Growing up in the church, I remember hearing a lot of words well before I ever understood them. And there were some I really never understood – but everyone used them. My Sunday School teachers and even into middle school used a language which I didn’t fully comprehend. I could spit back these words but no one had ever taken the time to actually ask me to say back to them what it meant – without using other big theological words. Please – don’t get me wrong. I fully believe we should be trained, seeking to grow in the fullness of the knowledge of God (Ephesians 4:13).
Recently I have been challenging myself to have difficult conversations with students – not for them but for me. I have been asking them to explain back what I believed I had so clearly communicated on their level. And what I thought would be a 5 minute conversation moves into a 15 minute conversation – full of blank stares and unknown concepts. And while part of it may be their developmental stage – part of it is also forgetting some of the big huge words and thinking – how can I communicate this truth, this good news, in a language they understand?
The challenge comes into play in the whole abstract vs concrete scenario. An abstract thinker can understand that when Jesus says “I am the living water” he isn’t literally water that is living and walking around. However – a concrete thinker may get an image of “Dude! Jesus turned into water!”. A student who is a concrete thinker can grasp at baptism – but his mind constantly goes to this being how his sin is washed away – because of how far his mind, created by God, has developed.
So the challenge is this – how do we speak truth concretely? How do we not just say “Wait until they can understand it?” but “Lord, grant me wisdom to share your truth in a language they can understand?” After all – we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28) to the ends of the earth (Acts 1) always being prepared to give an answer – even to a concrete-thinker – of the hope we have in Christ. (1 Peter 3:15)
The goal with this post is to begin a conversation of ways to communicate on a concrete-thinker level. Not because we dumb something down but because we step down among them – as Christ came down among us. What are some ways you have communicated the truth of the Gospel to concrete-thinkers?