24/05/2013 by Chris Green
Half the population has below average IQ.
Half the population has a below average reading age.
Half the population has a below average attention span.
Half the population is below average!
But there’s a serious point behind the malarkey. What’s the average IQ? By definition, it’s 100. That’s how the description works: it puts intelligence on a bell-curve, and slices it down the middle. Half will always be below average. nd for all that we might have problems about the way it’s all measured, the general principle holds
Where do you think you are on that spectrum?
Where do you think your preaching is aimed at on that spectrum? (If you don’t know, buy any tabloid newspaper – they are aimed at that half of the population)
Where do you think you need to be on that spectrum to read the Bible you use at church?
There are unusual churches which work in niche places where the average IQ is much higher. Blessings on them – they produce an outstanding number of young gospel workers. (I’m also seeing an increasing number of churches which are taking seriously the need to disciple adults with learning difficulties. Double blessings on them.)
But the rest of us don’t work that high IQ niche. And it’s foolish to let those churches set the pace for the rest of us, and for us to assume that what they do is ‘proper’ preaching, and that we have to match them. Which is especially tempting if we are products of those churches ourselves.
Do I want us to dumb down? Of course not. I want Christians to be theologically literate, able to read and engage with God’s Word, live it out and explain it to others.
But I want us to do so in a way that the vast majority of people can understand. My guess (informed, but a guess) is that most of the preaching I hear assumes an IQ of around 120 to process it. Graduate level.
What if we flipped the ratio? What if our modest target was an IQ of 90? We’d change our cultural references, our vocabulary, our sentence length. Our communication style would be less lecture, and more daytime TV. We’d be paying attention to far more people, and we still can address serious issues in proper ways.
So, do I want us to dumb down? Is this the thin end of the wedge? Can you see the start of an anti-intellectualism that will end up with trivial preachers peddling trivialities? Am I just one step from preaching fluff? Am I being as patronising as the educated TV producers who produce trash for the masses? I hope not. Just because I want to speak like daytime TV doesn’t mean I have to think like daytime TV.
But do you have a better plan?