Friday, November 06, 2009
  Effective communication 3: considers the audience
Photo by jsmjr
Different audiences, even different people in the same audience will respond to different styles, content and delivery.

Avoid words they won't understand - like jargon. Technical terms can be explained.

Kids sadly often look bored in churches (even kids much bigger than this one ;) but only when people persist in talking too long, or over their heads.

Sometimes the invisible audience is the most significant to address!

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Thursday, November 05, 2009
  Effective communication 2: Is concise
Oil Slick? by cyanocorax
Writers and speakers have to earn attention. Readers and listeners need to be rewarded. The more time we expect them to expend the greater that reward should be.

So, effective communication should be as brief as is convenient to communicate the message clearly. This rewards the audience with maximum benefit for their effort.

So, be brief!

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009
  Effective communication 1: Effective communication is clear
Photo by foilman
I subscribe to an email from Steve at Actuate Consulting, which today offered some bullet points on Effective Communication. Since communication is at the heart of most of what I do I thought I'd filter and adapt Steve's ideas into a series of short posts.

In my book the number one has to be: Effective communication is clear. If people do not understand, asking: What did she say? or What did he mean? communication has not occurred. Communication has not occurred unless a sensible message is received, no matter how much you spoke or wrote.

The best aid to clarity is a picky proof-reader. How I wish my students had spouses or friends with the courage to say: I could not follow this bit? What did you mean here? How I wish more biblical scholars and preachers would learn that to say something simply and clearly is better than to say something that sounds profound, but fails to communicate ;)

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Thursday, October 01, 2009
  A good sermon in one word!
Photo by by Happy Monkey

Tools in my Granddad's workshop were sharp, honed and glistened with a thin film of oil. My mother's dad was a carpenter. I'm not a carpenter, the tools in my garage are a disgrace, granddad would be ashamed, blunt and hardly usable, sometimes even rusted...

So, in Carey chapel recently, when Rachel asked some Carey staff if they could tell her in one word: What makes a good sermon?

I had the answer...

Over the years I've heard lots of sermons: students, visiting preachers, churches I visit... Frankly, too many sermons are like the tools in my garage, blunt, occasionally rusty, and often being used for the wrong job.

Like many people who grew to adulthood in the TV age, I have a short attention span. Like many people who spend a lot of time on the Internet, my attention span has probably shortened in recent years. I'm used to sound bites, and quickly clicking on to another destination. I recorded one of Spurgeon's sermons for, the site that provides free audio books, it lasted nearly 45 minutes! Presumably, in the Nineteenth century, Spurgeon fans could keep their attention focused that long. I can't. My students can't. And my children (grown up though they are) certainly can't!

So, I have the answer to Rachel's question. In one word. "Sharp". A good sermon is sharp. Like the finely honed tools in granddad's workshop, a good sermon cuts straight to the point. As few extras as possible. Like those tools it HAS a point. A good sermon is brief, to be memorable. It has a point; it should leave its hearers with some call to action. Their living should change somehow from hearing it.

Pointed, memorable, and short, a good sermon calls me to conversion. Either to that first conversion where we turn to God in Christ and away from self and sin, or the regular smaller conversions that follow the first big turnaround as Jesus takes over as master of our lives more and more. That's pointed! But how many sermons fail to make a connection to my daily living that requires me to act?

If that "point" is blunt, then the sermon is worthless, merely good advice from some smart guy (and it is often a mistake male preachers make) to others whose lives are pretty much "together", but just need a little tinkering. I don't need advice on living; I need to be brought face to face with my saviour.

Other sermons have a point, but they are rusty. The point is blunted by too much other stuff that creeps into the sermon by the back door. Funny stories, scenes from the latest movies (that I have not yet seen), reminiscences from the preacher's previous church... if these "illustrations" really DO illustrate, they can help me remember, but if they fail in that, they merely blunt the point, like rust on my chisels.

So, in one word (since the six hundred I was allocated are nearly used ;) a good sermon is "sharp". Short, so busy TV educated, Wikipedia consulting scatterbrains like me can concentrate for the 15-20 minutes without wandering too much. Sharp, they prod me to change; they aim at conversion - avoiding the temptation to be clever or wise. Memorable, after all, if your sermon has three alliterative sections, that between them neatly encapsulate the message of the Bible text, but I forget them before my car has left the church car park, what use was it?

Like granddad's chisels a good sermon is sharp!


Thursday, February 05, 2009
  Kiwi Preaching
Paul (Windsor the retiring - in the sense of leaving a job soon) principal of Carey is starting his new job with a Forum to encourage thought about "Kiw-made" preaching. Here are the details, sorry it is not cut-and-pasteable text, but the graphic is what they sent (just click to see it bigger).

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
  I made the list of great and famous preachers
Kingdom Living has made a list of about 70 Christian Sermon Links. It starts with an Theologian, Alister McGrath, and includes Wolfhart Pannenburg (the list is not restricted merely to the living as Karl Barth gets in) and includes a numberof great and famous Biblical Scholars, like Ben Witherington III, Craig Blomberg, D. A. Carson, James Dunn, N.T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann. It also includes Evangelical heroes like Eugene Peterson, John Stott, Marva Dawn (so it is not quite a male only zone ;) Ravi Zacharias, Tony Campolo, a selection of worthies from the Wheaton College Chapel and Will Willimon.

But also among the top seventy preachers of the current age lists Tim Bulkeley.

So, in the spirit of the occasion I'd like to thank my mummy and daddy, my hair dresser (there is only one - hair that is, though actually Barbara has been the only one in the other sense for years now)... actually I'll stop this acceptance speech before it gets out of hand. But seriously, folks: Thank you, Kingdom Living!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007
  The Christian Elephant
Photo by Cody Simms

Pardon me, but there is another elephant in the room. It is smaller and less important than the first one but it is there... and Mark has decided to talk about it:
Preaching is the big fat elephant in the room. Most preaching is appalling, disconnected and boring and yet no one talks about it. We all pretend that everything is ok.. we wouldn’t want to offend the preacher. They are doing there best and all that… But I think we need to talk about it.
I think Mark's diagnosis is right. Too much preaching is second rate, if we are going to be disconnected from life, or boring then there is little point in preaching at all. And if we are going to be disconnected from the "word of life" there is NO point. And, Mark's right, a lot of preaching IS either disconnected or boring. His 4 points (what he claims an unscientific and biased sample of sermon tasters want) are spot on too:
  1. Unless preaching brings the word of God to life it is pointless - no one wants to hear my (or your!) opinions or wisdom.
  2. Unless preaching leads to action it is worthless except as entertainment, and frankly Shortland Street is more entertaining than most sermons! (Actually SS is preaching, and often contains an implicit call to action, it's just that the message is never Christian and often not even morally sound.)
  3. The least significant of the four, requiring preaching to be memorable, will largely be covered by the combination of 1, 2 and 4 - get them right and it will be memorable even without Marks funny hat ;-)
  4. Preaching is boring, because it lacks excitement it lacks zing largely because often one or both of the first two are weak. You'd have to work hard to make biblical preaching that connects to my life unexciting, but it can be done... But, if the preacher has been grabbed by the word, and plans to act on it themselves... That is bound to be exciting, because lives will change (not just pagans who are converted, but long term Christians who are too ;-)
PS: Graham Doel points out that I ommitted the link to Mark's post, oops .

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