Preaching and speaking are emotionally taxing experiences.
There are few places in our life where we are expected to stand in front of a large group of people and be interesting, insightful, helpful, and accurate.
Can you imagine a political speech that maintained these requirements?
Did I mention these speeches happen every seven days?
Luckily our preaching goal isn’t to impress but to help people digest. The digestion of truth allows for application that leads to transformation.
In this post, I focus on making messages more simple. Not simplistic, but simple.
One more thing: I’d love to work with you, your team, or your campus pastors on communication and preaching. I offer a six-session mastermind course on this topic online or in person – https://gavinadams.com/speaking/
Additionally, I’m happy to preach for you one Sunday and spend time that afternoon and the following day working together. If that’s of interest, let’s chat soon. My 2023 calendar is filling up. I’d love to save you a weekend. Just reply to the email and we’ll go from there.
If your job requires speaking on any level, the last thing you want is for people to stop listening.
Sure, they may be physically present, but that doesn’t mean they are emotionally or intellectually present.
As I thought about this, I realized there are at least 6 specific reasons people stop listening.
What makes people tune out? What causes them to disengage?
Take 4 minutes and read this NEW POST to learn what’s working against maintaining attention and how to fix it.
You have never tried to make your message irrelevant, boring, or incomprehensible. At least I hope not! But you find yourself preaching while questioning your effectiveness. You walk up to deliver a sermon lacking confident in your content. You question your ability. Your capacity. Even your calling. You feel your church more tolerates the message […]
Why do we tend to over-complicate everything?
It’s not just you. I do it, too. In fact, I do it constantly.
Nowhere more than when I am writing a message. As a communicator and preacher, there’s something in me (and I bet I’m not alone) that intuitively believes a message is only good if it’s deep, layered, and rich. If we were baking a cake, that would be true. But this is a message. The reality is a deep, layered, and rich message might impress an audience or a seminary professor, but it typically doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Worse, it’s not memorable or easily applicable.
I have trouble seeing this in my own messages at times, but as is often the case, what’s difficult to see in the mirror is clear through a window. Recently I was helping a friend write a message. He had a GREAT idea. Very personal. Very helpful. And it was beautifully simple. But there was something in us both that wanted to complicate the content. We wanted to cover every angle and answer every issue.
Luckily, before he and his message hit the stage, we both remembered this basic preaching truth: Simple is better, because simple is digestible and applicable. Again, if you are trying to impress a crowd, go deep, layered, and rich. But, if you want people to understand and apply the truth you spent hours and hours studying and preparing, throw out the cake and work toward simplicity.
Here are a few steps I take when searching for message simplicity:
How much time per day do you look at a screen?
I know you don’t track your screen time, but if you had to guess? I would say between the laptop I’m starring at now, the TV, my iPad, Candy Crush, and my iPhone … 28 hours a day. Maybe more. We all spend A LOT of time in front of screens. Our actual life is moving more and more towards digital life. For better or worse, the next generation is experiencing almost everything through digital media. Just go to a concert and watch how many people experience the show through their phone as they record. Life through a screen is becoming the norm. As I type this, my son is “liking” photos on Instragram, my other son is playing XBOX, and one daughter is watching Netflix. Please don’t tell their mom!
It’s safe to say, in culture, the digital ship has sailed. Which is why, when pastors and church leaders dismiss video preaching, I’m perplexed.
There is a lot to say about creating and leveraging tension in a message. It has been one of the most fascinating discoveries for me as a communicator. In an earlier post, I discussed the differences between a felt and unfelt tension. In this post, I want to discuss a few critical questions I like to use as a tension filter while developing message content. For me, every message must provide an answer or solution to one of these questions.
1. What is the question this message answers?
Every message (I understand there may be some exceptions) should provide an answer that leads to a point of application. And every answer is built upon a question. If you can identify the question at the center of your solution, you have found your tension. Now, build up that tension in the beginning of your message so you can present the answer to an audience who is ready to hear the solution.
I feel very blessed – no, extremely blessed – to be a part of North Point Ministries where I consistently meet with and get feedback from guys like Andy Stanely and Lane Jones. Of course, there is a lot of pressure knowing every time you preach, Andy and Lane are going to listen and critique you. But that is nothing compared to the pressure I feel knowing that an audience of unchurched people who might be giving God and the church one more chance is listening, as well. That’s pressure – and it’s healthy. Every preacher should feel that healthy pressure. It makes me work hard and take my role as communicator very seriously.
One thing I’ve learned from Andy and Lane is the power of tension in a message. Maybe it’s better to say I’ve learned the necessity of including tension in a message. Too often preachers believe that people will listen and follow because they are talking. That is equivalent to believing people will watch your television program just because you put it on TV or your video simply because you posted it on YouTube. But just because you’re talking doesn’t mean people are listening. Just watch a teenager.