At the church where I work, I preach/share/teach/facilitate/browbeat about 100-125 times a year. As a result, I spend a fair amount of time scared to death about what I am going to say and how I am going to say it. Over the years, I have learned a few truths about communicating that I want to share with both of my readers. Never forget, words shape the world. What we say and how we say it are the gifts we offer to truth, the frame that enhances or detracts from the beauty and power of our subject.
- Let the tool do the work. (No, I am not calling myself a tool.) I learned this from my dad, Col. JenkTank. Some of the greatest lessons I learned came from Saturday afternoons reversing whatever damage had been inflicted on our Volvo the week before. Tools exist to make work easier. When communicating, the tool is the subject or source of your material. In my case, it would be the Bible. My role as communicator is to let the Bible do the work in people’s lives, and try not to put to much of myself into the effort.
Resource: How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
- The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you can’t explain your key points in the 140 characters of Twitter, then you’re not taking the shortest distance. Remember, you are communicating. That means if they aren’t “getting it”, you’re not communicating with them, you are only talking at them. Try to take them on a simple journey of connected ideas. I rely heavily on my formula of Problem (Our’s) –> Solution (God’s) –> Response (Our’s). A variation is Lie –> Truth –> Response. This keeps me on task and gives the audience a sense of accomplishment after the message/lesson/seminar. It also disciplines me to streamline content to support only the necessary points for the listeners, not the stuff I think is cool or will make me sound smarter. Communication is service, not self-serving.
Resource: Communicating For A Change by Andy Stanley
- Love means never having to say “I’m sorry.” “Facts,” John Adams once said, “are stubborn things.” If you believe you have a truth people need to hear, and if you love those people enough to share even the most difficult truths, don’t ever regret sharing it. The lack of conviction and authenticity will be read by everyone, and the impact of your message will be lessened. In my profession, this fear of the truth usually comes out over three subjects: sin, Hell, and money. Understand, this is not a jerk license. The fact that the Bible teaches truths about sin and Hell doesn’t empower us to browbeat or harangue people into compliance. Passion over consequence, emotion over rewards and outcomes, those are the places for enthusiasm and demonstration. Don’t pull your punches if it’s true, but don’t beat your audience to bloody pulp either.
Resource: I learned this one from some great communicators that I admire. Not everything comes from books.
- Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln. Winston Churchill was the greatest communicator of the Twentieth Century. Abraham Lincoln communicated his way from failure to the White House, and used words to navigate the Civil War. Both of these men were great because they were unashamedly themselves. They knew what worked for them in speech, in body language, even in the clothes they chose to wear. Consider every detail and whether or not it is authentic to you and to your message. When I was starting to preach, a friend invited me to speak to his youth group at his small church in rural Northeast Arkansas. Growing up in Southern Holiness Pentecost forged a very specific model of what “good preaching” consisted of. Needless to say, those elements, I found out that night, were incredibly inauthentic for me. Over the years, I have developed certain devices and mannerisms, key phrases and pacing, and gestures and movements that communicate not just the truth being shared, but insight into me as well. This provides comfort and confidence for me and communicates credibility and consistency to my listeners. Don’t work at being like a great communicator, be the great communicator you are.
Resource: Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln by James C. Humes
- Sometimes you need to throw softer. Earlier this year, I was watching a pitcher struggle in the College World Series. Orel Hershiser noted that as the pitcher was fatiguing, and struggling to locate his pitches, he needed to throw softer, not harder. In pitching, location is more important than velocity. I notice that oftentimes, if I sense a point isn’t hitting the mark, I stay on that point, and emphasize it until I feel everyone “gets it.” That is a mistake. In the moments where you are not connecting with your audience, infinitely belaboring a point achieves the opposite from its intended effect. People check out, they shuffle in their seats, check their phones, and look at their watches. These are the signs of over-pitching. You sacrifice control for volume, or humor, or arcane language and grammar insights. Move to the next point, take a breath, slow or soften your speech. You need to have a megaphone in your head that can scream, “ABANDON POINT! ABANDON POINT! WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!!!”
Resource: Greg Maddux, Satchel Paige, Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson. Not everything comes from blogs.
(Honorable Mention: Turn off your phone, never check your watch, make sure your fly is up!)
These are some of the things I’ve picked up over the years. I hope they help.
<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nd/3.0/80×15.png” /></a><br /><span xmlns:dct=”http://purl.org/dc/terms/” href=”http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text” property=”dct:title” rel=”dct:type”>Intentional Spiritual Communication</span> by <span xmlns:cc=”http://creativecommons.org/ns#” property=”cc:attributionName”>Brian Jenkins</span> is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License</a>.
What about you? Any insights on public speaking, communicating, or preaching that you find helpful?