Relevance – the So What? factor

We cannot simply say things and expect others to understand their relevance. It is a teacher’s task to make things relevant.

I teach advanced driving. To improve observational skills, the driver under training is expected to comment on what he sees. It is not enough to say that he sees a vehicle, pedestrians, animals and driveways – so what?

He needs to say what he is doing about it. What action is he taking? “Watching approaching vehicle; watching vehicle behind me; slowing for red traffic light; signalling right; selecting second gear for green light; checking mirrors; turning right; early check offside pavement; checking mirrors; accelerating up to the speed limit.” Things change so quickly that one has time only for short phrases, and each one is a “noun-verb” couplet. The noun names the hazard, and the verb states what the driver is doing about it. Hazard-so what?

You may hear a preacher who tells his congregation that “this is relevant”. This sounds like a desperate attempt to regain their flagging attention. Rather, let him make it relevant and he will gain the attention of his audience. He will not make it relevant merely by throwing a string of thoughts at them. He needs to interact with the So What? which arises in the hearers’ minds.

Relevant preaching will suggest and will lead to action.

Examples:

•    John the Baptist:    “the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?” Lk 3:10

•    Jesus:    “Then they said to Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jn 6:28

•     Peter:    “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Act 2:37

•     Paul’s response:    “trembling and astonished he said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Act 9:6

• James: “Faith without works is dead” James 2:17,20,26

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