With one foot squarely in the ministry world and another foot barely in the academic world, I am constantly challenged by our “either/or” thinking. I may be wrong about the world truly being “both/and.” Maybe it’s not.
Maybe you have to be either uber-smart… and an academic who is very capable at writing, but not very capable at other forms of communication… OR you are a great communicator, but have tapped out on the learning process.
It is rare when the two come together, and when they do… there is suspicion from both sides of the “either/or” equation.
N.T. Wright is one example. I can “get” his communication style and I love his thinking. His writing challenges me. And therein lies the rub.
Those on the “ministry” side would be suspicious of him because he has a doctorate and teaches. Those on the “academic” side consider him a “light weight” in many respects, and me even saying I am challenged by his writing would show me to be even “lighter.”
Sometimes there is a great “duo.” In this respect, I think John Ortberg and Dallas Willard were a great pair. Ortberg is a phenomenal communicator and Willard was the incredible thinker. Ortberg stretched himself to think more deeply because Dallas Willard was in his life. He also challenged Willard to be a better communicator. It was a combination I enjoyed.
Yet, I have to believe it’s possible to be both… maybe not at “genius” levels on either side, though. I always challenge students who are great communicators to do MORE when it comes to WHAT they are saying. They tend to think just because they are great communicators they just get an audience. That’s a mistake they will pay for down the road, but they don’t seem to care in the short term.
If someone is a great thinker, I would challenge them to work harder at communication. It won’t be “perfect,” but what they are writing and developing is needed. They may be much more capable in an office or study desk in a library, but they also need to be able to either communicate in some way to people in an adequate way… or find a partner who can aid them. Those great thoughts need to be OUT THERE.
So, maybe I’m only dreaming that it’s a “both/and” world. Maybe it really is “either/or,” because we sure act like it more than we like to admit.