Good Preaching Attracts Hearers

The Talker-Hearer Disconnect

One of the secrets I’ve learned over the years is that people will tune in to good preaching and tune out boring preaching.

Back in 1989 I had the privilege of attending the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Manila, the Philippines.  The messages were stirring, powerful.  The seminar speakers spoke powerfully.  The crowd of people from all the countries impressed me.

One seminar  sticks out in my mind as I write this blog: I attended a talk by a famous author and church leader.  He talked about obstacles to reaching the world with the Gospel.  I listened, enraptured by his use of words.  He obviously had skill as a speaker.  A I got so caught up in the words, that I stopped taking notes.  A short time later a friend asked me what was said, and especially what the main points of the speech were, and I could not remember anything specific that was said.

Since that day, almost thirty years ago, I’ve learned a great deal about good preaching.  People will listen to good preaching in worship or outside of it.  But the question is, “What is good preaching today?”

It begins with the speaker, meaning the one who is giving the message.  Listeners receive the message, and  give feedback by the way they respond.  In the case of my time in Manila, the speaker gave a speech that may have been full of great information, but I didn’t receive it.

Talking So People Will Listen

In this reflection, and in the ones to follow, I will be looking with you at how we can talk in a way that the people will listen, will receive the message.  I am deeply indebted to many people for what follows.  To begin with, I’m going to use a picture that was developed by Steve Brown in his book, How to Talk So People Will Listen.  He says that the “good” speech (or sermon) will have the characteristics of the acrostic, TULIP.  Those letters will guide our reflections over the next few weeks.

Therapeutic

The word therapeutic refers to treatments that make a person better, or, in other words, that are addressed to his/her needs.  In the medical health field, therapeutic speech is that which helps the speaker feel heard.  It involves sitting forward, making eye-contact, and letting the speaker know that you are hearing what they say by the clarifying questions you ask.  In a sermon, it is preaching to the felt-needs of the people in the audience.

One of the roles I fill in my life is to be a partner to a younger pastor.  In our meeting last week we talked about his message from the week before.  He has already developed the skill of reading the audience, and he knew that he had lost them somewhere along the way.  He summed it up by saying, “This sermon would have gotten an A in my seminary days, but the congregation didn’t follow it, however, because it was too involved.”

That’s putting it well, I think.  New seminary or Bible School graduates feel the temptation to impress people with their learning.  One of the keys to good preaching is to realize that people really don’t care about things like the Graf-Welhausen documentary hypothesis.  They want to know that there is a God, and that he cares about them.

Defining Your Purpose

So when you are preparing your sermon, think about the purpose.  What difference will this make to the hearer?  This doesn’t mean you can’t preach on the great doctrines of the faith.  It does mean that you must find a way to make those doctrines relevant to the lives of the people who are listening to you.   Listeners give you the gift of their time, so use it well.

6 replies
    • Bruce Ballast
      Bruce Ballast says:

      As you know, I’ve just started this, and am having a ball. I’ve committed to a year doing this for Christian Leaders’ Institute. Thanks for your response.

      Bruce

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Tips, and I’ve been following the outline given by a man named Stephen Brown, in his book, How to Talk So People Will Listen. […]

  2. […] a reminder, we are exploring the TULIP of good preaching.  We’ve seen that a “good” sermon should be Therapeutic, or focussed on the […]

  3. […] are describing keys to making your preaching memorable by introducing the acrostic TULIP.  In the last post, we looked at the fact that preaching is more impactful if it is therapeutic, that is, relevant to […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *