I’m going to do a few blog posts around the vital area of preaching, which I think may incidentally help anyone who has to communicate in front of groups.
If I’m going to read anything, I’ll usually read something about leadership, or communicating, or Jack Reacher (but I’ve read all of those now so until Lee Child cranks out another I’ll read another book on preaching).
Communicating almost every week to large groups of people for years means I’ve grown and developed since I first recall standing up at the age of 14 in school.
I found myself in front of the class and electing to do a speech rather then present an essay. I wasn’t scared, I was excited. I loved the opportunity, and half way through remember I felt something in that moment of ‘this is what I was made for,’ so – I joined the Police instead – until God put me on track with what he wanted me to do with my life and it ended up involving an awful lot of preaching and teaching.
That first speech was where I described to the class in graphic detail my research on ‘What Would Happen If A Nuclear Bomb Hit Manchester.’
Guess what – I had everyone’s attention! In those days everyone believed the Russians were ready to press the red button and we’d all end up obliterated or irradiated any day, so we listened to jazz funk at the school disco and tried to forget it. But the question was always there.
The first thing this first public speaking experience taught me was that you should aim at addressing the questions people are actually asking, rather than just imparting something you think is interesting.
A lot of preachers never get that. And if you haven’t got an aim – you should be fired.
Man, I’ve heard some boring sermons.
I came to faith partly as a result of hearing one great evangelistic sermon, by Eric Delve, but later when I first started regularly attending church I figured sermons were just something you just had to get through 95% of the time, perhaps because purgatory had been abolished.
One of the pulpit regulars was apparently a member of ‘The College of Preachers’, and he used to tell us so, but what he said each week was a disjointed collection of random thoughts of a faintly spiritual nature. Like listening to someone reading from various months off a Patience Strong calendar.
I thought that was preaching was, so I didn’t want to be a preacher.
I don’t know how he did it really, it must have been a very deep spirituality because I found it hard to read the Bible and not find that it had a point, it seemed very pointed to me, so I thought I couldn’t preach.
Sometimes preachers can have everything but a POINT!
Do you listen to your own talks?
Do you get regular feedback 1) from a cheerleader 2) from someone honest.
Did you have a point? Never mind three. Never mind three beginning with P.
Just a point.
Did you know what the sermon was meant to do?
If you didn’t, nobody else will guess.
We have to look at this because the church needs many more, better communicators. Why?
Because God has chosen the foolishness (I know it feels like it sometimes!) of preaching to move the gospel through culture.
So preaching still matters. The reason so many churches have downgraded preaching is because so many people are doing a terrible job of it. And I know God can use it anyway, and looks at the heart and all that – but surely our strategy should not be that he works despite us?
Pick an aim – and press the button!