The church in Upland, CA, like many others throughout the United States, has a lit billboard they use for posting thoughtful sayings each week. This week’s saying is:
Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.
Jon Rowe, the preacher, does a great job selecting thoughtful comments. They make me think because they are cleverly written, and brief. They are short enough to read as you drive by. But that is what proverbial type statements are designed to do. They are intended to be memorable and thoughtful by being easy to remember in order to think about them.
In the 1970’s I worked for the phone company. In Lynwood, CA there was a lumber yard, and like the church in Upland, it had a marquee on which was posted weekly sayings, short and memorable, and even wise, though not necessarily religious. I always looked forward to working in that neighborhood to see what might be posted that week.
I still remember two sayings:
The problem with polygamy is having more than one mother-in-law.
I didn’t say you would like the sayings. It is just one of the two I remember, not because it reflects my attitude toward mother-in-laws or mine in particular, but because it struck my funny bone.
The other one I recall appeared the week of the 4th of July. It read:
Don’t spoil the 4th with a 5th.
Again, it was short and memorable. After all, I still recall these two sayings after having seen them in the 1970’s, some 40 years later without having written them down. In fact, I did not put forth any effort to remember them. They just stuck.
I will probably remember the saying posted at the Upland church building anytime I hear the word “forgiveness” or “unforgiveness.” The saying is worded to stick.
I have belabored the point above in order to tie it in with a fascinating point from the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk. The Babylonians are going to have their way with the nation of Israel, but God will ultimately deliver Israel. The Lord tells Habakkuk how the message is to be displayed:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it (Habakkuk 2:2).
The message of deliverance is to be written in such a way that even people in a hurry— “he who runs”— may read it. Like a proverb, it must be short and memorable in order to be read while running, just like the sayings posted in Upland and Lynwood.
Is there anything those of us who are communicators in the church—parents, preachers, elders, and teachers— can learn from this in presenting God’s word? I cannot lay out in detail or even outline the main points of a few resources I recommend, because this is a bulletin article. But for those interested in pursuing the idea of making your lessons stick, I recommend, first of all, a book co-authored by Leland Ryken and Jim Wilhoit titled, Effective Bible Teaching. This book introduced me to the writings of Leland Ryken.
The second resource is a book titled Made to Stick: Why some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers answer the question, What makes an idea stick?
For preachers and Bible class teachers, I recommend, among many other useful resources that could be named, Haddon Robinson’s book, Biblical Preaching.