WHEN you speak, do more than present information. Endeavor to make what you say understandable to those who are listening. This can help you to communicate effectively, whether you are speaking to the congregation or to non-Witnesses.
There are many facets to understandable speech. Some of them are covered in Study 26, “Logical Development of Material.” Others are considered in Study 30, “Interest Shown in the Other Person.” In this study, we are going to discuss a few additional points.
Simple Words, Simplicity of Style. Simple words and short sentences are powerful tools of communication. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a superb example of a talk that can be understood by people no matter who they are or where they live. The concepts may be new to them. Yet, they can understand what Jesus said because he dealt with matters of concern to all of us: how to be happy, how to improve relationships with others, how to cope with anxiety, and how to find meaning in life. And he expressed his thoughts in down-to-earth language. (Matt., chaps. 5-7) Of course, the Bible provides many examples of variety in the length and structure of sentences. Your main objective should be to express thoughts in a clear, understandable way.
Even when you deal with deep material, simplicity of style can help make it easier to understand. How can simplicity be achieved? Do not overwhelm your audience with unnecessary details. Organize your material so that it complements your main points. Select your key scriptures carefully. Rather than rushing from one text to another, read and discuss these. Do not bury a good thought in a multitude of words.
When you conduct a home Bible study, apply those same principles. Do not try to explain all the details. Help the student to understand clearly the principal ideas. Later on, in personal study and at congregation meetings, he can fill in the details.
In order to present material in a simple manner, good preparation is needed. You must clearly understand your subject yourself if you are going to make it understandable to others. When you really understand something, you are able to give reasons why it is so. You are also able to express it in your own words.
Explain Unfamiliar Terms. Sometimes making things understandable requires that you explain the meaning of terms that are unfamiliar to your audience. Do not overestimate the knowledge of your audience, but do not underestimate their intelligence. As a result of your study of the Bible, you may use some terms that sound strange to other people. Without some explanation, those who are not associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses will not understand that “remnant,” “faithful and discreet slave,” “other sheep,” and “great crowd” identify specific groups of people. (Rom. 11:5; Matt. 24:45; John 10:16; Rev. 7:9) Similarly, unless a person is familiar with the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he will probably not understand what is meant by such terms as “publisher,” “pioneer,” “circuit overseer,” and “Memorial.”
Some Biblical expressions that are freely used even by non-Witnesses may need some explanation. To many people, “Armageddon” means a nuclear holocaust. They may associate “God’s Kingdom” with a condition within a person or with heaven but not with government. Reference to the “soul” may stir up thoughts of a so-called spiritual part of humans that survives the death of the body. According to what millions of people have been taught, “holy spirit” is a person, part of a Trinity. Because so many people have abandoned the Bible’s moral code, they may even need help to understand what the Bible means when it says: “Flee from fornication.”—1 Cor. 6:18.
Unless people are regular Bible readers, they may miss the point if you simply say, “Paul wrote . . .” or “Luke said . . .” They may have friends or neighbors who have those names. You may need to add some explanatory expression to identify the person as a Christian apostle or a Bible writer.
Modern-day audiences frequently need help to understand scriptures that include measurements or customs from ancient times. For example, the statement that Noah’s ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high may mean little to them. (Gen. 6:15) But if you were to describe those same dimensions in terms of familiar local landmarks, your audience would immediately picture the size of the ark.
Provide Needed Explanation. To make a matter clear to your audience, more may be needed than the correct definition of a certain term. In Jerusalem in the days of Ezra, the reading of the Law was accompanied by explanation. In order to help the people grasp its meaning, the Levites provided interpretation as well as application of the Law to the circumstances the people were facing at that time. (Neh. 8:8, 12) In a similar way, take time to explain and apply scriptures that you read.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus explained to his disciples that what had just occurred was in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He also emphasized their responsibility as witnesses of those things. (Luke 24:44-48) When you help people to see how what they have been taught should influence their own lives, they will more readily understand what it really means.
How the Heart Is Involved. Of course, even if your explanations are clear, other factors may influence whether the other person understands or not. When a person’s heart is unreceptive, that is a barrier to his getting the sense of what is said. (Matt. 13:13-15) To those who are determined to view matters strictly from a physical standpoint, spiritual matters are foolish. (1 Cor. 2:14) When a person demonstrates such a spirit, it may be wise simply to end the discussion—at least for the present.
Yet, in some cases the heart is unresponsive because of hard circumstances in life. Given opportunity to hear Bible truth over a period of time, the heart of such a person may become receptive. When Jesus told his apostles that he was going to be scourged and put to death, they did not understand. Why not? It was not what they expected and certainly not what they wanted! (Luke 18:31-34) However, in time, 11 of those apostles did understand, and they demonstrated that by acting in harmony with what Jesus had taught them.
Effect of a Fine Example. People are helped to understand not only by our words but also by our actions. Regarding their first visit to a Kingdom Hall, many people say that they remember the love that was evident, not what was said. Similarly, the happiness that we manifest has helped many householders to open their minds to Bible truth. Seeing the loving-kindness shown by Jehovah’s people toward one another and the kind consideration for others when faced with adversities has caused some to conclude that the Witnesses have the true religion. So as you endeavor to help people understand Bible truth, give thought to the way you explain it and to your example.