THE PREACHER AND HIS WORLD
The preacher's function is to witness to the changeless truth in these changing times, to speak of eternal verities to those who are buffeted by the shifting and stormy scenes of life's drama. The voice of surety is needed now amid earth's heartbreaking experiences. Men need a vision of the permanent, surrounded as they are by the perishable.
The men who have moved their age have been men alive to the trends and needs of their own era. They saw its dangers and its possibilities. They were neither its slaves nor its favorites, but truly served their generation by the will of God (Acts 13:36).
Truth must never be suppressed out of deference to the prejudice of our age, but it must be proclaimed with the fullest compassion for all our contemporaries. When dealing with prejudice we must ever remember that to insult prejudice does not dispel it. Constructive, not destructive, preaching is the need of these times. Everything else is headed for destruction—at least our preaching ought to be geared to salvation and. the ultimate triumph of divine love. Never should we speak in an offensive fashion. Never knock the crutch out from under the lame until you have brought him healing.
Above all, do not preach because you have to say something, but speak because you have something vital to say.
While it is important to understand the spirit of the age, it is of still greater importance to minister to this age in the spirit of Jesus.
Study the language that reaches the hearts of the people. The obsolete phraseology of days of yore must give way to the living language of today. Be abreast of the times. Living sympathy finds expression in simple and natural language. J. A. B.
MAKING ONESELF UNDERSTOOD
One of the great arts of speaking or writing is the ability to make oneself understood. It is of vital importance for the speaker to keep his audience in mind, and to employ clear picturesque language. Such language employs coSete, specific words and avoids all empty phraseology. The expression of ideas by metaphors and similes clarifies meaning by comparison. The use of simple sentences, concrete words, and the human touch clarifies truth by readily understood meaning and feeling. A sentence of from eight to ten words of common usage is very easily understood. Sentences of from eleven to fourteen words are fairly easily understood, provided, of course, well-known and concrete words are used. But difficulty in understanding grows when the words in the sentence are multiplied beyond fifteen.
To achieve clarity in preaching or writing be direct, simple, vigorous, and lucid. Remember active verbs are live words, and sentences as a rule should not be crowded with adjectives. Employ the familiar in place of the farfetched, the concrete word instead of the abstract, the short word in preference to the long one, and the pointed sentence rather than circumlocution.
J. A. B.
How important they are! Letters can be either heralds of peace or harbingers of ill will. Sometimes a short letter may be the easiest way of meeting a problem; but unless it is carefully and tactfully worded it may have just the opposite effect. Nothing is more discouraging to one bowed down with care than to open a letter and get the impression that the writer feels little or no interest in his problem, or that he is too busy with other things to take time to be kind and courteous.
Returning from a few weeks' itinerary, I picked up a pile of correspondence on my desk and began to read. Soon I came to a kindly message from a friend. Attached to the outside were these lines:
Friendly letter go your way;
Hearts have need of you today.
Bless the folks who speed your trip—
On land or air or sailing ship.
Make the home in which you stay
A happy, healthy one each day;
Bless the one whose name you bear
And bless their loved ones everywhere!
What a wealth of thought these verses contain! To be able to say the right thing in the right way at the right time is an art that can be cultivated by all. Gospel workers especially need to study how to write and say things that build confidence rather than create discouragement. People all around us, and among them some of our workers, have much in their lives to depress them, and as ambassadors of the kingdom of peace we should study how to bear the burdens of others and cheer them on with kindness. Great decisions are not always made in the atmosphere of logic and reason, but sometimes because of a kindly word, or a smile.
Letter writing is an art, but an art worth cultivating. Even if reproof seems necessary, let us learn to express such counsel in words that commend rather than condemn. The Spirit of Him of whom it was prophesied that He would not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax awaits our demand and reception, that we each may learn to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way.
R. A. A.