A couple years back, I read Andy Stanley’s book, Communicating for a change: Seven keys to irresitible communication. While I wouldn’t go so far to say it changed my life, it certainly changed my style of preaching because it gave me permission to be myself. As I reflect on the changes today, preaching is much more fun as a result.
I was trained to manuscript my sermons. One of my mentors even took it with him into the pulpit. Being concerned about doing things the right way, that appealed to me. I wanted to make sure I knew where I was going and whether or not I arrived at my destination. Being a wordsmith, I wanted to think through the best way to phrase things. Writing out the sermon helped me gauge the balance between exposition and application.
And being somewhat insecure, it allowed me to keep my security blanket closeby. ;-}
When I taught in a classroom, I was much more interactive, used props and visuals, and taught using a simple outline. I felt greater freedom. But preaching, well, that was another matter. There were certain standards to live up to.
Until I read Andy Stanley’s book. One of the chapters talked about the importance of finding your voice. I came to understand that my “voice” was a visual, interactive one. When I relied solely on a “verbal voice,” I was fair less effective. On the rare occasions that I used PowerPoint and/or props, people would comment that they were visual learners and how much more they learned and remembered when they “saw” as well as “heard” the message. I also had to admit that when I was married to my manuscript, I was BORING because I tended to read it too much. Using a manuscript meant that I remained stuck behind the pulpit, which limited my gestures and movement.
After doing some soul searching and taking an honest look at the effectiveness of my ministry, I made the conscious choice to drop a traditional preaching style. In an attempt to become more creative and visual, I thought through not just what to say and how to say it, but also how to show it. Rather than occasionally using visuals, I started using either PowerPoint or props each week to illustrate what I was saying and to help people follow along. I stopped using a manuscript and went back to using an outline. That freed me up to read people’s faces and to connect with them better.
I also stopped using a pulpit, though that change was more by accident than by design. One week we had a mime in the worship service and took down the pulpit so as to allow more room for the presentation. It just never got put back up. But I did not miss it. Rather than being stuck behind a pulpit, that change has allowed me to get “out of the box” and move back and forth across the front of the auditorium.
What I discovered in this process was who I am and how God wired me to serve him. I learned to give myself the freedom to be myself, rather than trying to be one of my mentors or trying to live up to the perceived standards I thought people wanted.
When we give ourselves the freedom to be who God has created us to be, life is much more enjoyable.