As a preacher and as a blogger, one of the topics that I’m very interested in and often discuss is communication. How does one aptly communicate what they want without all the trimmings and accessories that some demand they should have?
Communication is far more than a few spoken words into a microphone on a Sunday morning and much more than a blog post. Communication is about how we capture people, how we excite them to see the wonders of what we teach and how to invite them into the riveting story that we are telling.
I’ve listen to hundreds of sermons and read hundreds of books, here is what I have concluded; not all preachers should be authors and not all authors should be preachers. There is a certain skill required to put to words to paper (or screen) that conjure awe of the gospel and of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a certain skill required to intrigue people to investigate a certain doctrine or idea more. A certain skill is required to spur people on to wholehearted service of the Lord in life and in doctrine by pen and paper. A gift that I’m not saying I possess.
However, there is also a different gift; that of communicating truth in person particularly from a pulpit. But the skillset required to write a sermon and write a book are two very different things!
I’ve read books by authors that I would recommend in a heartbeat, but I’ve also heard sermons by the same authors that I wouldn’t listen to again. Why? Because the there is a big difference between written and spoken word.
Too many books are simply manuscripts of sermons edited into book format, whilst I like the idea, it simply does not work. When reading a book you can normally tell whether or not the material has first been delivered as a sermon. Likewise, it would be easy to spot a preacher who merely reads an academic commentary from the pulpit.
But would we really know the difference?
The point of a sermon is to proclaim God’s Word, you might argue that there’s more to it than that and I agree, but at its very basic level preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word. But too often I think that we have become accustomed to information heavy, academically approved sermons that get the text right but don’t speak to the heart. Preachers are called to proclaim the gospel, to point people to Jesus and to show how their text should impact the lives of their listeners. Anything short of that and we’re shortchanging the listener.
Preachers are called to proclaim the gospel, to point people to Jesus and to show how their text should impact the lives of their listeners. Anything short of that and we’re shortchanging the listener.Tweet
Bible colleges and preacher training schools rightly focus on getting the text right, but they rarely focus on putting the text into practice. A sermon left unapplied is a sermon that has gone into people’s heads and not their hearts. You can always tell when a sermon is merely a download of information, rather than an expounding of God’s Word that makes people think about their lives.
But the same can be said of many books. So many books are written in such a way that you need to work in order just to turn page after page. An author should invite his/her reader into the story, draw alongside them as they learn together the magnificent truths about God, the Bible and the Christian life. Authors need to remember that their material isn’t being read on a Sunday morning but maybe on a beach in the sun, or over a coffee in a cafe. Knowing your audience will determine how and what you write.
Whenever we communicate the things of God we should never bore, we should never exasperate and we should never be dull. We serve a wonderful saviour who has equipped his body with gifts to build up the saints, to share the gospel and to spur each other on to good works. Let’s not put people to sleep but stir them up in their service of the Lord.