Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Language Teaching and Christian Preaching, Once More

Classes will start once again at my school in just a couple of weeks, and I have spent the last couple of days evaluating myself and thinking through what I can do better. Last year, of course, I had a very small idea of what my role as a language teacher would entail, and this year I have a slightly better grasp. The one thing I am trying to beat into my head is that I must go slower.

As a language teacher it is important to remember that the key word is "SLOW!" Students are adjusting to a new language and environment, and they generally understand far less than you think they do. Therefore, you must go really slow, even to the point that it is laughable to you. Language acquisition does not happen overnight or over a nine week quarter, but it happens all year. Your syntax and diction must be simple, and your rate of speech must be "SLOW!"

Now I am trying to connect this to the assertion that the Christian preacher's job is to assist in a sort of language acquisition. How slow should preachers go? Generally, a congregation probably comprehends far less of your sermon's big idea than you think they do, or else they grasped a completely different idea from it. It is important for preachers to be a theologian for the people. Preachers must:
- Use simple syntax.
-Explain your ideas, even if you think your thesis is quite simple to begin with.
-Don't assume your congregation is starting at the same level of language as you, because they probably are not.
-Introduce language (i.e. vocabulary) in a scaffolding manner. Explain nuanced and deep theological words very carefully.

I'm sure there are a thousand more things that could go into this list, but the key is to remember that once your audience comprehends a sermon, they will acquire the idea and the vocabulary.


  1. Ryan, I agree. And since I'm an extremely fast talker I actually write the words, "SLOW DOWN" and [P] (for pause) throughout my sermon manuscript. But I wonder, how slow does one have to go when dealing with an indigenous culture - especially in a pastoral environment where relationships are forged over a long period of time? For instance, families quickly realize the "insider" experience of understanding what another means when playing some sort of "blab it" board game. In other words, there are times - it seems to me - that we need to hurry it up (lest we insult our listeners) and at other times we need to slow down (lest we communicate indifference toward them). In other words, once a pastor has developed a rapport with a congregation, it would seem that speed should vary, don't you think?

    Perhaps we could call it articulation variation, if you will.


  2. Yeah, definitely. Sermonizing should be a scaffolding practice, where you build upon what your congregation has learned/ is learning. However, most of our audiences will never share the same theological fervor that the preacher does, so he necessarily always has to slow it up a little.


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2 Ages Verging by Ryan Cordle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.