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The K-I-S-S principle is frequently requested in a learning environment. The acrostic stands for “Keep it simple, stupid.” It seems we are a people who loathe difficult study. We want easy answers and we want them quickly. Mastery of a subject, however, requires years of diligent labor and study. But once the teacher has mastered his material, how does he transmit it to his students?

Certain assumptions are made in the classroom. The first is that the teacher knows more about the subject than the student. It is, in general, a safe assumption. The second assumption is that the teacher cannot communicate his mastery of the subject all at once. To educate (as the Latin root suggests), we must lead students “out of” ignorance into knowledge. That knowledge moves in increments, from the simple to complex.

The great teacher helps his students gain understanding. This may be the most vital and most difficult task of teaching. Students often complain that the teacher speaks “over the heads” of the students. What does this mean? It means that the student does not understand what is being taught. It may indicate that the student is lazy and is unwilling to be stretched intellectually. It could also mean that the teacher doesn’t understand what he is teaching.

Oftentimes our educational process is a failure with respect to learning. The syndrome goes something like this: A student attends college classes, takes copious notes, memorizes the notes, and makes an A in the course. Then he graduates from college and follows the same procedure in graduate school. Now he becomes a teacher and he has a great store of information about which he has been tested yet has little understanding. Information has been transferred but never processed or digested by the inquiring mind. This teacher now goes in the classroom where he gives lectures from his notes and textbooks. He allows little time for questions (he fears questions he may not be able to answer). He continues the vicious syndrome of his own education with his students and the game goes on.

A great teacher can simplify without distortion. This is the supreme test of understanding. If I truly understand something, I ought to be able to communicate it to others. There is a vast chasm that separates the simple from the simplistic. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, taught in simple terms. But He was never simplistic. To oversimplify is to distort the truth. The great teacher can express the profound by the simple, without distortion. To do that requires a deep level of understanding. The great teacher imparts understanding, not merely information. To do that the teacher must understand the material being taught.


This article first appeared at and is used by permission.

R. C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries (named after the Ligonier Valley just outside of Pittsburgh, where the ministry started as a study center for college and seminary students) and can be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally. "Renewing Your Mind with Dr. R.C. Sproul" is also broadcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio.

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Chet Gladkowski

commented on Jun 26, 2012

AMEN! But keeping it simple applies way beyond preaching. Home/small groups, discipleship, mentoring, leadership development, etc all need KISS. There is the thought that we need to impress with complex diagrams, ancient word usage and an overload of data/references. The opposite is what is needed - clarity.

Jimmie Don Willingham

commented on Jun 26, 2012

One of the problems in transmitting the knowledge is that of perspective. New knowledge is transmitted to us, but we lack the perspective to understand, appreciate, and locate it. Years later, we stumble into a better perspective from which to view or understand the knowledge received. Voila! With the enhancement of the new perspective, one has a whole new ball game.

Pastor Herbert W. Roshell

commented on Jun 26, 2012

I totally agree! What I learned over my eight year now as the "lead" Pastor is "what I did know, was better than what I now know. Why? Because the word says "even a teacher need to be taught". I was so busy trying to teach others, I forgot I needed to be feed! We must continual to have those that are true and wise to speak (God's word) into our life as well. When you come the point of "I got it and done need anyone to teach me"... we are so far off from the spirit of God. The old saying says: "if I knew then what I know now, I would be better off"! I'm speaking about me! The problem is when we (OK; me) think we have arrived, we remove the safety net.... which is the Holy Spirit itself. Which was sent to lead and guild us! Over the years, I have learn to take my time teaching and studying His word. Even if it take a month or so to complete a study... that's what I will do. The word says "out of all thou get, get understanding"! Thanks for the eye opener! I enjoyed the wisdom put into this article!

Jb Bryant

commented on Jun 26, 2012

To Jimmie Don Willingham's point about perspective, there is something fundamentally wrong with the structure of our churches for effective teaching to take place from the pulpit. What I mean is this: Modern Christians tend to think evangelism means "bring people to church." Church leaders tend to encourage this. So we end up with a collection of mature Christians and unbelievers, with new believers and moderate-growth believers scattered in the mix. And in 20-30 minutes preachers are tasked with teaching something relevant to all of those groups. What really happens is that we teach algebra to people who haven't learned to add, or we teach basic addition to calculus students. Here are at least two of the fundamental problems that I believe create this mess: (1) The belief that the church is for unbelievers. The truth is the songs, the prayers, the sermons, the culture, etc. - if designed to build the body and encourage deep worship - will be unfamiliar and likely off-putting to unbelievers. Imagine what you'd experience walking into a Mosque and you'll have an idea of what I mean. Jesus told the church to go into the world to make disciples; He didn't tell unbelievers to go into the all the churches so they could be made disciples of. (2) The belief that the pulpit is primarily a teaching tool. We can't teach much in 20-30 minutes - or even in 60 minutes - to such a diverse crowd without leaving many out of the lesson. And we can't really *teach* without plenty of interaction - questions and answers from both sides. Let teaching be done in targeted classes and cell groups. There we can do real education and have people together with others at their stages of growth.

Pastor Herbert W. Roshell

commented on Jun 26, 2012

JB Bryant: Great insight! Most of our teaching is done in small groups and or when the word come as a "teaching message" I come out of the pulpit and teach. Once again thanks for the insight "without plenty of interaction"!

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