In recent weeks, we’ve looked at the what people are wondering when they visit your church. As we have said, the questions have changed. Once, people wondered what the music was like or if the preaching was any good. But these issues only matter to churched people. The folks we are trying to reach have something else on their mind.
Already, we’ve discussed the first three questions: 1) Can I find friends here? 2) Is this a safe place? 3) Will this place add value to my life? 4) Can this place help my life matter? We wrap up this series with the final of these five critical question–Is the speaker someone I could talk to?
Communication has changed dramatically for those of us who bring the “message” to a congregation. Today, how you preach–the energy, passion, and creativity–isn’t as important as what you say. People don’t come to church to watch preaching. They are in need of answers, understanding, and hope communicated by someone they to whom they feel connected.
Essentially, they are wondering whether or not the speaker is someone they can talk to. Okay, first, understand that they’re not planning to talk to the speaker. They just want to feel like they could because he or she could relate to them in some way. Preachers that convey a distant, almost superior persona don’t appeal to unchurched people. They want to listen to someone who seems to get them.
Here’s a few critical points:
First, authenticity reveals anointing. As John Maxwell has said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that your care.” That familiar statement is more true every day. There has been enough deception and misdeeds by clergy that people are looking past the pulpit presentation and into the lives of those they choose to follow. Being genuine by living what you preach, demonstrating compassion to those in need, and really caring for those under your leadership will add more to your speaking moments than you can imagine. If you’re not real, your message won’t be judged as real either.
Second, volume must be about passion rather than style. If you’re from a tradition where preaching has been pretty active and energetic, understand that you won’t entertain people for long with your clever alliterations or your shouting and jumping. They want content, not entertainment. Today when someone says, “Boy, he can sure preach,” they typically mean he says a lot of really good things. A few years ago, that same statement might have meant the speaker really gets with it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with passion and energy in preaching, but it must be attached to your content and not just a mechanism for engaging the listener.
Third, message introductions are more effective when they seek to build relationship with the hearers. The days of creative intros that seek to grasp attention is fading. It’s hard to impress people with a fascinating introduction every week so the best communicators use their introductions to enter the lives of their listeners and connect in ways that encourage people to listen to the truth they bring.
Finally, responses to messages pack a relational punch. When people respond to your message, whether in an altar call or a genuine effort to implement your teaching into their behavior, they are making a choice to follow you as a leader. Their response means they are going where you want them to go, and that places the speaker in a different place than in previous generations. People today do not separate the speaker from his message so I will need to trust you before I will respond to the message you bring.
Being a communicator is a different life than being a traditional preacher. People will make judgments of your message as they draw conclusions about you. So you will need to live your life according to your own words, demonstrate genuine integrity and real compassion, and let people see that you care for their lives. If you do, then you will find a new freedom in your communication with the people of this generation.
And when it comes to the unchurched, remember that the goal isn’t to be like them. Instead, be the person they really want to be…