He gave the insight on May 24 2023 while delivering the 38th Archbishop Vining College of Theology Convocation lecture. He spoke on “Communication, humanistic motivations, and theological scholarship in Nigeria”
At the event which took place at the school’s Chapel of the Annunciation, Archbishop Vining College of Theology Prof Popoola explained that Communication in public requires practical skills and methods for it to be successful.
He said theologians are public communicators who have to apply such skills in order to reach the hearts of their listeners and cause desirable changes in their lives.
Quoting Francis J. Bergin, he said there are 7Cs of efficient communication, which are indispensable in any communicative context, including theological training and practice.
“The 7Cs are applicable both in spoken and written communication. These are Candidness, Clarity, Completeness, Conciseness, Concreteness, Correctness, and Courtesy. In any atmosphere where communication is involved, the 7Cs are appropriated.”
He emphasised that the overall practice of Christian theology thrives on communication (written or spoken). “As a result, Bergin’s model of the 7Cs in communication is crucial in a theological context. “
Explaining the points he said, “Candidnes refers to honesty in communicative process. Whenever one speaks in front of others, the utterance of the speaker should be honest and sincere. Candidness implies being fair to oneself and others involved in the communication context. Aaron Goldman illustrates the idea of candidness in communication with the following words:” Communicate unto the other people that which you would want him to communicate unto you if your positions were reversed.”
“Honesty shows self-confidence and in oral communication, confidence is a key element to make an impact. This, too, is a major feature of theological practice. The overall idea of candidness embodies humanistic principles. For instance, the idea of sincerity or honesty in communication borders on healthy human relationships.
“This is so because deceptive communication can trigger a crack and, in extension, will bring about a frozen human relationship. Candidness in communication helps facilitate healthy human relationships. On Candidness, Proverbs 12:17 states: “He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.”
Talking about clarity, he emphasised the need for preachers to shun ambiguity. “Clarity simply means avoidance of ambiguity and vagueness in a communicative context. If a speaker or writer deploys ambiguity, he will not be able to capture the attention of the listener or reader. So, in theological practice, clarity is crucial in both spoken and written communication. “
He said further that the message of the preacher must be complete in itself.
“The theme of the topic should be reflected in the body of the discourse. There should be a sense of the organic whole and avoidance of digressive narratives that do not emphasize the primary idea. Any form of illustration should add value to the message being expressed.
“The speaker or writer is expected to have a robust and complete understanding of the topic. This will make it easy for him or her to convey it to the audience or congregants. If a speaker has a full knowledge of the topic, he will be able to respond effortlessly, to questions that may arise from congregants or the audience. A good theologian should be able to cover the topic in totality, and with precision. “
Popola also talked about the need for preachers to be concise. He states, “ If a message takes too long to be delivered, it will bring about boredom. According to Peter Drucke, “the most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said.” There is a need for conciseness in the conveyance of message in a communicative context. Richard Branson puts it more succinctly thus: “communicate your passion clearly, concisely and with genuine conviction.”
While noting that time is a valuable resource he said, “It should be utilized wisely during the communication process. It is boring to waste too much time on a message. Distractions and boredom usually creep in if a message takes too long. This will further reduce attentiveness and concentration.”
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He also talked about Concreteness. He explains, “ A good speaker is expected to use concrete words to vary emphasis during a communicative context. This also applies to the communicative environment of religion. Steven Pinker captures the importance of communicative concreteness in the following words: “A commitment to the concrete does more than just ease communication; it can lead to better reasoning.” To draw home lucid point, a theologian is required to be vivid and avoid misleading illustrations. Every example provided should be reflective of the topic.”
The ACU DVC also shed light on the need for Correctness in communication. He said, “While communicative competence is the ability to convey a message with clarity, to an audience, linguistic competence is the mastery of the language that is deployed in a communicative process. The theologian is expected to use the appropriate rules of grammar when addressing congregants.
“This is necessary in the communicative process; because if a speaker commits grammatical errors, the audience may be put off. The negative implication is that attention may be low. In such a situation, the audience who should listen to learn may be focusing more on the grammaticality of the speaker’s language and this will hinder listening comprehension. So, correctness in the use of language in theological discourse is very essential for effective communication”
A good speaker according to him should exhibit some civility and decorum. That is courtesy. He said, “This impacts the communicative context greatly. It is fundamentally required of a theologian to maintain the proper decorum while addressing people. Given the training of Christian morality and decency which the theologian has received, he is expected to maintain high level of courteousness. He is supposed to be a Godly gentleman who is courteous in utterance and conducts. According to John C. Maxwell, “people may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.
“The implication is that the arrogance or meekness in a speaker is conveyed through the texture of the language in a communicative process. A theologian must exhibit Christ’s confidence and humility, and avoid any trait of pride, boastfulness and haughtiness. Through a modest and humane communicative approach, a theologian will earn the respect of his audience and he will bring more people to repentance effortlessly.