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Every Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is There’s No Such Thing as Public Speaking: Make Any Presentation or Speech as Persuasive as a One-on-One Conversation (kindle version) by Jeanette and Roy Henderson.
I was recommended this book by Justin Anderson and it really does have a ton of wisdom in it for communicators.
The biggest takeaway for me from the book had to do with body position and eye contact. Picking out 3 people that you will continually make eye contact with, thus giving the effect that you are looking at the entire room and pulling in everyone around them. They also pointed out that every main point should be given to the center section, 2/3 of the way back. Applying these two principles in the last few sermons have made a huge difference.
Here are a few other things that I highlighted:
- The goal of the perfect presentation: to realize that the number of people listening is irrelevant; you are simply having a one-on-one conversation with a lot of people at once.
- As the presenter, you must clearly understand that everything you do, every move you make will have a consequence, and the audience will respond accordingly.
- Before you being any conversation, meeting or presentation, you must know what need you intend to have satisfied as a result, what effect you desire.
- Every presentation should begin with an irrefutable statement that the audience can nod and mentally say “yes” to.
- Every presentation should create in the audience a desire to have a need met and satisfied. They should hear you, know what need you will meet and satisfy and wait for it.
- The best rule of thumb with gestures is to wait for it, then when you feel it, go for it.
- The longer the pause, the more anticipation you build, and the more attention your audience will pay to what comes next.
- When the presenter appears less organized or knowledgable than the audience, there is little hope that the presentation will be well received.
- The more natural something appears, the more time went into making it appear that way.
- The presenter must represent authority, must be the leader for that moment in time.
- To establish authority through dress, dress one step up from what your audience is wearing.
- You want your clothes to say, “I’m just like you, I just have a little more knowledge or authority. Therefore, I’ve been a little more successful on this particular subject.”
- Dressing below the audience will fail to project authority and it will be nearly impossible for the audience to perceive you as the leader.
As I said, if you preach on a regular basis, this is a book worth picking up and going back to on occasion.
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?
Justin and his wife Emilie Anderson have been married for 7 years and have three children, Lily, Cole and Penny. Before moving to San Francisco, Justin planted Praxis Church in 2004. Since then the church has multiplied to two campuses and merged with two other churches to form Redemption Church. Justin has successfully transitioned Redemption to the next generation of leaders. Redemption SF is the next chapter in his life-long desire to help people meet Jesus and live the transformed life that only the Gospel can bring.
Here are some things from his session:
- If an athlete will beat his body for a perishable wreath, preachers should beat themselves and work hard at their gift.
- Just be you.
- Nobody buys it when you sound like someone else.
- If you believe God has called you to preach, then preach you.
- It may take 250 sermons to decide on their voice, but you don’t get 250 sermons to decide if you are any good at it.
- You don’t have to be funny to be a good preacher. If you aren’t funny in life, don’t be funny at preaching.
- Only preach for as long as people want to listen to you.
- Sermon length is not measured in minutes, but in minutes beyond interest.
- Every guy would be better if they cut out 5 minutes of their sermon.
- Tim Keller preachers for 35 minutes and none of you are better than Keller.
- Every point should make the same point.
- Your people can only understand one idea a week.
- You are only able to communicate well one idea a week.
- The combination means you should preach one idea every week.
- Everything should make your main idea clearer.
- If it isn’t clear, you lost them.
- Listen to what your body is saying.
- Everything communicates, everything.
- Hands, volumes, pace, eye line, posture. It all communicates.
- Communicate every point to the dead center of the room.
- Your body should communicate and match what your words are saying.
- Your weight and body matter. Your presentation of yourself matters.
- The people in your congregation have to see themselves in you.
- At the very least, your church needs to respect you as someone worth following.
- Your body communicates in a message what is most important.
- Operate a manual transmission.
- First gear is our pastoral, priestly voice. It is quiet, communicates difficult truths. Speak with a slow, drawn out cadence.
- Second gear is my teacher voice. This is the voice at the beginning of the sermon. This is how we quote historical background and leading direct quotes.
- Third gear is the main voice, 50-60% of the voice in a sermon. It is the voice of exhortation, impassioned stories.
- Fourth gear is the high point of the sermon. Everything from your volume, pace, posture and focus of your eyes should communicate this is the climax of the sermon. Should include your best dramatic pauses.
- When you say something good, wait.
- Fifth gear is the yelling, screaming and jumping up and down. It is the voice you use when you talk about something so egregious that when you talk about it, it makes you sick. Use this only when you have to, it has to match the subject matter. It is when you are losing your mind about something.
- Screaming is not an effective communication tool.
- Say less, prove more.
- Many pastors make assumptions.
- Many pastors don’t preach like we live in a post-Christian culture.
- The majority of the people don’t believe any of your points, you have to prove them.
- The Bible is not self evident to our culture.
- Teach me, move me, show me.
- Knowing how to do something doesn’t make me want to do something.
- Preaching is a tool to help people understand the gospel, stir their affections for Jesus and move people on mission.
- Examples of 4 archetypes to speak to.
- The mechanic who works hard, no bull crap. He wants it straight, no fluff, just say it. He wants handles and he wants it in the first 10 minutes.
- The smart skeptic. This person wants a sermon that is intelligent. You need to address them every time you say something unbelievable. If it is supernatural, faith driven, you have to talk to him or else you are saying, “I don’t acknowledge your presence or I don’t acknowledge your skepticism as valid.”
- The disciple, the bought in. They love you, they love the gospel. They want something to chew on. They love your sermon the moment they get out of the car.
- The dude who is there for chicks. Get them at the end with your hammer. He only listens at the end. Remember, he is there to do bad things to the girls God has entrusted to your church.
- There are more than these people in your church, but if you hit these 4, you will hit everyone.
- Everything isn’t awesome.
- Choose your words carefully.
- Grace is amazing, everything else has to be somewhere below that.
- If everything is amazing, nothing is amazing.
- The cross is remarkable, the burrito in your story was good.
- You don’t have to convince someone that something is amazing if it is truly amazing.
- If Jesus is awesome, you don’t have to beg me to believe Jesus is awesome. They will see it.
- Every time you beg someone to believe something is great, the less sure they are that something is great.
- Nurture your brain and your heart.
- We have to work hard.
- Fill your brain and heart with things that are worthwhile.
This is a session that is a great one to use as a preacher to evaluate how you are doing.
- Thom Rainer on 7 personality traits of effective leaders.
- What to do about KONY 2012. This is a helpful perspective. Here is some more information about the invisible children. I appreciate how transparent they are being about things.
- Scott Williams on How to effectively handle criticism.
- The truth about post-workout nutrition.
- Justin Anderson on Reflections on 7 years of church planting.
- Leadership lessons from Ed Young Jr. There are some nuggets here.
- Charles Stone on Introverts don’t make good pastors. Being a pastor and an introvert, I found this really helpful.
- Are you called to be a pastor?
- Ben Reed on 5 things a pastor should never say.
- Sam Rainer on The trap of availability among leaders.
While at the Acts 29 boot camp in November, Justin Anderson gave a great message on preaching. In his talk, he referenced this book Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media have Shaped the Messengers over and over. The book is a really quick read and one you won’t want to put down.
The premise of the book is what is wrong with preaching, how culture has shaped our communicators and how to rescue preaching. One of the things I appreciated about the author was his forthrightness and bluntly saying what he thought. I found myself laughing out loud a number of times and cringing when I thought of the things I have subjected people to in some of my sermons. I definitely left challenged to be a better preacher.
He starts off by talking about how pastors no longer no how to put a sermon together. Because few pastors write or read outside of magazines and the internet, they don’t know how to form sentences and thoughts. They don’t know how to put a sermon together that has unity and order. They are often thrown together and it leads to sermons with no point and it ends with the pastor talking about whatever he wants to talk about.
So what makes a good sermon? According to Gordon, “If the hearer’s duty in listening to a sermon is to be willing to submit one’s will to God’s will, then one can only do this if the preacher does his duty of demonstrating that what he is saying is God’s will.” Namely, someone pays the price, pastors, it is supposed to be you.
Paying the price means you put in the work, in the word, in commentaries, in preparing your heart and preaching the text to your life: “A pastor is an ambassador, who represents another, declaring the will of that Other. Therefore, he is not entitled to preach his own insights, his own opinions, or even his own settled convictions; he is entitled only to declare the mind of God revealed in Holy Scripture. Since the mind of God is disclosed in Scripture, the sermon must be entirely faithful to the text – a genuine exposition of the particular thought of the particular text.” This is one of the reasons I love preaching through books of the Bible, it forces me to stay on topic, to preach what the book and context actually says, not my opinion or hot button issue that I want to talk about. It also doesn’t allow me to skip topics.
One of the things Justin shared that came from this book was how long to preach. When I first discovered Mark Driscoll, I made it a goal to preach an hour. In fact, I held this up as a good thing if I got there, that I somehow served my church better by talking longer. While there is a lot of talk about shortened attention spans, and that is true to a degree, Gordon points out that “bad preaching is insufferably long, even if the chronological length is brief.” This is huge: “Sermon length is measure not in minutes; it is measure in minutes beyond interest. The amount of time a preacher preaches past his listeners interest.”
But how does the media and our culture shape our pastors? Is it bad or good? Gordon said (this section is worth the price of the book), “In 1968, a presidential soundbite was 42.3 seconds, compared to 9.8 seconds in 1988. In 2000, it shrunk to 7.8 seconds. This means, pastors today are not at home with what is significant. Pastors today have attention spans less than that of a 4 year old in the 1940’s, who race around like the rest of us, constantly distracted by sounds and images of inconsequential trivialities, and out of touch with what is weighty. It is not surprising that their sermons, and the alleged worship that surrounds them, are often trifling, thoughtless, uninspiring, and mundane. It is not surprising that their sermons are mindlessly practical, in the “how-to” sense. It is also not surprising that their sermons tend to be moralistic, sentimentalistic, or slavishly drafted into the so-called culture wars. The great seriousness of the reality of being human, the dreadful seriousness of the coming judgment of God, the sheer insignificance of the present in light of eternity – realities that once were the subtext of virtually every sermon – have now disappeared, and have been replaced by one triviality after another.
Overall, the way forward according to T. David Gordon is for preachers to be better prepared. Not only in their craft and in what they say, but personally. That they preach to themselves and allow the word of God to seep into their bones and then preach. I remember being challenged by someone once when he asked, “Are you preaching because it is the weekend or because you have something to say.” I can tell in my own preaching when I am preaching because it is the weekend and I am not spiritually prepared, mentally prepared or just don’t know my stuff. And then I can tell when I am prepared, my heart is right, my sins confessed, I am studied up and ready to preach because I have something to say.
- Scott Williams on A question every high capacity leader must ask.
- Worship music for kids.
- Randy Alcorn on Your marriage preaches some kind of gospel. Do you like the gospel your marriage is preaching to your kids and those around you? This quote is from a great book called Gospel Powered Parenting.
- Here is a great video from Scott Thomas on what gospel coaching is and why it matters.
- The average first time guest will decide in the first 11 minutes whether or not they are coming back next week. Here are some of the things that help them decide.
- Randy Alcorn on The scandal of evangelical dishonesty. This is pretty eye opening, but not surprising.
- Gospel centered reader. Here are 24 great articles on the gospel, being gospel centered and other areas of life through the lens of the gospel. So many great resources here.
- Mike Rydman on Losing his core group in his church plant and some of the pain that a church planter experiences. Great video interview.
- Rick Warren & George Bush discuss leadership imperatives. Right now I’m reading George Bush’s book Decision Points and it is fantastic.
- Are virtual office hours the future of office hours?
- The story of what God is doing at Redemption Church in Phoenix, AZ.
- The way the updated NIV translation came together and the egalitarian slant it has. Another reason we use the ESV.
- Darrin Patrick was interviewed at Desiring God recently on his first book Church Planter. You can watch the video here or download the audio here.
Katie and I spent the last two days in Phoenix at the Acts 29 Boot Camp. In case you missed them, here are my notes from the sessions:
- “Leadership & the Surge” | Darrin Patrick
- “Theology & the Surge” | Wayne Grudem
- “Coaching breakout part 1” | Scott Thomas
- “Mission & the Surge” | Matt Carter
- “Preaching & the Surge” | Justin Anderson
- “The Future & the Surge” | David Kinnaman
- “Networks & the Surge” | Scott Thomas
- “Coaching breakout part 2” | Scott Thomas
- “Missional Communities Breakout” | Ed Marcelle
- “Gospel & the Surge” | Jeff Vanderstelt
Here are some thoughts:
- A lot of guys plant churches because they want to preach
- Books that Justin recommends on preaching: Christ centered preaching by Bryan Chapell, Communicating for a change by Andy Stanley (this might be my favorite book on preaching), There’s no such thing as public speaking and Why Johnny can’t preach
- According to the authors of Why Johnny can’t preach say that only 30% of pastors can actually preach a good sermon
- Preaching help your people understand the gospel intellectually
- Preaching can stir our people’s affections for Jesus
- Preaching can move our people to the mission field
- Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 by saying, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”
- There is too much preaching that is not helpful in terms of the gospel
- There is a way to preach about Jesus but still be moralistic
- Seeker sensitive preaching is simply about giving people a list of things to do, that doesn’t make any sense
- Preaching stops working when we do it poorly or when we expect it to do something it was never intended to do
- Sometimes we preach and we don’t expect people to change or think people should change
- Preach so your people can understand, which means, preach like you
- Sermon length is not measured in minutes, it is measured in minutes beyond interest
- Three ways you can let your life ruin your preaching: be a hypocrite, don’t manage your brain or your body well, and be enslaved to sin
- God has called you as a pastor to everything you call your people to, you are not special
- Preach the same message on stage as well as off stage
- Too often we say, “The gospel does that” which usually means, “I’m not responsible for that”
- Everything will fall apart (eventually) if you are enslaved to sin
- Preach the gospel, preach it well, and don’t let your life get in the way