Students pick up a lot in seminary, but one of the bits of instruction that has stuck with me the most is not exactly what one would expect. My preaching professor, either in general instruction or an evaluation of one of my sermons, one day presented the clever pseudo-axiom, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” The saying was not original with him (it was actually Stephen King who created it), but I still find it geekishly funny enough to include in a Pastors’ Blog post.
What does this mean? For Dr. Moody I think it was part of an overarching attempt to get me to be a more direct speaker. When one is speaking or writing, it’s easy enough to add circumlocutions, unnecessary modifying phrases, introductions to introductions, and so on. This makes for fluffy presentations and mutes the impact of what one is trying to say.
For instance, consider the following two ways of communicating the same thing:
- You know, in my opinion, Jim leads people tenderly and wisely, the way a shepherd would.
- Jim shepherds people well.
Sometimes I think Christians have a way of “adverbializing” the Gospel. The good news of Jesus is supremely rich and has tremendous implications for life. We can mute its effect, though, by overcomplicating it and adding to it. Paul summarizes his interactions with the Corinthians by simply saying that he “decided to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Later in the same letter, Paul explains the Gospel essentially in six verses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8) and, as the organization EvanTell likes to say, his words here could be accurately distilled to ten words: “Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.”
Thank you, Jesus, for the simplicity of the Gospel.
Beau Stanley and his wife, Stacey, both grew up in the Columbus area and have been part of Grace Polaris Church for most of their lives. Beau joined the Grace staff in 2007 after theology studies in the Chicago area and in Phoenix (Phoenix Seminary). Prior to that, he studied commerce (University of Virginia) and worked in the financial industry, including a role as an investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs in New York City. Beau is a fitness enthusiast and also enjoys music and learning about diverse topics. Beau and Stacey have two young boys.