As many of you who are reading this know, I have been working towards my Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of the classes I recently took was on C.S. Lewis. While in the class, I focused on Lewis’s communication style, and I am going to spend the next couple of months sharing the research and writing I did on this subject. All photos from this series were taken by me in Oxford, where Lewis spent most of his life.
C.S. Lewis was an amazing communicator. From the lands of Narnia to outer space, from demonic letters to retold Greek myths, from allegories to treatises, Lewis had a gift for getting the point across. His fiction awakens the imagination. His non-fiction makes strong, intelligent points while also delighting with analogies and humor. Lewis was an amazing communicator and there is much we can learn from him. He communicated the Christian message clearly, creatively, and compellingly.
As a writer, Lewis saw himself as an apologist, a missionary. Addressing Christian leaders in 1945, he unveiled some of his strategy and thinking for apologetics (see God in the Dock, pp.86-103). He saw Great Britain as a mission field as much as China. This meant the audience needed to be studied and the message needed to be translated. Modern people, he said, lean into science and progress, distrust history and lack a sense of guilt. But they are not unintelligent; Christianity must not be watered down. Lewis’s goal was to learn the language of his audience and translate the timeless truths of Christianity into modern language (rather than parade modern ideas in Christian language). Most of all, the Christian message must not be presented as what is good for society but as what is true. This challenges the hearer (who doesn’t want to take “religion” too far) and the speaker (who must be in touch with Christ). These assessments still ring true in our day. Lewis challenged Christian leaders in his day to see themselves as missionaries and to be more intentional about their communication. That challenge needs to be heard again in our day.
We need to communicate Christ clearly, compellingly, and creatively. The problem is that many Christian leaders still speak in the language of the Christian era that was already dead, as Lewis saw, 70 years ago. Thus, the message is not clear. Another problem is that not enough attention is paid to communication. So much attention is given, especially in preaching, to the content that the delivery is neglected. Thus, the message is not compelling. And while there are many Christians who are expressing truth creatively, the everyday Christian leader struggles to make the time to add the creative touches to communication. Thus, the message is not creative – it does not have the “surprise and delight” that marks good communication.
Studying C.S. Lewis, and his communication, has helped me think about my own communication. My hope is that reading these thoughts for the next couple of months will help you think about your communication, too. Blessings.