During my stint teaching in New Zealand, I was assigned the course on sermon preparation and delivery. A lot of my students had never drafted an outline and others were terrified of getting up in front of an audience to speak. I took a fairly simple approach to help them learn to outline a Bible lesson or public speech.
- First, what is the primary objective of your speech. If you could communicate one important thought or idea, what would it be.
- Second, list three or four examples to help you illustrate that primary objective.
- Finally, find an inspiring story, poem or illustration to conclude your topic.
After spending over 30 years standing in front of people trying to communicate I have a far different agenda. “What can I give people to enrich their lives.” My topics may come in the form of inspiration, motivation, or perhaps even correction. Think about it for just a minute! You, and you only are given a platform in front of 50, 500 or maybe even 5,000 people. If you have any integrity at all, you are not there for a paycheck, or for the accolades and praise of men – you have accepted a solemn responsibility to communicate something of value. Unfortunately that doesn’t usually happen with the “3 points and a poem” sermonettes that are so popular today.
In recent years I have found a much better method of communicating and here are a few of my rules for effective speaking and teaching:
- Take off the mask and be real. I can’t think of a single thing I am an authority on, but I sure have learned a lot of lessons from the school of hard knocks. People can relate to those who share their struggles and hardships of life.
- Call people to action. Most people need a nudge, or even a push to get past their own complacency. So what if a few lazy folks who don’t want to change get irritated. I would rather inspire two or three people in an audience of a hundred rather than placate everyone and rob them of anything of worth or value.
- Don’t dumb it down! I read – A LOT! That means I am being introduced to new words, phrases and ideas all the time. Sometimes I have to pull out the dictionary and look things up. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid, it means I care enough to grow.
- You also don’t want to talk down to people. I don’t use a lot of big words, but search for the right word. There is a balance between challenging people and trying to impress them with your knowledge.
It is an honor to be asked to speak at a church, community group, graduation or any other place. Nothing irritates me more than to be sitting in an audience with a teacher or speaker who is just “mailing it in.” They have given the speech before, or figure they have a captive audience, so they simply clock in and clock out and no one is the better because of their effort.
I am reminded of a story Jerry Moffit told in a little booklet he wrote called “Non-boring preaching.” He relates a story of a local preacher whose attitude was, “the good and honest brethren will be listening regardless of how interesting and compelling my sermon is that Sunday.” Moffit’s response was, “So you are going to punish them for being good and honest. They faithfully commit to coming to every service, pay attention and in return you feed them a diet of boring, uninspired material.
Three points and a poem – not anymore!