Session Six: Good Preaching (Execution, Delivery, and Pragmatics) [Justin Anderson]

Justin Anderson book15

[These are Session 6 notes (Session 3 of Day 2) from the Preach The Word 2013 Acts 29 West Regional Conference in Reno, NV]



“Everything you’ve heard (at this conference) becomes useless if you don’t get the delivery.”

This is essentially about critique.

–Book recommendations:

“Why Johnny Can’t Preach”

“Communicating For a Change”

“There’s no such thing as public speaking” (Henderson)

1 Cor 9:24-27 (“let’s take this out of context: you must work tirelessly to prepare preaching well)

•10 Points: (was thinking of doing ‘DON’T SUCK’ but I had 10 pts; and I thought that’d be cliche A29 stuff to I figured: ‘JOEL OSTEEN’)

Here we go:

•J – Just Be You

Nobody buys your imitation of someone else.

If you believe God has called YOU to preach, preach YOU. He called YOU to your people, not Driscoll.

“It takes 250 sermons to find your voice” (Keller) BUT that doesn’t mean that every preacher is owed that many to figure out if you’re any good at it.

Theres a lie that your preaching level should be 1-2x more excited than normal. It’s precisely that: a lie.

It should be you. Should sound like you.

If you aren’t regularly making being die with laughter, don’t try to be funny in the pulpit.

(The only time Keller and Piper are funny is when they don’t mean to be)

You don’t have to be funny to be a good preacher.

•O – Only preach for as long as people want to listen to you

“I realized then that sermon length is not measured in minutes; it is measured in minutes-beyond-interest, in the amount of time the minister continues to preach after he has lost the interest of his hearers (assuming he ever kindled it in the first place).” ~ T. David Gordon (Why Johnny Can’t Preach; p.31)

“Just about every guy who regularly preaches 50 mins would be better at 45; the man at 45 to 40; etc”

(“Keller preaches 35. None of you are better than Keller”)

–Here’s how you find your number: talk to people in your congregation that love you, are mature, are for you, have been around for a while, and ask “am I preaching too long?”

Don’t ask your wife (she loves you too much). I usually only ask her “was it clear?”

If people start shifting a bunch, you’ve lost them already.

–find that number and back 5 minutes off of that (there are moments, texts, Ideas, sermons that you need that extra 5, but if you go your full length then 5 every time, they’ve checked out).

Your people will give you grace to take the extra 5 if you honor that

•E – Every point should make the same point

“I believe in 1 point preaching”

“Your people can only understand one idea a week”

Another way: “you are only able to communicate one idea a week”

Have supporting ideas (Driscoll: metaphor of the hook; one hook, every idea hangs in that hook)

–Another way: sermon as a narrative (start-end) and each pt a stepping stone direct (not swerving side to side, etc)

Keller lays it exactly out in the very beginning (here is where we’re going; “we’re going to cover 3 points today”)

Another way: preach through the text (we’ll start in v7, know where we’re going next? 8. And after that? Yep. 9.)

You’re teaching them that they can go home and read it and understand.

-They see it doesn’t take all the jumping through hermeneutical hoops.

Do a “big idea”

•L – Listen to what your body is saying (everything communicates)

When you critique yourself don’t just listen to the MP3, watch it.

Posture, eyeline, hands, volume, pause, pace.

(Idea of facing the pulpit straight away to engage the audience and not be disconnect, tall pulpit)

“The strongest place to (fix your body/eye-line to) communicate is dead center, 2/3 back, straight ahead” (from public speaking book mentioned above)

full center/full posture on main points.

Pick out sections for eye contact (regions/zones example)

Deliver your strong points behind the pulpit, in priestly moments step to the side and lean down, be at the side (lean in, etc.) — like talking to your kids

-Let your posture communicate what your words communicate.

-Same with your hand movements (“don’t thread the needle when you’re chopping it up”)

–Volume should be relative to the content you’re reading. (Same with pace, pause)

–Your body matters (what you wear, your weight, your presentation of yourself matters)

-Your congregation follows you not just as a pastor but as a leader (they follow your lead; your people have to see themselves in you)

Paul said “follow me as I follow Jesus”

If you’re in an urban business context, don’t wear flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt (you want to be seen as more of a boss, than an Intern)

–Present yourself as someone credible to be following.

Be aware of what everything communicates

•O – Operate a manual transmission

This synthesizes voice, body, and content.

Think about our sermons as gears:

1st gear – most pastoral/priestly voice; used to communicate difficult truths

Softest/slowest speaking; talk about serious, hard, personal content matter.

2nd gear – teacher voice, beginning of the sermon, communicate historical/cultural background, posture more upright, used when direct quotes

3rd gear – preacher’s main voice, moving from information –> exhortation, telling stories, difference of degree and not kind; roughly 50-60% of the sermon is this gear

4th gear – High point of the sermon (everything should communicate that; posture, volume, pace, focus) deliver to the middle of the room, 2/3 back. Used when delivering sin/grace; should include your best dramatic pauses. The more important your point and your voice the more impactful your pauses.

5th gear – yelling, screaming, jumping up and down (communicating something egregious). Must match the subject matter (“use only once or so a year or if you’re Driscoll, whenever you talk about men”)

This is when you’re losing your mind about something, and only do so when the text is losing their mind about it.

Screaming is not effective communication (should not be “he cares the most about everything”)

Use sparingly (but use it)

This is not manipulative, it’s storytelling (it’s used cross fly just not explicitly talked about)

In preaching (particularly preparation), think of your gears and when they will kick in.

-Use the gears to illustrate importance, type of content, shifts in content, etc. (give it to them, let it breathe, deliver truth, show care)

•S – Say less, prove more

We live in an increasingly secular society. Many of us don’t preach like that’s true. (We preach as though it’s still Christendom Bible Belt)

We go into our sermons with (our own) presuppositions (“based on XYZ”.. They lost you back at A)

The Bible’s authority and relevance is no longer culturally accepted. You will likely need to address that.

You can have powerful, amazing statements (“drowning in the cesspool of your own mess”) … But do they believe it? (non Christians, baristas, CHRISTIANS even)

Need to be convinced of their presuppositions (for the last 6 days they’ve been given different values, goals, images, etc.) they’ve been told a million different narratives OTHER THAN creation, fall, redemption, restoration. (More like “you’re awesome, but with our product you’ll be MORE awesome!”)

That power phrase just became  a complete disconnect from everyone in your congregation (at BEST they waver on it; ‘I know I should believe that…’)

–If you believe someone in your room MIGHT not believe it, prove it. (Just one or two pts; “bible as word of God” -> show a couple proofs) // [copy from audio]

•T – Teach me, move me, show me

Some struggle with structure in their sermons (most preachers tend to be prophet/priest)

[his example from how he does sermon prep: prep, main point, then push it back at look at the various angles to go about it]

    Practical example from other religions/philosophies and bridging -> Christianity (provides a parallel but clear distinction) // [listen to audio for richer example used; worth the time!]

**Think through that rhythm: teach them truth and the text; move them in response (has to get in their hearts); and show them (I taught you, I moved you, here’s how you do it)

Most of us are good at one, maybe two of those things:

Taught them new information, they’ll leave smarter, but will not care about it

Some of us move our congregation to tears weekly.. About nothing in particular.

Knowing HOW to do something doesn’t mean they will do it.

“Preaching”: a tool helping people understand the gospel intellectually, stir people’s affections for Jesus, and move them on mission

Catechism quote [pull from audio]

•E – Examples of 4 archetypes to teach from

-1) Communicate to the mechanic (50 year old dude, sun burn, hard worker, no BS kind of guy; the “hell of a talk, preacher” guy)

Give him something with handles to grab on to and in the first 10 mins (he won’t wait longer)

-2) The smart skeptic

(Intelligently address their skepticism)

Address him every time you say something unbelievable (faith-driven, the cross, etc.)

-3) Disciple

(Already bought in, committed, love you, love jesus; just give them something to chew on… This is the easiest to reach; this guy loves your sermon the minute he steps out of the car)

Show that they track with you; they just want some meat

-4) The dude that’s there for chicks (address him!)

Get them with the hammer at some point (that’s the only time he will listen to you)

Doesn’t care about your groups, handles, meat.. You need to punch him in the face to get his attention.

–These are not the only 4, but I’m convinced if you hit these 4, you hit all the rest.

•E – Everything isn’t ‘awesome’

Chose your words carefully.

Grace is amazing (everything else has to be somewhere below that)

If everything is amazing, nothing is amazing. (They are not at the same level)

“The cross is remarkable… That burrito? Was good.”

-There are some things that are amazing (you don’t have to convince someone that something is amazing if it is amazing)

Grand Canyon and “Jesus is awesome” examples (“it’s self-evidently deep”)

The more you beg someone to believe something is great, the less sure they will be in believing that.

Don’t say “Jesus is great,” show them! (“Isn’t grace amazing?!” -> show it)

Ephesians 2

“Everything isn’t awesome, but some things are, and they should be self evident”

•N – Nurture your brain and your heart

What kinds of ministers does such a culture produce?  Ministers who are not at home with what is significant; ministers whose attention span is less than that of a four-year-old in the 1940s, who race around like the rest of us, constantly distracted by sounds and images of inconsequential trivialities, and out of touch with what is weighty.  It is not surprising that their sermons, and the alleged worship that surrounds them, are often trifling, thoughtless, uninspiring, and mundane.  It is not surprising that their sermons are mindlessly practical, in the “how-to” sense.  It is also not surprising that their sermons tend to be moralistic, sentimentalistic, or slavishly drafted into the so-called culture wars.  The great seriousness of the coming judgment of God, the sheer insignificcance of the present in light of eternity — realities that once were the subtext of virtually every sermon — have now disappeared, and have been replaced by one triviality after another.” ~ T. David Gordon (Why Johnny Can’t Preach)

And that was written before Twitter!

~~There is very little in the social media world that makes you better

(not saying it’s ‘bad’, but you have been called by God to deliver the word and deliver His people)

~~The question we should ask ourselves (not just with social media but with everything) is “is this making me BETTER?” (Husband, pastor, friend, etc.)

Put stuff out there that’s valuable, imbibe things that make you better.

Read your bible

Read books about the bible

Read thoughtful critiques of the culture (but don’t imbibe it straight; it’s too much) [listen to audio for context of this point]

Conclusion: We have to work hard. We have been given a great task, we have to work at it (its fun and rewarding, we get to play a part in this! Nothing is bigger than this story)

–We ought to be compelled to learn it and communicate it as well as we possibly can.

“Well God used Moses, a stutterer, and an ass in the OT” (it’s the exception not the rule)

(“Our goal should not be ‘ass'”)

“God, at the same time you call us, you equip us”

“I pray that we would never tire of it and never tire of doing it better”

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