I realize that we pastors are going way beyond motivational speaking in our sermons. We are sharing the gospel and leading people to the cross. But we are still speakers and communicators nonetheless, and our effectiveness and influence depend on our understanding something about the nature of speaking.
Seth Godin, a marketing guru with much to teach the church, wrote about speaking and had this to say:
Speaking in public: two errors that lead to fear…
1. You believe that you are being actively judged
2. You believe that the subject of the talk is you
When you stand up to give a speech, there’s a temptation to believe that the audience is actually interested in you.
This just isn’t true. (Or if it is, it doesn’t benefit you to think that it is).
You are not being judged, the value of what you are bringing to the audience is being judged.
And he goes on to say:
The members of the audience are interested in themselves. The audience wants to know what they can use, what they can learn, or at the very least, how they can be entertained.
“Preaching is not about you, so stop focusing on being the star… focus on the power of the gospel.”
This is truth. Seth is wise. Obviously, we are called to do more than simply please an audience. We are heralds of truth. But understanding what people are expecting or searching for when they sit down to listen to us certainly helps us communicate truth in a way that taps into the audience’s interest.
I agree with Seth. Preaching isn’t about you, so stop focusing on being the star, the celebrity, the eloquent master communicator out to impress your hearers. Instead, focus on the power of the gospel content to change lives now and for eternity.
The next time you preach, just before speaking, pray something like this:
God, help me to glorify You, honor Your truth, and speak with the confidence that what I have to say matters. And help me to love these people enough to give them what I know they need – Your Word.