Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Art of Preaching

I think preaching is an art in many ways. Today I'm thinking of the art of persuading people without manipulating or intimidating them.

Everyone knows when they are being "sold". We've all been in that uncomfortable position with a slick salesperson - it sounds good. You are reaching for your wallet but there's a small voice inside that says "He's not sincere. Don't do this. You'll regret it!" I don't want my listeners to have the same feeling when they hear me speak. So I try to show them that I respect their intellect.

I always speak with my listener in mind. I'm a cautious listener myself. I don't buy everything I'm being told in a speech (or a sales pitch). So I try to ask myself the critical question that I think my listener is asking at the time. I want to speak the answer to the natural question in their head so they say, "Hey, he anticipated that I appreciate that."

I do that to show that I respect my audience. I don't think they are simple minded. They've got good questions and concerns that I need to address if I'm going to win them over. I never want to imply that they should simply check their brains at the door and believe everything that I say. That's insulting. If I want to help them see that God loves them and accepts them I need to start by showing them love and acceptance in how I speak.

So, even though I want to persuade people to what I consider is God's view (based on the Bible), I never want them to feel like I'm cramming "truth" down their throat. They have to buy every word and thought so they truly own it for themselves. I want them to not merely agree with me but be convinced that God has added to my words and spoken to them personally through his Spirit.

If that happens, that's the ultimate satisfaction - to have people sense that they heard from God somewhere in or around my speaking. But the quickest way to invalidate that experience is to cheapen it through manipulation or intimidation.

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