Sunday, October 28, 2007

BECOMING A BETTER COMMUNICATOR

One of my goals for 2007 was to explore ways that I can become a better communicator. I've been preaching sermons for almost 30 years. But if I keep preaching today like I did 30 years ago...well, I have a feeling I wouldn't have many listeners. Although God's Word never changes, the way people listen and the way people communicate is forever changing. Since preaching is one of my primary assignments, I believe it is critical that I keep improving my communication skills.

When I was in seminary taking preaching classes, the professor had a set form that he graded you by. Of course, for the most part, expository preaching was the acceptable means--that is, taking a short passage of Scripture and preaching verse by verse, highlighting two or three key points. There are some leaders today who believe that if you are not preaching expository sermons, then you're not preaching biblical sermons. It's interesting, however, if you study the history of preaching since the first century, the expository style did not come into vogue until the 20th century.

I was taught to preach either two or three point sermons. It was imperative that the points emerged out of the brief text of Scripture. The title of the sermon had to lead into the points. For example, if the sermon title was, "You Can Be Happy," point 1 would be: You can be happy by focusing on God. Point 2: You can be happy by loving others. Then every point had to have three subcategories: interpretation, illustration, application. The professor was very flexible in that you could do the "i-i-a" in any order you wanted to. Of course, before you got to the points, you had to have a "get the attention of the audience" introduction. And the introduction had to state your specific objective in preaching the sermon. A manuscript was not complete until you had the whole sermon summarized in one sentence. (By the way, that's still a great discipline.)

Remember, a blog can be the random ramblings of the author. And I believe that's what I'm doing now. But it's all good. I said all this to say that there are an infinite number of ways to write and communicate biblical sermons. And I want to do everything I can to be a sharp communicator of His Word.

So, this year here are some things I have been doing. First, I'm reading a bunch of books on communication. Without doubt, the most helpful to me has been Andy Stanley's Communicating for a Change. Second, I have been listening to my own sermons. Man, that is humbling. I probably need to be videotaping--that would probably even be more humbling. Third, I'm listening to the sermons of well-respected communicators via podcasts. Of all the ones I listen to, the one that I try to catch every message from is Mark Driscoll. What a great teacher of God's Word! Others include Andy Stanly, Perry Noble, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Ed Young, Jr., and Wayne Cordeiro. And, finally, I'm trying to stay abreast of the emerging generation's way of communicating because it is not the way your high school grammar teacher taught you to write and speak. I've even learned how to Itap my text messages. Whoeeee! I've arrived!

There is one communication lesson I learned years ago that is still just as valid today. For me to communicate the Word sharply and relevantly, I must stay in the Word every day of my life. God's Word must be in me before I can do a good job of communicating it to others. That's one principle that will never change.

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