The other day I launched 10 tips for communicators, particularly preachers and teachers in church settings. While my experience is primarily as a pastor – I think there are principles that can transfer to most any communicator. You can see tips 1 and 2 HERE. Part 2 (tips 3-5) can be seen HERE.
6.) Identify your sweet spot and move out of it regularly.
Every communicator has their natural “sweet spot”. Maybe you’re an exceptional encourager. You make people feel like they can face tomorrow. Maybe you’re an exceptional teacher. Every time you teach you want to make sure the audience learns something new. Maybe you’re a prophet. You are a truth teller and you tell it like it is. People can like it or lump it.
Here is the problem. We are comfortable in our sweet spot. We naturally, by default, preach the same sermon themes 40 weeks a year. Your illustrations will be similar, your delivery similar. It’s not a bad thing – it’s a natural thing. The problem is your church needs a well balanced Gospel diet. They need encouragement, teaching, and reproof.
Ask some people who listen to you regularly what your sweet spot is. Look at your last 25 sermons. What are the common themes, topics and similarities? This will help you see where you naturally drift in communicating. When you’ve identified your sweet spot and comfort zone, make intentional plans to preach out of those areas regularly AND have communicators with different sweet spots than you preach in your place regularly. No preacher – no matter how gifted – can effectively speak to every personality, gender, demographic and need. In preaching WE is always better than ME.
7.) Be a theologian.
Read books. Listen to people smarter than you. Devote time to thinking.
You will never know the answer to all the questions people will ask, but you should A) be able to find out and B) occasionally have a solid well thought-out answer.
Don’t be satisfied with just a surface knowledge of the text. Be thoroughly submersed in what was happening culturally and historically during the time the text was written. Study early Roman and church history. Don’t just read books written since 2007. Read Josephus and Augustine. Read Luther and Spurgeon. Read Piper and Stanley.
Even if you’re NOT a preacher, but a school teacher or businessman – be an expert in your field!
8.) Preach to the audience that is there AND the one you wish was there.
If you want the people in your church to invite their skeptical, non-believing friends to come to church – you’ve got to preach like they’re already in the audience. If you don’t preach in a way that would be compelling to a non-believer, I’m unlikely to ask my non-believing friend to come hear you. Do you preach in a way that acknowledges people who aren’t convinced the Bible is true? Do you give people space to examine before they believe? Jesus did. When Jesus called his first followers he didn’t call them to believe. He simply asked them to follow him. Skeptics think the Bible is a fairytale. Don’t preach like it is. Preach history like its history. Avoid always saying, “The Bible Says”. Instead, say something like, “Luke, a 1st century historian and physician recorded this.”
If you’re pastoring an older congregation and want to see young families engage your church – preach like young dads and moms are in the audience.
Engage your audience AND the audience you want to engage.