When we learn something that changes our lives…we are always excited about passing it on. It’s hard not to share something that has greatly benefited you. Unfortunately, the task of effectively passing it on is harder than it looks! For hundreds of reasons, people fail to understand or apply what we would try to pass on…and we must get better at re-transmitting our life message in a way that overcomes these reasons. Ultimately is never, “Am I passing this on?” but rather:
How can I pass this on
in a way that motivates others to change permanently?
One of the greatest mistakes we make in Bible study is getting to the truth and then believing that the truth alone will change the lives of other people. If that was true, we would have changed the world with the truth a long time ago! Too many sincere, well-meaning teachers think that if they will just present the right content to people, it will change their lives. Unfortunately, presentation matters just as much as the content. To fulfill the final and most impactful step in Bible study, we must become effective presenters. Why? Because:
Approach (Presentation) trumps Truth Every Time.
We’ve all had good teachers and bad teachers. Many of us have chosen to take specific classes as specific times because we heard that the teacher was better at 8am in the morning than at 11am. What’s the difference between a good teacher and a bad one? It’s almost always their presentation. The content doesn’t change much…but the presentation makes all the difference.
Imagine that you have cancer that will soon kill you, and I am one of few who can see it. I tell you that you need the medicine I can supply, and I hand you a battered, muddy water bottle with green slush inside. Are you going to drink it? NO WAY. You aren’t even convinced that you need it! You’ll call me a lunatic and run away!
Good presentation of God’s word makes sure that people see their need for help, it explains clearly how God’s word can help them, it gives them specific action steps, and it presents it in an attractive way.
If I want you to drink my green slush medicine, I would be better off showing you scans of your cancer to convince you that you need it, discussing treatment options with you that you can choose from, and handing you the mixture in a medicine bottle with proper labeling, instructions for how often and how much to take, and evidence of its effectiveness. I might even flavor it like coffee or Dr. Pepper. That way I have a much better chance of seeing you take action to save your life.
Video: Thinks said angrily (Jimmy Kimmel)
So how do we present the truth effectively?
Know Your Audience:
Knowing your Audience is key to presenting the material because the best learning links a new concept to the things that the person already knows and that they are already passionate about. How long is their attention span? What are their interests? What are their needs and concerns?
Solve a Problem or Address a Need
One of the first things a good communicator does when they deliver a message is tell the audience why they need to hear what he wants to tell them. They talk about pain the person will experience, a problem we can solve, or a HUGE benefit they will get if they will apply the concepts to their life—before they tell them what the concept is. Often times, we can do this is such a way that the person feels the emotion of the future failure or benefit. That’s great—that engages the audience! Communicators call this a “felt need.” Every time you get the chance, engage your audience by talking about a felt need.
Recently, in my sermon on anger, before I even mentioned the topic, I talked about my subject as being the most destructive toxic concept so far, responsible for many of the headlines we see in the news—and also a toxin that targets our most precious relationships: marriage, children, and friendships. I was trying to draw the audience into the message before I even told them what it was about.
Andy Stanley also makes it a habit to end on another felt need. He ends a lot of sermons by picturing what the world would be like if everyone applied the big idea from his sermon. He describes in very powerful, emotionally-charged language a world that keeps sex in marriage: a world without any abortions, STD’s, AIDS, orphans, etc. He uses a felt need to motivate his audience to apply the message to their lives.
Illustrate, Illustrate, Illustrate
Any visual or story you can use to effectively make a point in your sermon often enhances the listener’s experience. People remember images better than words. They love stories. A teacher of mine once said that every major concept in your message should be illustrated. I tend to agree.
Recently, when I spoke on anger, I illustrated both of the concepts in my big idea: anger blows up and anger tears down, with a personal story. Why? I wanted them to see anger at work in the pastor’s life—the guy who many think has it all together. I didn’t want them to think that I didn’t need to learn the lesson I was preaching myself AND I wanted them to see anger in every day terms, not just headline-level events. I picked up an object to draw attention to each story: a broken dog leash and a soccer ball. I also looked hard for one key object that would really solidify the concept in people’s minds, and I kept going back to it in the message: a pressure cooker. I could have just said “pressure cooker” or put the picture on the screen, but the actual object made my presentation more interesting.
Our current culture is used to watching high energy, professionally-produced content every day. If you are going to get a message across, you’ve got to have invested some time in the energy and format of your presentation. You don’t have to be as good as a commercial or TV episode, but you need to be interesting. Changing your tone of voice, moving around, communicating emotion, and visually illustrating concepts are things that you can practice and learn to integrate into your presentation style. Standing still and talking in a standard tone of voice, or reading a powerpoint presentation off a screen were once engaging presentations, but culture has raised our standards and changed our audience’s expectations, so we must adapt or our voice will not make the impact it should.
Honestly, this is the part of my skillset that is least natural and still the most weak. I don’t vary my voice a lot. I have some awkward hand movements. In order to
Good for you…but I’m never gonna be on stage!
Haha, I said that once too. My wife has said that. My friends have said that. But everyone who takes the time to love God hard and listen to His voice, usually becomes a messenger for Him, even if it’s just for one or two key events. So if you think you’ll never speak publically and you love Jesus, you’re probably wrong.
EVERYONE’s afraid of public speaking. It’s the #1 all-time greatest fear.
EVERYONE is pretty bad at it when they start.
But EVERYONE who loves Jesus does what He asks us to do. And He needs more writers, speakers, teachers, soccer coaches, community group leaders, neighborhood organizers, etc. Don’t let fear or lack of practice keep you from taking every opportunity to spread God’s word. Often the most humble speakers say the most impactful things.
Audio to Listen to:
Approach Trumps Goal Every Time – Andy Stanley
Crafting a Message – Andy Stanley
- Who is the best Christian communicator you’ve heard?
- Who is the best non-Christian communicator you’ve heard?
- Who’s the worst communicator you’ve ever heard, and why were they so bad?
- If you had to teach about God’s word this week, what subject or passage would you talk about?
- What need or problem does that address?
- How you would illustrate it?