There is a lot of good, even great advice on how to deliver a sermon in Communicating for a Change. To get to the good stuff however, you need to read through the first part of the book first and that was a bit of a struggle for me, because I didn’t care much for it. Don’t let that deter you from reading the book though, for you’ll miss out on good insights into preaching that really connects with your audience.
The book is written by Andy Stanley, founder and senior pastor of North Point Community Church, and the less known Lane Jones from the same church. Because they’re strong believes in the power of a well-told story, the authors of Communicating for a change have opted to open the book with a fictional story about pastor Ray Martin who has trouble connecting with his congregation when he preaches. He then meets truck driver Willy Graham who teaches him the ‘secret’ of connecting with your audience. The lessons Willy teaches are then further discussed in the second part of the book.
Personally, I think they could have skipped the whole first part and gotten right to the second part. I love stories, I love fiction for that matter, but this story didn’t feel real to me because its main function was to get information across. It felt unnatural to me, especially the dialogues. But maybe it works for you, so don’t let it deter you from reading the second part of the book because that is truly, really good.
In the second part, the authors make a few really good points about preaching. That is, if you adhere to their approach to preaching which they describe as ‘teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible’. The goal is not just to teach truths, but to have people actually act on what they have heard. Or to quote the book: “When I’m finished preaching, I want people in the audience to know what to do with what they have heard.” Since I share their vision for preaching, I found their advice very valuable.
Take note that this book focuses on how to deliver a sermon, it doesn’t really get into exegesis, sermon preparation or anything like that. That doesn’t mean the authors are in any way saying in depth exegesis or study is wrong. This book just focuses on the style of the sermon itself, not on the content.
Here’s some of the advice they give:
- Focus on one point you want to communicate: an application, an insight, or a principle
- Build everything in your sermon around that point
- Connect with your audience via the ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE route. That’s means start with yourself and something personal (ME), then make it broader to connect with the audience (WE). Now show what God has to say on the subject (GOD) and how this applies to our lives (YOU). End with an inspiration to apply what’s been said (WE).
- Own the story you’re telling, keep writing and practicing till it’s your own
- Engage your audience by giving the best ‘presentation’ possible, eg with your voice, speech pattern, etc.
- Take the time to develop your own style and find your own voice
My one thing
As I wrote in the introduction post for the book reviews I wanted to start, I want to include a ‘my one thing’ in each review. It’s the one thing that I have really learned from each book and that I’m applying.
With Communicating for a change, the one thing was the ‘one point’ necessity. Before reading this book, I had heard it was important to make a single point in a sermon, but this book convinced me of the why and how. It was the proverbial eye-opener for me and I have been a one-point preacher ever since.
All in all, I strongly recommend Communicating for a Change with the note that the first part didn’t work for me, but the second part more than made up for that.
Have you read Communicating for a Change? I’d love to hear your opinion!