Why is it that I can understand Wesley's sermons more easily than I can understand some of the sermons delivered by modern ministers? Wesley uses terms like "thee" and "thou" and words that you don't even hear anymore like concord (who knew it was more than a grape or a plane! It means harmony.) How many of us who sit in the pews get asked "well what did your minister talk about?" How many of us are unable to come up with a good answer?
I think the first problem may be what some would refer to as "churchese" or "religionese"-the words that get used that sound warm and fuzzy but unless you are within a select circle you have no idea what they really mean. Every profession has their own unique language-teachers, doctors, lawyers, for example, and it is to be expected but when you are trying to communicate an idea to a lay person, you have to speak in plain language.
I think a second issue is that we try to take something simple and make it sound more sophisticated or complex than it really needs to be! Some of it may have to do with ego (see my education paid off, I really do know something) but I think actually it has more to do with this desire to come up with the coolest spin for the latest ad campaign. Somehow what we have is not cool enough or flashy enough or catchy enough so we have to re-invent it in some way. The result is a failure to communicate.
Let me give you an example. Our church had a workshop where a consultant from the conference came in and gave his presentation. One of the points that he consistently hammered on was the need to bring in more children, youth and young adults. But every "contemporary" example that he used came from the Boomer generation. Being a Gen-X'er I understood his points but I couldn't relate to them. I (like an idiot) mentioned this at the end during the comments time and he looked at me like I had grown three heads! (Thanks for listening...not!) Look folks, I understand the assassination of JFK was a big deal but I didn't experience it personally. It is modern history but for me it is still history! The Challenger explosion, I can relate to, but the Millennium generation can't because they didn't experience it as it happened. September 11th, that is a point in time that the older Millennium generation can understand and relate to because they experienced it happening. I share this because at this workshop there were young adults (those individuals that the church is trying to involve) and what they got out of it amounted to very little that they could relate to or apply. And we wonder why our message isn't getting through...
I could give you more examples but I hope you get my point! I have read enough of the Wesley sermons now that I can see a pattern and even though the wording is archaic I still get the point of his messages. Wesley takes scripture and if it is Old Testament relates it to New Testament and vice versa. He explains how it has been understood in the historical context, how traditionally it has been interpreted. He then follows it up with why it is important to the here and now today! People may not have agreed or embraced his message but dollars to donuts, they understood what he said to them!
So I am paraphrasing Habakkuk 2:2 here when I say see your vision and make it plain. What is the scripture that you want to talk about? Where is the connection between Old Testament and New Testament? How has it been historically interpreted? How do I take this and use it in my life today? Ask some questions so I have something to mull over during the week! Point me towards figuring out how I can apply this in a practical way!
Now this doesn't mean that you have to spill some deep dark secret or that you have to use vulgar language for shock value, which seems to be the latest greatest trend. What it means is that simple is better! If you are going to use "churchese" then explain what that warm and fuzzy term really means in plain English!
If you want members to run with the message, if you want them to "go out and make disciples" then put the message out in a way that is concise and clear so they can understand! Honest to goodness it really is that simple! Discipleship in its simplest form means apprenticeship or training someone so they can do the job. Trust me, there are people sitting in your pews starving for that sort of message! And when you light that fire, look out cause it's gonna burn! Ah, what a vision!