The ability to communicate is a gift and an art form. The art of communication is a life-long journey. Good communicators never “arrive.” We are always becoming better in our ability to communicate, continually learning, practicing, and fine-tuning the skill.
As preachers, God has given us a platform to share the greatest message of all time. As I’ve developed as a preacher, I have learned that the message of a lifetime can still fall flat to a disconnected audience.
Whether you are speaking to an audience of ten or ten thousand, here are three keys to connecting with the crowd.
1. OPERATE IN AUTHENTICITY
With all of the gifted communicators in our world today, it can be easy to wish we could have what they have. When we admire someone’s talent, the temptation to emulate their communication style is real. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I would argue that the opposite is true when it comes to communication. The truth is that God created each of us uniquely, all different blends of personalities, gifts, struggles, and strengths. The best thing about pastoring people from the stage is that God placed you there, meaning he chose you to deliver the message he’s placed inside of you.
Authenticity makes us relatable, establishes trust, and draws an audience into your message. Be intentional about finding and developing your voice. It’s okay to limit the outside voices we listen to as we hone our craft. There’s nothing wrong with gleaning from the greats as long as we’re careful that our preaching does not become a performance. Vulnerability is the birthplace of intimacy; your audience will respond to your authenticity more than they will respond to a calculated, rehearsed performance.
2. CULTIVATE THE CONTENT
Have you ever tried to describe something without a clear understanding of what you’re explaining? It’s confusing, and the message gets muddy. It’s like tossing some seeds into soil without preparing the land, hoping something sticks and takes root. If we want to be effective communicators, we must understand and curate what we communicate.
Before I ever start writing, I take time to study, read, and research. Like a kid in a candy shop, I eat up everything I can. I read surrounding scriptures, gather historical context, look up the etymology of the words in the passage, and explore other translations to form a complete view of the scripture. When was this passage written? Who is the author and who were they writing to? Why did it matter then and why does it matter now?
I like to follow the Lectio Divina method when it comes to message preparation. There are four steps:
1. Read — Slowly read the passage of scripture, paying attention to anything that stands out to you.
2. Meditate — Reread the scripture, focusing on what grabbed your attention and reflecting on what it means in your life.
3. Pray — Ask God for wisdom, understanding, and revelation of the scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to say and pause to listen.
4. Contemplate — Rest in God’s presence and allow the revelation to take root.
Once I feel like I have an understanding of what God wants to say, I start to build the structure and flow of the message. I rehearse, nail down the timing, and edit as needed.
From start to finish, the entire process is doused in prayer. Making sure we take the time to cultivate our content is essential. Through preparation, we can eliminate confusion and speak with authority.
3. PAINT THE PICTURE
Erwin McManus, a world-class communicator, pastor, and leader, said, “Every great communicator turns language into an art form.”
Strong communication always comes back to the art of storytelling. Invite the audience on the journey with you with words, sharing how you traveled from Point A to Point B, and how together, we can make it to Point C. Captivate the crowd by including stories, illustrations, and details that are relevant to the message. Engage their senses by describing what you felt, heard, and saw. Identify their pain points and challenges, then offer hope and invite them into victory with you. No matter what the message is, our words have the power to paint a picture for those listening. As we do our part in sharing what God has given us, God does his part, saving and transforming the lives of those who choose to listen.
We carry a mandate to be God’s mouthpiece. It’s a weighty assignment, and it’s our responsibility to steward the gift well. Your “yes” to the calling is no small thing. Whether you’re new to communicating or you’ve been doing this for years, I’m grateful to be on the journey with you as we grow, teach, and preach together.