something we should spend more time on as Christians and especially as preachers.
The arc of distortion basically describes what happens between the one trying to send a message and the intended receiver. What we mean is not always what is understood. This is something almost everyone has to deal with at one point or another. Very often you know this has happened when someone says, “No, what I mean is” or something to that effect.
In recent days in US politics there have been several high profile events when a politician “misspoke”. Sometimes they are out right lies that they are attempting to cover up, other times it is genuinely a case of poor communication.
So what can we learn as believers? I think one of the great dangers that Bible teachers and church leaders can fall into is to make assumptions. Here are a few that come to my mind of which I have been guilty or which I have observed:
- Assuming a person is ready for increased responsibilities.
- Assuming a person is not ready for Increased responsibilities.
- Assuming a person has greater knowledge than they do.
- Assuming a person has understood how to complete a task.
- Assuming uncertainty is unwillingness
- Assuming fear is purely faithlessness
- Assuming questions are simply rebellion
- Assuming a person is saved
- Assuming I understand a passage of Scripture enough to teach it
- Assuming I understand a person or my community
I am sure there are many other assumptions church leaders and Bible teachers make, but all of these can lead to trouble and hurt. Because we carry the most vital message this world needs we must be the best communicators possible. In the business world they are constantly reviewing how they communicate their core abilities and intentions. While our message never changes, and while we must endeavour to remain Biblical in our methodology. as believers we should constantly be checking to see how effective or ineffective our communication is.
Maybe as the Lord and time allows I will write a few more specific articles on comminucation, but for now I wanted to simply raise communication as an issue of which we need to be aware.
God help us to study to clearly communicate the wonderful, life giving, life enhancing truths of Scripture.