We have a lot of opportunity to listen to people talk about the Bible, perhaps in a highly academic lecture, or a more practical tale of discipleship. But sometimes we find that the speaker just doesn't connect with us.
Usually I put this down to the style or approach of the presenter, but after reading Lee LeFever's book on The Art of Explanation I've come to understand that this could equally be described as an explanation problem.
We don't tend to think of explanation as a skill that can be improved. Lee LeFever takes that fact and demonstrates not only that we can explain things better, he shows us how to do it too.
Why didn't I think of this before?
This is one of those books that points out things that are, on the one hand, really obvious, and leaves you questioning why on earth you hadn't thought this way before.
Take this (frankly, genius) diagram, for instance:
This diagram characterises your task as an Explainer. Your audience may be at different points on the learning scale, but is probably on the left side. You, meanwhile, are typically on the right side.
- People at A need to know more "why" information. You have to make them care.
- People at B need less "why" and already care about the facts you are conveying. They are more ready for "how" facts are applied.
What an explanation is
The book suggests that an explanation is a way of "packaging" facts. A good way to begin an explanation is to list out the facts you are trying to convey. For example:
- Jesus will return
- He will rule over the earth
- A Temple will be built in Jerusalem
Now, append the word "why?" to each statement. Answering the "why" question helps frame your explanation and begins to "package" your facts.
An explanation has to lead from "why" to "how" in small stages. Which of these people would you prefer to be? The one who just sees a mass of knowledge staring him down, or the one with an easy path to understanding?
The book gives many practical tips and techniques for developing your own "stepping stones" to move your audience from apathy, to interest, to engagement. It's clear and concise, although I wish some of the real-world examples were a little more varied.
I hope this short review has whet your appetite to learn more. The Art of Explanation is absolutely "up there" with The Presentation Coach for practical, simple ways to improve the way we communicate God's message.