Assumption #3: “People think I’m a good communicator.”
People may regard you as a good speaker, but that doesn’t mean they regard you as a good communicator. Good speakers have pleasant voices, enunciate well, and vary their pace and speed. In general, they do well all the things that good speakers do. But speaking is not the same as communicating. Speaking is when the words of my mouth enter the openings of your ears. Communication is when what’s understood in my mind is understood in yours. Some speakers do well in speaking, but they don’t communicate.
Recently, I was with a friend who attends a large church in a major city. The pastor is very well known and is regarded as a good speaker. I gave my friend a study Bible I’ve recommended to many because of how much I value him and his desire to grow spiritually. I asked him how he was enjoying it. His answer was one I didn’t expect: “It’s helping me a lot. I have trouble understanding what my pastor is saying and what he means, so I go home each Sunday, look up the passage from which he spoke, read the notes, and then I understand.” The pastor speaks, but he doesn’t always communicate.
To find out how well you’re communicating, here’s a helpful exercise: Choose two people who represent where a lot of people in your church are spiritually. On a given Sunday, ask each of them to explain back to you what you explained to them in your message. Assure them you want their honesty; in fact, accompany the request with questions such as, “Where could I have explained something better? Did I confuse you with anything I said?”
Caution! Be sure you ask the right people. Your elders and deacons are often not representative of your people. In fact, biblically they ought to be more mature. You need to ask the “average” Christian. My friend and mentor, Haddon Robinson, once said to me, “Too many pastors preach to their elders.” Just because you communicate with your elders doesn’t mean you communicate with your people.
Don’t surrender to the assumption that you’re communicating well enough; find out how good you really are. You may be saddened—but helped—to find out you’re doing more speaking than communicating.