…and then the preacher says, “lets pray”.
I think this point of the sermon (nay – the church meeting) is the pinnacle. This is the moment when you’re asking people to turn what they’ve heard into gospel centred action…
The action of prayer.
This is the moment of instant application. Your flock can respond to their God’s words right there and then.
Surely the first application of any Bible talk is praying, right? So do you preach with the closing prayer in mind? Are you spending that 20, 30, 40 minutes building up to that moment, when people can depend on Jesus and speak to the Father and say…
What do you want them to say to God at the end of your sermon?
Got it? Good. Now write your talk with that in mind.
A ransom note isn’t a question. It might use words like “please” or “I was wondering if…”, but in the end it means, “if you don’t do this, I’m going to hold it against you / hold it over your head”.
When people ask you one of these questions; questions that sound like questions but seem to carry a ransom note tone to them… its worth just asking if you’ve heard them right. “Is this a question that you’re happy for me to decide either way?”, “Are you going to be completely ok with whatever I choose?”, “Are you asking me what I think, are are you really just trying to tell me what you think?”
Chances are they don’t realise they’re giving you a ransom note. That’s ok… But don’t simply answer every question assuming its a real question.
It is that… but “to another human”. Think about that for a moment; it’s an important aspect not to miss. You don’t just “do” ministry, you do ministry “to people”.
God made, became and uses humans. Ignoring the human aspect of ministry is a denial of God’s creation. You’re speaking to God-designed humans; humans who have been made to think, react, feel, engage, etc. Disregard for their humanness when speaking God’s words is a disregard for God’s design.
So how are you thinking about the humans you’re doing ministry to?
If you’re still one who prints their sermon scripts, here’s some tips I’ve picked up from others;
- Print to read at a glance; Use 15pt font or larger, double spaced, 2cm margins
- Serif fonts (e.g. Times) are easier to read fast than Sans-serif fonts (the pointy tips on the characters help the eye flow onto the next character).
- If you lean against your lectern, it’s worth keeping the lower third of your page empty because otherwise you’ll need to tilt your head down to read it.
- Print page numbers, just in case they get out of order
- List any props or slides you need to remember on the top of the first page (no use remembering half way through your talk when you actually need them)
- Don’t print on both sides of the page (you’ll forget whether to flip or discard each page)
- Most printing preachers I’ve seen choose not to place their finished page at the back of their stack as they go. Rather, they slide each page to the right, keeping two pages face up, and end up with a reverse-ordered stack at the end of the talk.
- Write your opening prayer, but don’t write you closing one. Each talk lands slightly differently, so it’s worth praying from that uniqueness because its not a lecture, it’s not an mp3; it’s the word of The Lord for those there at that unique instance. Pray for them.
For any field you can communicate a spectrum of things; from abstract ideas to concrete things. And in this sense, bible communication and organisation communication are no different.
The trick is to realise that you don’t just have a personal bent to communicating one way or the other. Rather, chances are you prefer to communicate down one end of the spectrum in the “bible teaching” field, and down the other end if the spectrum in the “organisation” field.
We’ve realised that we’re really good at communicating “biblical abstracts” (e.g. Doctrine, atonement, sovereignty, etc.) but we’re not very good at communicating “biblical concretes” (this is how you get to church each week, this is what evangelism at work looks like).
On the organisation side of things, we’re fine at communicating concrete things (where, when, who) but we need to develop in communicating our abstract org ideas (why church is so important, why we do small groups, why…)
What are your communication tendencies for each of your fields?
Passive Agressive (PA) comments infer that there is a problem (or that you have a problem) without actually saying that there’s a problem. For example; “My last church never did it this way“, “That might make some people feel left out”, “I suppose that will just have to do”. Depending on the inflection and the tone, they could be perfectly reasonable observations. But you know when they’re not just observations.
I’ve always wanted to make a t-shirt that says “Well at least I’m not passive aggressive”. I think that’s hilarious!
It’s really worth training yourself to recognise these type of comments from others and from yourself. A colleague and I used to play a game “Can you say that in a more passive agressive way?” as a fun way of training oourselves to recognise it.
Recognising it is the first step to resolving it. Otherwise you just walk away from the conversation feeling bad, but not really knowing why.
The person asking the questions usually gets to direct the conversation.
Speaking to someone is like landing in a random Wikipedia page, and as they speak certain things are clickable; family life, work, growing up, troubles, joys, hopes, fears. You get to explore those things by asking about them.
So, at that point, even though one person is doing most of the talking, the other is doing most of the directing.
Who’s directing your conversations?