Understandable

Earlier today on Bellshill Salvation Army Band’s Facebook page I shared some devotions. I’d like to share those devotions with you tonight.

Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.

William Penn

One of the challenges we always have at work when designing and developing IT solutions, is to make sure that the language used in our systems and online forms is clear and concise, and is written in Plain English. In other words we don’t use technical terms or business terms that customers would not understand.

To ensure that we develop systems that meet these criteria we have, amongst other things, held customer forums with real customers, and completed online training provided by the Plain English Campaign (www.plainenglish.co.uk). If you don’t know who or what the Plain English Campaign is about, here’s an extract from their website explaining what they do.

Since 1979, we have been campaigning against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information. We have helped many government departments and other official organisations with their documents, reports and publications. We believe that everyone should have access to clear and concise information.

Plain English Campaign website

A few years ago, when held our first customer forum, it was apparent very quickly, that some of the words/terms used in communications with our customers, actually made no sense to our customers, as they used language which meant nothing to them, and contained words/phrases that the business users used – in other words it contained business jargon.

I now find myself thinking about/reviewing the language used on many of the communications/systems I see, just to see if the wording contains jargon or language I, or others, wouldn’t understand if we didn’t had the required knowledge of the business. In doing this a few days ago I found myself thinking about how we communicate God’s message to those we come into contact with.

  • Do we use words that non-Christians will understand?
  • Do we Salvation Army terms and phrases, which non-Salvationists will not know or understand?

Most of us I’m sure, can think of instances when we have used language, when talking to non-Christians or non-Salvationists, which they probably didn’t understand. These days many churches have an on-line presence, so there’s even more opportunities to communicate or connect with those who don’t attend any place of worship, but it also means we have to be even more careful about the language we use in our online posts and livestreams.

If we don’t use plain English when we communicate our faith and God’s message to others, we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t understand our message. However it’s not just us who find it difficult to speak plainly to others, as even Jesus sometimes found he had to simplify his language, so that the disciples understood what he was trying to tell them!

“I’ve used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I’ll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I’ve revealed to you. I won’t continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won’t need to. Because you’ve gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father.”

His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”

John 16:25-29 (The Message)

There are so many people in the world who are desperately in need of a Saviour, but know nothing of God’s love for them. So we must communicate God’s message to them, using Plain English, so God’s message can be easily understood. Only then will they hear and understand understand God loves them, and realise they need Christ.

There are people hurting in the world out there,
They need you, they need me, they need Christ.
There are children crying and no-one to care,
They need you, they need me, they need Christ.
And they'll go on hurting in the world out there,
And they'll go on dying, drowning in despair,
And they'll go on crying, that's unless we care,
They need you, they need me, they need Christ.

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