Monday, January 26, 2015

Keys for Preaching that Connects

Last week I posted on “MissionalPreaching“ in which I reflected on how preaching ought to be viewed in light of a missional reading of the Bible

Today I want to explore on a more basic level key elements in preaching that connects/impacts its hearers.

1) Prayer is essential.
Those who interpret Scripture publicly need to be in constant prayer with God for His leading and empowerment throughout the entire process of preparing a message. Prayer and preparation go together. Neither substitutes for the other.

2) God is working in your life.
The danger today is that preaching/teaching can be disconnected from life. I constantly pray that God would shape me into a more profound person. I need to reflect God’s character in my life. People need to see me living out the message that I proclaim. Robert Murray McCheyne, an 18th century Scottish pastor, wrote: My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness. The effective preacher lives in a moment by moment vital relationship with the Triune God. As you work through Scripture, pray/ask, "What kind of person do I need to become to live out this text faithfully?"

3) Find Your Own Rhythm and Style
There is no “right” way to organize or deliver a message. There are of course stereotypical methods: 3 point outline, alliteration of points, verse by verse style, etc. Sometimes too much focus is placed on mimicking a particular style or even dress. I can remember when I was a seminary student - one of the preaching profs believed that eyeglasses and facial hair were distracting!
The key is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses in speaking. Then you maximize strengths and minimize the weaknesses. I once asked Erwin McManus if there was a particular style of sermon that connected best with others. His answer was illuminating:

Brian, in a lot of ways, I think what it comes down to is one simple thing: Does the person listening view you as the kind of person that they would like to in some way become? If the answer is no, no new approach of preaching is going to help you. If the answer is yes, it’s amazing how much people will adapt to your style.

For myself, I began experimenting a few years ago with preaching while seated on a stool. This was the result of our community of faith being in its infancy stage so that we were all able to gather in the living rooms of residential homes for worship gatherings. I sensed at the time that it would have been overkill to “stand up and deliver the message.” But I also learned something surprising: I was more comfortable as a speaker than ever before. I had already been preaching regularly (almost weekly) for the previous 15 years. Sitting down allowed me to feel more comfortable and suddenly I gained a higher level of connection with my audience and the messages became much more intimate and focused. I now rarely preach from a standing position. But my point is this: you have to find your own rhythm and style.

4) Understand Your role as an Interpreter
Good communicators tend to fall into one of two categories: i) Strength in explaining the Biblical message or ii) Strength in connecting with a contemporary audience in terms of relevance. The best communicators of the Scriptures attain a level of sophistication in both areas. They live, breathe, and work in both the world of the Text and in the world in which They Live.

5) Share Yourself.
Don’t be afraid to use yourself as an illustration. This is a corollary to #2 above. This doesnt mean that you have to be the “hero” of every story. A good contemporary story drawn from your own life experience will beat the retread “preacher story” every time. But more profoundly it is vital that the congregation be able to see the Scriptures lived out in the lives of persons whom they know.

6) Bring Passion to the Delivery
Make sure that you proclaim the message as though you believe it. I am not talking about shouting or adding extra syllables to words. I am saying that the communicator after preparation and prayer ought to deliver the message so that its hearers sense the importance of the message. It should be obvious that you are the first convert to the message and that you are "all in."
What else would you add?

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

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