We communicators got it rough today. Simon Peter and the Apostle Paul had no idea what it’s like to preach a message to room full of people armed with iPhones and Galaxies. Some are so brazen that they will even bring their iPads! Of course, they pretend they have their Bible on it or they’re taking notes, but in truth they have a kindle book on standby, just incase they get bored. (Full disclosure: I’ve done this.).
If we don’t keep them entertained, before long they’re texting, checking Facebook and some even tweeting about how boring we are. Yes, it’s a whole new level of competition. So let me share a few pointers that have helped me over the years on how to make our talks more listenable. (According to Microsoft Word listenable is a word… I just hope it means what I think it does.)
1. Be Funny!
I have never met a person that didn’t like to laugh. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno have made a fortune telling jokes. People will pay a high price for a good laugh. We crave laughter because laughter is good for us. King Solomon said it best: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). In Job it is written, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting” (Somewhere in Job).
If you are funny, people will be less likely to check their email during your message. If you are called to preach or some other form of public speaking, then you have a gift to communicate. And if you have a gift to communicate, then you probably have a decent sense of humor. I have rarely met a minister who in private wasn’t funny. But often, once we get into the pulpit we lose the humor for fear that it is not religious enough. But this is a big mistake, as God himself made us to laugh and you are commutating for God.
Be intentional about being funny. Put it in your notes. Be spontaneous as well. And laugh at your mistakes. When I preached one of my first messages in Hebrew, I said to the congregation, “The enemy wants to kill you and so do I!” Everyone knew that my small mistake in Hebrew changed the meaning of my sentence. I wanted to say, “The enemy wants to kill you and he wants to kill me too!” (By the way, my point was that he can’t!) Everyone laughed—and more importantly they remember the message. While this wasn’t intentional, it was funny.
REMEMBER: PEOPLE LIKE TO LAUGH
2. Tell Stories
There is nothing more boring than a theological message with no anecdotes. Let me speak for the ADD generation, TELL A STORY! Let me explain:
Sermon one: Forgive your enemies. Turn in your Bibles to … (zzz… zzz…)
Sermon two: Forgive your enemies. I recently heard a story about a man whose son was killed by a heartless gunman. The father wanted revenge. He fantasied of how he would make this killer pay. But then he read this verse, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
He realized that if Yeshua had forgiven him, then he must forgive the killer. He visited this man in prison, looked him in the eye and forgave him. The harden killer broke down. In tears, he told the man how sorry he was. The father led his son’s killer in a prayer of salvation. The father has been visiting him weekly in prison for 25 years. Forgive your enemies.
Okay… I made that story up. But let me ask you, which of the two messages would you be more likely to remember and act upon?
This isn’t new—Yeshua was the great storyteller. Most of His messages were in story form. Why? Because information (which is important) like “forgive your enemies” touches the brain. But stories like the one about the father who forgives, touches the heart. Tears flow. It burns emotional memories on your soul, like a branding iron does the skin of cattle (did you catch the metaphor usage?).
REMEMBER: PEOPLE LIKE TO HAVE THEIR EMOTIONS STIRRED
3. Change you tone throughout your message
As a young Messianic leader in the early nineties, I preached my first sermon at Beth Messiah Congregation. One of our congregants came to me afterwards and said, “You were good, but did you have to yell the whole time.” That was a good wound (Prov. 21:6). I have since learned to change my tone as I speak. Sometimes I am loud and other times I whisper. But k-e-e-p-p-i-n-g y-o-u-r v-o-i-c-e a-t t-h-e s-a-m-e l-e-v-e-l is boring!
When I take a nap I will often use a white noise iPhone app so noise from other people in the house doesn’t wake me. You don’t want to be like that! You want to wake people up, not put them to sleep.
REMEMBER: CHANGING THE TONE IN YOUR VOICE WILL HELP FOLKS (WHO ARE NOT ON RITALIN) STAY FOCUSED.
If I were to have a fourth point, it would be have good content, but if you are called to preach, then you probably don’t need help with that. I might suggest that <>clearly outlined points, <>handing out an outline, <>telling people exactly how long you plan to speak, <> using a clip from an appropriate movie and <>using a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation (Keynote is so much easier!) will also help your listeners stay focused.
I am sure I am missing some good pointers, so use the comments section below to share some more, or, even what annoys you in a message (be kind to your congregational leader!)