Greetings and peace in the name of Jesus, Beloved Ministry Partners. I want to share a “secret” with you about my speaking preparations and history of growing into the role of a preacher. Then I want to share a concise article by Peter Mead that provides some extremely helpful instruction. This is not meant to distract us from the necessary preparatory work in exegesis of the text and practicing the work for solid homiletics. It is an effort to provide a useful reminder of good communication practices in speaking with clarity. Since those of you who read this are already key leaders who are expected to communicate clearly, whether in homilies or in management and administration, this is important for you. And as usual, I am being transparent and sharing with you the “secrets” I have picked up along the way. In this case, as was mentioned, this blog post culminates in a concise list of helpful points for “Speaking with Clarity” by Peter Mead.
When I first became a documented minister and during those first few years of serving as a Local Church Pastor, each year I purchased the annual edition of a Church Manual that was essentially a week by week program of liturgy and presentations. Seldom, if ever, was it followed. But I wanted to see what others were doing and recommending. Also, a staple for me in sermon preparation was the presentations of ministers whose sermons I had treasured for years. Most of them were in the General Conference Church of God (Seventh Day), GC COG7, USA and Canada. However, others were not of this denomination, such as Dr. J. Vernon McGee, and a few others. I would listen to their sermons, and when available I would read them, also. In the early years more than one of Dr. McGee’s messages made it to the audiences to which I spoke.
Over the first few years, depending so much on others gave way to more careful study of the text. I began using Bible Dictionaries, associated biblical texts, and Commentaries of those whose opinions I had grown to respect, more than reviewing others’ homilies on a topic or text. Years later when SermonCentral.com came along, it was added to my typical sermon preparation practices.
“Focus on Jesus and Follow His Plan” has been a guiding theme in my speaking for over a year. For ten years before that you will remember my speaking was influenced by the 10 value points of the “Vision of a Vibrant 21st Century Church” and “Transforming the Vision into Reality.” Also, from the beginning to this day, the gospel is the central motivation for every message I share whether it is explicitly a gospel themed message or the motivation to deliver a topical or expository message for a particular point of pastoral care.
So, when preparing a message to be delivered, I truly do consider it a holy work inspired by the Holy Spirit, in part because it comes from the Holy Word of God that was inspired by the Holy Spirit, preserved by the Holy Spirit, and made alive to us by the Holy Spirit. This is where the transparency gets perfectly clear. Upon receiving the topic or text from which a message is to be prepared, I immediately review the text in its context. Then the text is examined more closely to listen to its main voice and tonal nuances, harmonies, and contrasts. I may bask in its flavor or taste its blend of acidity and sweetness, feel its sharpness, or allow its soothing massage upon my soul. Next, yes, I still rely on Bible Dictionaries to help me grasp the meanings of key words and phrases of the text. Next, I will go back to listen to the text again with this added sensitivity to its tonal uniqueness. But then, am I ready to deliver the message? No, that is just getting started. I want to see what others are saying about this topic or text and will venture on to SermonCentral.com to review a few sermons there. More than once I have discovered points I had overlooked or discovered errors, inconsistencies with the straightforward meaning of the text or with Bible Dictionaries, which I did not want to introduce into what I am saying. Finally, it is time to produce an outline and manuscript of what I intend to say. Most of you know, what I say may or may not follow the manuscript, but it will follow the outline.
Something I have learned is to not be proud or arrogant and watch others for clarity in communication. Just as the Apostle Paul would persuade others to “be ye followers of me even as I am of Christ”, so also, let us learn to follow the practices that are Christlike of others and give them credit when we do. For years, I would announce in the introduction those upon whom I had drawn for the influence in delivering a message. I have mostly stopped doing that because I am following less directly what they did. However, the science and art in oral communication are still things I strive to learn. I owe a great gratitude to others from whom I have learned some key concepts and practices. This is important. If the Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter, and Jesus (John the Baptist and the Prophets) in his speaking ministry, would reference others in their speaking, giving credence to their influence, should we not be as humble and willing to follow the excellent work of others, also?
This introduction has been provided to share something with you which came into my email inbox from SermonCentral today. Oftentimes I do not even read them, but this one said, “15 Keys To Preaching Clarity”. Clarity in communication, particularly preaching, is always something for which we strive. I found it to be concise and right on target. So, I’m sharing it with you.
Blessings and peace as you strive for excellence in your ministry to our Lord.
Shared by SermonCentral.com
July 23, 2020
By Peter Mead on Jul 23, 2020
Recently, I’ve been writing about the doctrine of Biblical clarity—the fact that the Bible may be understood. This is a cause for great rejoicing. Imagine for a moment that the Bible were absolutely impregnable. Preachers are representing a God who made His book understandable, so we should model a passion for clarity in our communication.
Let’s have a rapid-fire list of factors that influence our clarity in preaching. I’ll start, you finish:
- Voice. If it isn’t loud enough and distinct enough, it isn’t clear enough.
- Vocab. Don’t try to impress; try to communicate. Jargon doesn’t help; good word choice does.
- Preaching Text. If you stay in your text as much as possible, it should be easier to follow.
- Structure. A memorable outline remembers itself. There’s no need to be clever. Be clear.
- Main Idea. One controlling, dominant thought distilled from the passage is critical for clarity.
- Unity. Let every element of the message serve the main idea—nothing extraneous.
- Order. Take the most straightforward path through the message so others can follow.
- Transitions. Slow down through the turns or you’ll lose the passengers.
- Pace. Sometimes you really need to take the foot off the pedal to keep people with you.
- Visual Consistency. Keep your gestures and scene “locations” consistent to reinforce well.
- Verbal Consistency. Let key terms rain down through the message. Don’t be a thesaurus.
- Restatement. Restate key sentences in different words. It’s less patronizing, but helps clarity.
- Illustrative Relevance. Be sure illustrative materials have a clear connection to the message.
- Flashback and Preview. Whenever appropriate, review and preview at transitions.
- Pray. Pray for message clarity during preparation. God cares about this!
That’s a start. What would you add?
Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014).