There seems to be a strand of ministry leaders who are obsessed with becoming great “communicators.” In fact the language of how we even talk about this strange thing we do for 20-45 minute once a week is called. It used to be called preaching, some call it teaching, or sharing, but everyone in the industry seems to now refer to it as “communicating.”
And for those who want to become excellent communicators, there are few more famous that Francis Chan. Wouldn’t you like to be able to preach like him? Wouldn’t you like to know what the trick is, what the structure is, what ever “it” is so that you can communicate with the same power, effectiveness, and maybe even fame?
Well, I do, and so I have entered on a quest to understand why Francis, and others, (Insert your communicator of choice) are so pickin’ effective. What has been challenging is that every amazing communicator, presenter, famous Christian I have listened to all seem to have a different slant, a different structure, a different approach to connecting with their audience. It turns out that the simple task of copying structure, or stories, or illustrations is not going to cut it if you want to become a powerful and effective communicator.
Over the last year as I have begun to listen to some of my favorite “communicators” with this question, I have slowly, but surely, begun to see a through line in each of these, very different speakers.
If you would like to preach like Francis Chan you simply need to do these two things:
1) Believe what you are saying. This seems like it would be a now brainer. As pastors we are convinced of the Love of God and the Grace of Jesus. We believe, I mean, come on, we have given our entire lives in service of the Gospel. We believe it!! My question for you is, to reconsider that question. Do you really believe what you are saying?
So often we communicate “truth” but that is an intellectual exercise divorced from the way that that truth has actually impacted and shaped our own lives. Believing in our head will simply not cut it when trying to become an excellent communicator. Francis believes with all of who he is what he is saying. He daily is trying to put into practice what he teaches and he is willing to share his journey and struggle with his audience. His heart actually breaks for the things he says should break our hearts. His messages are fully internalized!
Go back and listen to or reflect on your last couple of messages. I know you don’t want to, but really listen. Do you really believe what you are talking about, or are you just going through the Christian motions? A good way to tell is by simply asking one more question; How is / has whatever you are speaking on actually impacted and transformed you? (And why was that not part of your message?)
2) Say something that matters to your audience. For many speakers and communicators, they get lost in their task and forget the entire reason they have a microphone. The stance from many youth workers, and might I say, many preachers, is that they have something to say. They have something the audience needs to hear!
Maybe there was a day when the simple fact of you being a pastor meant that people cared what you had to say and were willing to wrestle with whatever you had to say simply because of your position. But that day has come and gone (if it was even ever here in the first place) When our stance is that of expert, or even as teacher, we have immediately lost our audience.
The best communicators consider their audience, they have a stance of wanting to serve and offer something of worth to them. They are not trying to get anything from them. They don’t try to impress them or leverage who they are to prove that you should listen to them. They are servants who long to give a gift to their audiences. What a totally different stance.
Think about how different your communication style would be if you took you out of the center and started with your love for the audience. If you longed to be a blessing to them, to consider them, their needs, their issues, their concerns, and decided to be helpful to them. For many preachers this seems like heresy. You should proclaim the word of God!! Yes, but as a love offering, not with a bullhorn.
Communicating to an audience is a distinct honor, and rare in our cultural context. If you want to preach, teach, “communicate” more effectively and become more like Francis Chan, or whoever your preacher of choice is, then simply make sure you have 1) internalized your message, believe what you are saying. And 2) make sure you are saying something that actually matters to your audience.
And may God be gracious to us teachers so that we don’t let our ego and pride blind our offerings. May be simply be humble servants sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ as it transforms us in a way where our audience can actually hear it and embrace it!