Ask Andy 5

AndyNthPt.jpg In this series I’m asking Andy Stanley some questions about preaching but I’m cheating when I say that: I’m reading his book (Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
) and generating my questions that he answers in his book.

OK, you are you; Andy is Andy; John Ortberg is John Ortberg; Fleming Rutledge is Fleming Rutledge; Phyllis Tickle is Phyllis Tickle; Jon Tyson is Jon Tyson; I could go on but you get my point. Each of these preachers has a style and a quite unique style too. 
Which leads many of us to this (rationalized) justification: “I preach my way, they preach their way.” Which means: “Leave me alone.” Which means: “I’m not open to learning how to be a better preacher.” Which means: Read Andy’s chapter on style.
What are some styles of current preachers you observe?
So, Andy, what do you have to say about style?
Here’s what he says: (1) You must learn to see what works, and learn to see what works for you. 
But, and this is a big and good point Andy makes: (2) being yourself is not an excuse for poor communication. 
Yes, be yourself but be the best communicator yourself can be! (3) Keep on getting better.
What do you do to make sure you are improving your preaching?

The best lesson I learned about preaching, well at least in the top three, was a lesson about style and it came from pace. I have a natural excuse: I’m a professor. We can bog down in details and proof and it can go on and on and we can offer, say, five or six Bible references to prove our point … and we can and we do … and we lose the audience sometimes. I learned this lesson from my editor at Paraclete, Lil Copan, who once told me that I needed to stop convincing my audience and start trusting that they believed me. Then she said it, “Just explain it. Just explain what it says. Don’t break it apart into all its pieces and then inductively prove it all. Your audience trusts you to tell them what it says.”

Of course, this can go to far but it was a valuable lesson and it changed my preaching from having sections that bogged down in proof — and sometimes we need this but my “style” got stuck in it — to keeping a better pace of interest.
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  • Brianmpei

    Hmmm. I think I either need to take your editors advice or become a professor! That’s good advice.
    In my circles I’ve also noted the “What the h*ll is he talking about?” style that impresses some – “That was so deep, you really had to be in the Spirit on that one, I didn’t understand half of what he said…” and irritates others who quietly ask the first question – but never directly to the speaker…

  • Clarity, always comes back to clarity for me. I am a storyteller, so a narrative rhythm works best for me. I tend to enjoy humor, so I have to be careful that the story is supportive and not disruptive, that the content full and not just flashy. So I always ask the question, “Was there a clear point?”

  • Good stuff.
    I love Andy Stanley’s book. My blog post from 2.5 years ago reviewing the book is still my most popular post:

  • RevDrDre

    I don’t think expository preaching is totally dead, but some use that description as an excuse for being boring and others seem so impressed with their humor and story-telling ability that one might forget that Bible has something to do with what’s being said!
    I’ve been an urban pastor for many years now and even though I have a PhD in Bible I’m always working to “keep in real” and “keep it simple.” I use powerpoint now and that was something that was new for me. I also vary between giving a “central idea” and main points on some occasions and simply telling the story on other occasions. in other words, my style varies because some left-brains are helped by some things and those right-brains prefer other things. I’m always trying to connect…

  • Danny

    As a parishioner and a teacher (not a preacher), any ideas how to help our pastor to do better? Stanley has good points but how do we share these points with someone who has been in the same pulpit for over 15 years? Saying anything that even sounds negative about the music or the preaching in church is dangerous.

  • Ethan Magness

    Danny asks, “As a parishioner and a teacher (not a preacher), any ideas how to help our pastor to do better?”
    I do have one idea.
    Give them as a gift an opportunity to go to a great conference on preaching or ministry. Don’t make them use vacation days and cover their travel registration and housing. They will see the trip as a true gift and it will put them in contact with preachers and ideas that will challenge them, inspire them and maybe encourage them pursue improvement.
    It might not work, but it might.

  • Danny

    Ethan, good idea.

  • Tim

    I don’t do a lot of preaching anymore, since we’re now missionaries in Southeast Asia and aren’t preparing and delivering sermons anymore. However, the best advice I received before leaving the States was to stop listening to other sermons and read their transcripts instead. This helps one to develop his own style and not imitate someone else that he or she respects & enjoys listening to. On our furlough last year I tried to be careful about this, as I was back in a routine of preaching every week, sometimes multiple times a week.

  • I think Andy Stanley is a genius. I read his book on leadership and he had an interesting insight that he learnt to cut out everything that wasn’t preaching/leading/training and focus on those three. That was a big wakeup call for me!
    I think it is good to listen to other sermons. I once heard Don Carson say ‘Dont listen to one preacher or you will sound like a bad copy of them listen to 40 and you will get the best of each one and sound like yourself!’