Speaking to People on Their Level

“Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. …….. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, abbreviated

How did he do it? Let’s face it, Paul was The Man. This is my deepest frustration, it’s like playing target practice 24/7.

With all the new tasks I have been given, I have to speak with such a wide range of people, that I never really know what is coming next. One minute I am speaking with the Knights of Columbus, the next to the youth group.  I won’t lie, I miss the mark rather too often, either treating people like they have no idea what is going on, or shooting philosophy so high over their heads that they have no idea what I’m talking about. I would be terribly confusing to have to listen to.

The other night I was teaching a class for RCIA. Now right off the get go, this was an unfair topic. I think that simple sweet RCIA director is out to get me. Sure, she is super nice, and always complements me on how nice it was for me to come, but when she gets home, I’m certain she grows a sly grin and thinks to herself, “What devious topic can I assign him next time?” Do I get topics like, “Why is Jesus important in our lives?” No, of course not. I get “Sin, Grace and Redemption.”

Now how the heck am I to cover three such major theological ideas in an hour? Seriously? I could talk for a semester on just one of these three topics and just scratch the surface. Yes, I know that it is important for the new Catholic to understand these basic principles, but wow, that’s a serious challenge.

So in my plan to weave all of these ideas together in to one cohesive whole, I shot the mark so high, that at the end of it everyone was looking at me dumbfounded. It took 30 minutes of question and answer just to fix all the misconceptions that I had sprouted. I certainly don’t desire to make anyone feel stupid, and to do so makes me feel stupid. (don’t worry, it wasn’t as bad as all that, and they walked away with a decent understanding)

So I was speaking with a men’s group, and I had the opposite problem. Here were a bunch of full grown men, lifelong Catholics, all in ministry, and I was talking about ministry.

What truly valuable thing can I say to my elders, men far more experienced in the very thing I am talking about? How am I supposed to really share the love of the Christian life when I would be better as a student to those I am talking to? Arrgh. Double Arrgh.

Of course in both cases, everyone was kind, and said I was great and all other necessarily common niceties, but I am frustrated.

Every time I have to speak publicly, I try to remember:

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20

Lord, I hope you said something someone really needed to hear amid all that nonsense coming out of my mouth.
Maybe I should start speaking in tongues.

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