Public speaking, for preachers and pastors, is both a calling and a craft. We’re led to engage in the practice by the nudging of the Holy Spirit, then challenged by the Word itself to continue to work and improve in our preparation and delivery of sermons.
Public speaking, by its very nature, can present some dilemmas in terms of the motives and intentions of the speaker. To be live, on stage, with a crowd tuned in–especially a crowd that tends to agree with the speaker–is a continual test in humility and authenticity.
Every time you speak, it’s vital to check your motives and be honest about your intentions. In a spirit of prayer, submit every underlying attitude to God and then share the message with passion.
Here are four particular motivations to consider as you prepare to present each week.
Preach for transformation, not just information.
The very point of the Bible itself is to lead people to change their lives. According to the Apostle Paul, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).
The Bible gives us instruction about truth, but it also points out errors in our thinking, points us in the right direction, and continually instructs us in how to live out its truth.
Always preach with a desire to see people applying the truth you’ve taught in their daily lives, rather than simply packing more educational content into your sermon without a definite call to action.
Preach to motivate, not to manipulate.
Many professional industries are governed by written codes of ethics–standards that hold people accountable, especially for how they influence others.
Pastors should have their own ethical standards intact, and at the top of the list would be a refusal to manipulate people from the stage.
Public speaking, by nature, influences people to think, to feel, and to make decisions. And in preaching, we claim that we are disseminating principles and instructions inspired by God. That ought to feel like an immensely heavy burden of responsibility for anyone stepping up to deliver a message to a congregation.
It’s right to motivate people to believe and to live in obedience to what God has revealed. And it’s obviously wrong to coerce people to do things outside of their own volition. The gray area between motivation and coercion should keep us nervous because that’s where manipulation is found.
Preach to serve, not to sell.
It’s popular in marketing circles to talk about serving people instead of selling products. This is a good thing. It keeps marketers focused on meeting real needs instead of taking advantage of people.
If it’s important in the world of business and marketing, it should be a thousand times more vital to the work that preachers do. We serve people, we don’t sell truth.
We sell our message when we try to convince people to make decisions they aren’t really ready to make on their own. But if our message is what we claim it to be, we won’t have to sell it at all.
It’s a matter of offering the genuine solution to the deepest needs in all of humanity. Serve well and you won’t have to sell anything at all.
Preach to inspire, not to impress.
It’s okay, and even smart, to build a rapport with your audience. Part of the art of persuasion is allowing God to use our personalities to communicate His truth to people. But there is a fine line between seeking to inspire people and trying to impress them.
We can impress people when we deliver the message in a perfectly polished fashion, but we inspire people when we are authentically ourselves and exercise genuine humility.
We can impress people when we share out of the depths of our knowledge and build a case for our own sharpness, but we inspire people when we repeatedly point them back to the eternal source of the words they’re hearing.
Being authentic has a lot to do with aligning your body–including your postures, gestures, breathing, and physical movements–to your voice. If your body is not aligned with your voice, you’re less likely to come across as genuine. That’s why in Step 6 (of Voiceology), we’ll work on helping you remove any barriers or bad habits you might have picked up over time–to help you become a more authentic, connected communicator of God’s message.
It’s also possible to deliver the right message, in the right tone, to persuade people to take action, while having wrong motives. In the end, it’s never worth it and the results don’t last.
We who preach must guard and protect our hearts in the process of sermon preparation and delivery. Check your motives and go about the task of preaching with a pure heart.