Two things happened recently that has really made me think about my preaching and the preaching of others.
One was at the Preach the Word conference where Justin Anderson made the comment, “Stop assuming people agree with what you believe. Unchurched people don’t agree with your beliefs, most of the churched people don’t agree with your beliefs, stop assuming.” He went on to say, “Pastors need to say less and prove more.”
Think for a minute all the statements that pastors make in their sermons, with little context or explanation. Assuming that everyone is on board with basic biblical truths like: everyone is a sinner, apart from Jesus you’ll spend eternity in hell, God loves you, Jesus rose from the dead, you have an idol that you worship.
Let me be the first to say, I am guilty of this. I have really been growing in this area in the last year thanks to the mentoring of Justin and others.
Then, in the aftermath of the tornado in Oklahoma came this interview on CNN:
Here are a few things this means for pastors:
Explain things more. One of the things a good communicator does is explain what they mean. Too many pastors and communicators simply think everyone knows what they are talking about. I will very rarely use the words justification, sovereignty of God, sanctification, or gospel. I believe in all of them and love the truth of them. The problem is some people have no idea what you are talking about or have the wrong idea. I used to say gospel over and over in a sermon and one day someone asked, “Why do you keep saying gospel in your sermon? You aren’t preaching from a gospel.” Others see the word gospel simply as what gets you to heaven. Instead of saying sanctification I’ll talk about becoming the person Jesus created you to be. Now, as a pastor if you do this, you’ll get push back from the people who want “deep” preaching. That’s okay.
Talk about why you believe things. If a pastor says something in a sermon, something they believe to be true about God or the gospel, explain why you believe that. If you are talking about grace and forgiveness, talk about why you believe those things. Show from Scripture and from your life how you’ve seen them to be true. Too often pastors simply give the finished product. They wrestle with a text or concept alone in their study and then say, “Here’s where I landed.” It is helpful to show some of that struggle and share some of that for your church.
Have less points. I’ve talked about this too many times to count. If you have more than one point in a sermon, you are wasting a lot of time. Your church can’t remember more than one point and you can’t remember more than one point. Say your one point, a lot.
Affirm the questions people have, don’t dismiss them. You as a pastor have questions, so do the people in your church. You don’t have to answer them all every week in every sermon, but affirm that their questions exist and are real. People wonder why God doesn’t heal them, why their spouse walked out, why getting fired could be God’s plan for them or if they are being punished for something. They wonder if hell exists or if Jesus really is the hero of all things. Affirm those questions. Tell them they are real and okay to ask. People in Scripture have doubts and unbelief and Jesus engages them.
What other assumptions do pastors make when they preach?
I’m watching the online conference Preach Better Sermons today and wanted to share some of the learnings I picked up. One of the speakers is Nancy Duarte is a communication expert who has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist, LA Times and on CNN. Her firm, Duarte, Inc., is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture and has created more than a quarter of a million presentations. As a persuasion specialist, she cracked the code for effectively incorporating story patterns into business communications. Resonate, her latest book, spent nearly a year on the Amazon.com top 100 business book bestsellers list.
Here are some things from Nancy’s segment:
Contrast is crucial to a talk sticking.
Stories build up tension and then releases.
To communicate effectively you have to like your audience.
Communicators need to put themselves in their audience shoes.
Movies that win awards for best picture also win awards for editing. Editing, cutting, crafting is what sets apart a good from a great talk.
The hero of a presentation is not the person talking the most, but the audience. The audience determines if your idea lives or dies. They make or break your idea.