Boring Preaching Is A Crime

on the train to Sergiyev PosadNo, this is not a post about the loss of our religious freedom – it’s a reflection on a quote I’ve looked at many times since I first wrote it down about nine years ago at a conference on preaching…

If you think the gathering of biblical facts and standing up with a Bible in your hand will automatically equip you to communicate well, you are desperately mistaken. It will not. You must work at being interesting. Boredom is a gross violation, being dull is a grave offense, and irrelevance is a disgrace to the gospel. Too often these three crimes go unpunished and we preachers are the criminals. ~ Charles Swindoll

Over the next two or three weeks, I will finish preaching from the first five books of the Bible and will move on into Joshua. I began preaching through the entire Bible two years ago and am committed to continuing the series all the way through. One of the biggest fears people had when we began this journey together was, “aren’t some parts of the Bible boring?” Yes and no.

Yes, parts of the Bible can be boring if we don’t read with discernment, but when we put ourselves in the shoes of people who lived during the times of which we’re reading about, then transport ourselves to our 2009 culture, God’s truth unveils itself in radically doable ways. Still, Swindoll is right, we preachers must work at being interesting. Here are some tips for doing just that…

Laugh A Little

One Pastor I know tells a joke every Sunday from the pulpit. I don’t recommend it for everybody, but there were two conditions present at his church when he arrived there: a prevailing spirit of negativity and discouragement, and his own comedic personality. For his congregation, laughter became therapeutic. The joke-a-week may not always be the best approach, but do be willing to laugh, especially at yourself. Don’t beleive in the power of laughter? Listen to Charles Swindoll read this letter home from camp.

Make Eye Contact

Sounds basic, yet every week Pastors stand before their congregations and read manuscripts or stare over the heads of the crowd. Make eye contact with as many individuals as possible all around the room. You’ll be amazed at the personal connection and unspoken response that takes place.

Do Something Visual

PowerPoint can become an enemy of interesting rather quickly, but if used properly and in moderation, it provides a visual enhancement, especially with a video illustration. But a screen isn’t required – offer a prop or an object lesson (they aren’t just effective for children’s church). I’ve played Jenga (with the inevitable crash at the end) to illustrate our attempt to build a life on our own efforts. We’ve handed out puzzle pieces during a sermon about finding our right spot to serve in God’s family. Ed Young is a master at visuals and in one of his more notorious examples, drove a tank on stage and popped out of the hatch to teach on spiritual warfare.

Be Real and Authentic

I try to find ways I might be speaking in a minister’s tone and I weed it out of my public speaking. When chatting with a neighbor, you don’t point like a dog with one leg in the air, rock back and forth on your feet with that ministerial bounce, or take three syllables to mention the name of JEE-UH-ZUSSS!! How would you share your message with just one person in the back of the room? Do that.

Be As Brutally Honest As the Bible

Let me be clear – though I believe in being interesting, it’s most important to be biblical and forthright. You’re still fulfilling a prophetic role of forth-telling. Frankly, much of modern preaching is geared only toward the half of the congregation that are emotionally oriented and enjoy “touchy-feely” messages. I personally think a lot more men would show up and even step forward if they just heard the honest challenge for which their hearts long. Truth is interesting when it’s presented in raw form and Jesus modeled this principle.

Connect THEIR World to MY World

It’s great to know what David, Moses, and Paul did, but what should I do? It’s important to understand the attributes of God, now how should I live in light of them? Find the principles worth living in whatever passage you’re preaching from, and present them with urgency, passion, and a call to action.

Use Verbs

James told us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” In fact, most of us already know more than we’re doing. Words are powerful, and they are the tools of our trade. Use powerful words that communicate a challenge to act. Repent! Believe! Love! Serve! Give! Read! Share! Pray! The Christian life IS a verb, so use them in your message, and as often as possible, use verbs as the very points of your message.

If you’ve read all of this with your spiritual arms folded in disgust thinking to yourself, “Well, we’re not here to entertain people!” then listen to this point – someone will. To “entertain” means to hold someone’s attention. I think it’s sinful to be unfaithful to Scripture in our preaching, but isn’t it also sinful to misrepresent such a dynamic God by communicating to people that His book is boring?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Francesco Rachello

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