I mentioned previously that effective preaching is largely the product of two factors, one divine and the other human. Both are necessary – for “without man, God will not, and without God, man cannot.” It is the human aspect with which we are dealing primarily in these studies.
A. PERSONALITY GUIDELINES
An elderly preacher was once asked by a group of young ministers: “With regard to the human aspect of preaching, what is the most important factor?” His immediate reply was: “Personality!” “But tell us,” they persisted, “what is personality?” “Ah,” he said, “if only I knew!”
Preaching involves communicating divine truth through human personality. So the development and proper use of personality is important.
Someone has analyzed effective public speaking (I refer to public speaking as distinct from preaching) in this manner:
An effective speech is composed of:
- 50% subject matter;
- 20% psychology of approach and conclusion;
- 20% effective delivery;
- 10% personality.
Yet, that 10 percent “leavens” the whole speech! It can make the difference between a boring talk and a fascinating speech. I have, therefore, felt it desirable to devote some space to the matter of the preacher’s personality. The following are some simple guidelines.
- Be Yourself
Be relaxed, natural and unaffected. One of the most important aids to effective speaking is to be relaxed.
Tension creates nervousness. Under tension, the memory does not function well. Speech does not flow fluently. Your nervousness will be communicated to the audience, and they too will feel tense.
The best way to relax is to commit your message to God. Do the best you can and leave the results to God.
- Try Not To Copy Others
God chose YOU because He wants to use YOU. You have some special features peculiar to you alone, and God has a purpose for them.
It is a great mistake to try to copy any other preacher. No matter how effective that person may be, it will not enhance your ministry to try to copy him. To do so would be like David trying to wear Saul’s armor. It just did not fit him, and would have been more of a hindrance than a help (1 Sam 17:38,39).
If you are endeavoring to copy or imitate someone, your listeners will quickly become aware of this. They will realize that your preaching is not wholly sincere and genuine. It communicates shallowness or superficiality.
You will never be completely relaxed and at ease, if you are not yourself. Your ministry will be stilted and artificial. Determine to be yourself, and be the best that you can be!
- Be True To Yourself
Integrity and honesty are essential for a preacher. You are a channel for God – a mouthpiece that He might speak to mankind through you. Therefore, He wants a vessel which is honest, free from hypocrisy and guile.
- Be A Clean Vessel
It is unlikely that your hearers will rise higher than you. If your life is polluted, you will pollute your hearers. If there is bitterness in your spirit, you will communicate it to your listeners.
If you are critical, this will come through your preaching, and your congregation will become critical, too. If you allow yourself to be controlled by negative attitudes, the people will also become negative.
You will always reproduce after your kind (Gen 1:12, 21). You have a grave responsibility to BE the kind of person God wants to reproduce. The fruit of your ministry will be of that variety as well.
- Be Sincere
Sincerity means to be free from pretense or deceit. It means to be the same person in reality as you are in appearance. Do not try to appear to be in public what you are not in private. Be genuine, honest and sincere.
Many preachers develop a public image. They have a religious facade. Please avoid this – it is religious hypocrisy and an abomination to God. God is certainly unimpressed by such a false image, and people are not fooled by it for very long either.
- Have A Clear Purpose And Objective
The personality is properly shaped and developed when one has a real objective in life. If your life is truly dedicated to becoming an effective minister of God’s Word, your personality will be developed to that end. It will take the shape best suited to a communication of truth.
Such dedication will foster the development of your personality in the best manner suitable to be a spokesman for God.
Do not allow preaching to be a hobby for you. It is the highest calling of God available to man. If God has called you to declare His glorious truth, devote yourself whole heartedly to pursue the ultimate development of that calling. It is the most important thing in your life. Never allow it to be relegated to a secondary position.
- Be Wholehearted
Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved by half-hearted people. Nothing of value is ever obtained without cost. Give yourself wholeheartedly to the great task of preaching.
Let this goal be uppermost in your mind. Study everything you can on the subject. Let it absorb and motivate you. Make it the most important thing in your life; determine to be, in every way, worthy of the high calling God has put upon you.
B. PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN PREACHING
Be relaxed and be yourself. ‘God wants to use YOUR personality as a channel to communicate His Word. That is why He chose and called YOU. Do not be overly critical of yourself. Accept yourself. God has accepted you. No one can be YOU nearly as well as YOU!
Let your message and the manner in which you present it be your own unique product. God has made us different one from another. He enjoys our uniqueness and the variety this gives to the human race.
Use the unique personality God has given to you, and allow Him to express His mind through your life in the special and unique way He has desired.
There is something extremely attractive and appealing about simplicity. Don’t try to be overly complicated or profound. You don’t have to impress people. You are there to minister to them, not to impress them.
I am convinced that the most winsome and attractive personality this world has ever seen is Jesus Christ!
I don’t mean particularly in physical appearance. Isaiah said: “…when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2).
The attractiveness of Christ was not primarily in His physical appearance. It was His character and personality which were so appealing.
The average people of His day responded to Him with great enthusiasm. The Bible says: “…the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37).
They flocked to Him. They were drawn like steel filings to a magnet. There was a sweet graciousness about Him which gave Him an enormous appeal. It was partly this personal magnetism which drew huge crowds wherever He went. The Holy Spirit can develop a similar attractiveness in you!
Don’t act unnaturally. Be free and unimpeded, doing things naturally. Spontaneity means that things happen easily without being forced or coerced. Don’t develop a religious style which is heavy and unnatural. Let your style of communication flow freely and naturally. Don’t let yourself be bound and restricted.
A good preacher must learn to be flexible and to adapt to many different circumstances.
Every gathering you preach in will be different in some way from others. You need to be able to discern in each situation what the Holy Spirit is desiring to accomplish.
God has a specific objective to achieve in every gathering of believers. The preacher is a very important key to the accomplishment of that purpose.
Try not to be too rigid or orthodox in your mental approach to a preaching occasion. Endeavor to keep your mind flexible and open. Learn how to wait on God continually in your spirit. Keep your spirit open to His still small voice within you.
This can make all the difference between a very ordinary church service and a dynamic encounter with God through His Word.
The Holy Spirit can create many different kinds of moods in meetings. Sometimes they will be joyful and lively; at other times they will be quiet and reverent. The skill to recognize this, and take advantage of the unique situation created by the Spirit, can enable you to reap the results desired by God.
The key to success in Christian service is to “discern the way in which God is moving, and move with Him.”
There is a mysterious dynamic in preaching which is quite unique to this particular function – a dynamic expression of authority which can be quite awesome to witness
Peter illustrates this awesome dynamic on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Up until this time, he had shown himself to be fearful and afraid. His cowardly denial of Christ had proven this. His refusal to acknowledge Christ even before a mere serving-maid reveals his timidity and insecurity.
But he was transformed on the Day of Pentecost. We see a very different Peter as he stood to preach that morning. There is something glorious to behold about this man as he fearlessly proclaims the Word of God to a vast crowd.
There is a majesty which thrills the soul as we witness such a preacher in action . Who can explain just what constitutes this phenomenon?
I clearly recall some of the times when I have been privileged to hear Dr. Billy Graham. What power and authority is released through the preaching of this man! It is a combination of the power of God and the cooperation of man.
He is an example of how wonderfully a human being can become a channel for the wisdom and counsel of God to be brought to men.
Truly, preaching is a high and holy task. A person called to this work must feel honored indeed. Anyone called to fulfill this role should surely dedicate himself wholeheartedly to ensure the highest possible level of effectiveness.
C. VITAL EQUIPMENT
I would like to speak to you now about three things which are vital to effective preaching: VISION, VOCABULARY AND VOICE!
Every preacher needs a vision. By this I mean a concept of what his ministry can achieve in God.
Our vision is that concept of the ultimate achievement towards which we move through life. You could say it is a dream of what you can ultimately be for God and the function you can fulfill to His glory.
Every preacher needs such a vision to motivate him. He needs a definite, ultimate goal to move towards – something to strive for, something to achieve; something for which it is worth sacrificing; a goal which will bring out the best in him.
Most preachers encounter plenty of discouragement one way or another. They need something which will counterbalance this and eventually make everything worthwhile. Unless you have an inner awareness of God’s ultimate purpose for you, you could be overcome with discouragement and fail to achieve your divinely appointed goal.
A preacher’s vocabulary is composed of the number of words he knows and with which he is familiar. Obviously, words are the tools which a preacher employs in the pursuit of his calling. The more words he knows and understands, the more fluent and expressive he can be.
Words are to the preacher what brush and paint are to the artist. A preacher can paint vivid pictures with words. As he describes a scene, his audience can almost see what he describes. Words are so important to an effective communicator. A preacher without words is a tradesman without tools.
As a preacher, you must be interested in words. Try to read widely, for reading good literature will enrich your vocabulary. Whenever you encounter a word you are not familiar with, investigate it. Find out what it means. Add it to your collection. Begin to use it in its right context and application.
Build up your vocabulary; you will become more fluent as you do. People will listen to you with much more interest, if you can adequately communicate your topic.
Surely the voice is a preacher’s greatest natural asset. Therefore, you should endeavor to take good care of it. You should always be aware of your voice and seek to improve your use of it.
D. PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
Here are a few principles about which a public speaker should be mindful:
Correct breathing is extremely important for a speaker.
- Practice breathing through your nose.
- Breathe deeply right to the bottom of your lungs.
- Practice filling your chest and lungs with air.
- Hold it and then breathe out slowly. Control the expiration.
- Let the air come right up from the bottom of your lungs, through your larynx (voice box) and hit the roof of your mouth. The roof of your mouth should act as a sounding board. When you bounce your voice off your palate, it will gain extra resonance. Learning to do this correctly will strengthen your vocal chords.
Articulation is the art of uttering speech clearly. An articulate person speaks very clearly. He is easy to understand. He pronounces his words well.
Every preacher should aim to become adept in this skill. He ought to be easy to listen to. It should not impose strain to listen to him; it should be a pleasure. Even in everyday conversation, he should practice speaking clearly.
Inflection in speech has to do with the pitch of your voice.
The human voice has a very wide range of tones. If you speak at the same pitch and on the same tone all the time, your voice can sound very boring. You must develop the ability to modulate your voice.
As a singer can go up and down the scale – giving forth a good variety of tones – so can the public speaker.
If your voice tends to be naturally rather high-pitched, practice speaking in the lower registers. Develop a variety of pitch in your voice.
- Speed Of Delivery
Some people tend to speak at the same rate all the time. This, too, can become rather boring.
You should endeavor to vary the speed at which you speak. Most of your message will be delivered at a moderate rate which is easy to listen to.
From time to time, however, you should quicken or slow down the pace to give variety and added emphasis to your presentation.
This is another factor of importance. Varying the volume of your voice can give added emphasis to a point you wish to make.
The major part of your message should be delivered at a conversational volume. This ensures that it is loud enough for all to hear, yet not so loud that it assaults the ears of your audience.
Some preachers seem to feel it necessary to preach so loudly that they hurt the ears of their hearers. Try to avoid this.
If the whole of your message is delivered with loud volume, it is difficult to give special emphasis to those sections which are the most important.
Endeavor to begin your message a t conversational volume. Only turn the volume right up when you have a special point to emphasize strongly.
If you occasionally drop the volume, this will also serve to give special emphasis. Your congregation will give special attention when you drop the volume. They will endeavor to hang on to every word.
Don’t be afraid to pause once in a while. This can also give added emphasis to some point you make.
Some preachers are frightened of quiet spots. Their delivery pours forth like a river, without any pause. This can be difficult for people to absorb.
Don’t race through your message, keeping up a fast tempo and hardly pausing for breath.
Your congregation needs time to think and consider what you have said. This helps to really absorb the truth of your message.
You need to inform the mind as well as stir the emotions. The mind can absorb things only at a steady rate. If you preach too quickly without suitable pauses, you will leave your hearers behind.
A certain amount of repetition can be good. It helps to emphasize your point and fix it in the minds of your listeners. This is the kind of emphasis which you purposely give. You are aware that you are doing it, and have a good reason for doing so.
Try to present the same point in a variety of ways. You want the truth you are sharing to become part of the thinking and action of the people. In order to accomplish this, the mind needs an adequate exposure of truth and must be convinced.
E. SIMPLE TIPS FOR PREACHERS
- Be Yourself!
Don’t try to project some image that is insincere. Being yourself is the only way to be completely relaxed. If you try to imitate some other preacher, this will be communicated to your audience. They will sense the artificiality of your preaching. Be the very best that you can be, but always be natural and be yourself.
- Forget Yourself!
Self-consciousness can be a real hindrance in public speaking. It may produce hesitancy and uncertainty.
Chronic self-consciousness can even make a person “tongue-tied.” It can severely restrict your flow of speech. Your actions and demeanor will also be restricted. You should prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible in every necessary way.
- Let your study of the subject be adequate.
- Let your notes be comprehensive and clear.
- Be “prayed up” and filled with the Spirit.
- Be filled with the word of truth you intend to share.
Pay attention to every area of preparation you are aware of; but when you stand to speak, forget about yourself. Be completely absorbed in what you have to share. Be aware of your audience rather than of yourself.
You are a channel for God’s Word to flow through. Just seek to be utterly yielded to Him, aware only of God and the people to whom you are speaking on His behalf.
- Don’t Develop A ‘Religious Voice’ When You Are Preaching
Some preachers do this, and it is most disconcerting. Their pulpit voice is so different from their normal one.
This conveys a sense of insincerity. It is almost as though this person is “acting out a part.” It also sets him apart from his congregation; they tend to see him as a different breed or species.
It almost seems as though he belongs to a different world than they. This makes it difficult for them to identify with him.
Practice preaching in a normal voice – the same voice, accent and tone that you use every day in the normal communications of life. This conveys a sense of reality and sincerity.
- Do Not Speak Too Softly
Make sure that everyone in your audience can hear you clearly. Don’t make them strain to hear your every word. If necessary, ask the crowd; “Can everybody hear me clearly?” It is pointless to proceed with your message if part of your audience cannot hear well enough to follow you. This would be wasting your time and theirs.
- Do Not Shout
Endeavor to speak with a normal conversational tone and volume, which may have to be increased somewhat according to the size of the crowd and whether or not you have the use of an amplifying system.
- Remember To Vary The Speed And Pitch Of Your Delivery To Avoid Monotony
- Get The Audience To Accept You
Win their confidence. If they do not accept you, they probably will not accept your message either!
- Dress Appropriately
Your appearance should never detract from your ability to communicate with you r audience. Ideally, you should dress rather modestly, in a manner which is not likely to offend anyone.
What is the point of antagonizing your audience by your manner of dress? Your aim is to win and influence your listeners, not to antagonize them.
Your clothing should not draw undue attention to you. If possible, you should be neatly, suitably and modestly attired.
Certainly, your dress should not be offensive to the culture of your audience.
- Learn To Stand Properly
On most occasions it is proper to stand when addressing an audience. You should stand firmly on both feet, giving yourself a good solid stance.
Stand upright, facing your audience. Avoid leaning on anything. If there is a pulpit or rostrum, by all means use this to place your Bible and notes on, but don’t use it to lean on. Standing upright will help your breathing. It will also engender a feeling of quiet confidence as you face your audience.
- Learn To Move Naturally
Your body conveys a message as well as your voice. It is important how you conduct yourself while speaking.
The key to proper movement is to let it be natural. Avoid unnecessary physical gesticulations. If you are verbally describing something, it is natural to also convey the idea with your hands.
Let such descriptions come naturally and spontaneously. You can emphasize a point very forcibly with your hands. All hand movements should be appropriate to what you are emphasizing.
- Establish And Maintain Eye Contact With Your Audience
Your eyes convey a message too! Don’t stare into space or above the heads of the listeners. Look directly at the people you are addressing.
Let your glance rove around the congregation, so that everyone f eels that you are speaking to THEM. By this means, you will establish a good contact and rapport with the people.
12. Remember That Facial Expressions Are Important, Too!
The look on your face conveys a message very eloquently. Avoid any extreme facial expressions unless you are emphasizing some particular point. Above all, let your facial expressions be natural, and let them be appropriate to your theme and topic. Be happy and confident, unless your subject is a sad or serious one.
These suggestions are made with respect to the natural art of public speaking.
Obviously, the factor of greatest importance in preaching is the presence and anointing of God upon your life. However, God can bless and anoint a person who is well-prepared and has some understanding of the principles of communication.
Never despise such skills. But, on the other hand, do not depend on them either.
Ultimately, only God can accomplish what you are seeking to attain through your preaching.
Let your confidence be placed firmly in Him. Understand that the only really worthwhile development in your preaching abilities is that which God accomplishes.