An author, lecturer, and pastor.
Attorney, founder of Restore International and author of Love Does.
I used to think being intelligent meant using long, complex words, being up-to-date on current events, and having lots of books on the shelf behind my desk.
Then I went to seminary.
I was amazed at how many people (myself included) threw out words like “behoove,” “dispensationalism,” and “substitutionary atonement,” while simultaneously patting themselves on the back. (And not knowing entirely what the word actually meant!) My fellow students and I, we had our hearts in the right place, but we clearly had the wrong measurement for intelligence.
Big words does not a bright person make.
Now? Now I think intelligence means being able to take incredibly complex issues, thoughts, or problems and distill them into concepts that anyone can understand. Having a three-year-old helps with this.
Finn: Where does Jesus live?
Daddy: Thinking, Oh boy, here we go. Jesus lives in your heart, Finny.
Finn: Lifting up his shirt, He lives under my shirt?
Daddy: Yes, son, Jesus lives under your shirt.
He doesn’t need to understand Calvinism or Arminianism to know that Jesus does, in fact, live in his heart. The message of Christ is one that has kept scholars busy for centuries, yet is simple enough for a three-year-old to comprehend.
This “intelligence quotient” doesn’t just have application in religion.
Take Jason Fried, for instance. Jason takes the complex world of web-based technology and makes it simple. Easy to grasp and understand. His monthly column in Inc. is one of my favorites because he gives us access to what he knows in a tangible way.
One of my college professors, Karen Mitchell, gave me access to the intricate world of gender equality issues. She used her intelligence to build a bridge between her reality and my 20-year-old, frat-boy, beer-soaked brain. And it worked. Her lessons influence my life to this very day and I’m grateful for it.
Thomas Kuhn wrote a book that changed the way I think about science. Everything from evolution to quantum physics has transformed for me because of the way he made scientific theory accessible. (Sidenote: I challenge you to read this book and walk away without thinking that evolution is at least a possibility.)
Lastly, Bill Clinton wowed the nation at the Democratic National Convention. He did more to explain U.S. public policy in 45 minutes than most do in a lifetime. Regardless of your feelings about Clinton, he made American politics accessible again. So much so that his new, “official” title is “The Secretary of Explaining Stuff.”
Have you been given the gift of intelligence? Do you know more about a given subject than most everyone else on the planet? Are you an expert? Guru? Clairvoyant? Then find ways to give the rest of us access.
Intelligence without accessibility is simply knowledge. Knowledge is at its worst when turned inward on the possessor, creating nothing more than a swollen ego. Knowledge without application–i.e., intelligence–is a waste.
Do everything you can to ensure your intelligence has handlebars on it. Otherwise, what good is it?