Relevant or Boring?
Is all that information necessary?
Does this material really help drive the point(s) you are making?
How does that information contribute to the message?
Is it relevant to the audience?
Has the audience just come to expect that this is what preaching is about? It does not need to be relevant.
Curious or Interested?
Interested or just polite?
Listening or Thinking About . . . .
As soon as the word “relevant” is used, there is a knee-jerk reaction — kind of like Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) when he heard the word “work” — “WORK!”
“RELEVANT!” — What does relevant have to do with preaching? It sounds like the modern trend of preaching to the “felt needs” of the audience.
“RELEVANT!” — We all know that the Word of God is relevant to life and living in every generation!
“RELEVANT!” — We don’t need to be relevant, we need to be truth-tellers who preach expository messages from the eternal Word of God!
“RELEVANT!” — That is what all these mega-churches focus on — being relevant and build an audience, but not an army — It is a crowd but not a church!
Actually, all speakers and preacher are interested in being relevant — addressing areas of doctrine, life, living, practice, theology, etc. which is relevant. We may react to the word “relevant” as if the word “relevant” speaks of not addressing what needs to be addressed.
Of course, we want to answer questions which are being asked!
Obviously, what is important to adults is different from what is important to teens.
We all recognize that what speaks to parents is different from what resonates with singles.
All speakers think about the audience they are addressing before and during their speech construction. If a speaker says that he/she doesn’t, they are not self-aware.
As previous stated, when preparing a speech or a message, more information will be generated than can be and should be communicated during the actual presentation. Last time I included an example from the world of air travel. Let me change up the analogy to the field of weather to illustrate the point yet another way.
The Evening News & Weather
Some speeches and messages are like listening to the national weather report.
I live in Florida — Northwest Florida — Not South Florida – Not East Florida – Not the Panhandle of Florida — but Northwest Florida!*
Whether or not I want to hear about the weather from around the nation, typically the meteorologist believes that he needs to tell me about all of it.
Now there may be a reason in some cases for me wanting to know more than actually affects me in Northwest Florida — I understand that!** Some reasons might be . . . .
- I am going to be traveling to another area of the country today or this week.
- What is happening another place may soon be affecting what will be happening me.
- What is happening another place is going to affect me.
- I have friends and family living other places.
- I used to live somewhere else, and am interested (I used to live in Owatonna, Minnesota / Chattanooga, Tennessee, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania)
- I am just curious.
- I have nothing else to do at the moment, so might as well watch and listen.
Nevertheless . . . .
It will only be those above exigencies which will move my attention or interest.
There is little hope that the weather-person will get my interest when they speak about the weather across the nation and/or weather that has little to no possible effect on me in Northwest Florida.
Typically, I am still going to be told far more than I think relevant or necessary.
It is very unlikely that I will be I interested in hearing about weather around the globe, or even in Europe, and not even in Alaska or Hawaii.
While the professional meteorologist has reason to learn and understand all the various weather phenomena which move, jostle, and shift across the face of the globe,*** the reality is my, and your interest is about our area of life and living – geographically.
The Weather vs. Speaking & Preaching
At times, the speaker and preacher can accumulate so much information, all which is true, interesting, helpful, insightful, sometimes fascinating, or somewhat related, that the speech message moves from . . . .
“simple and clear” to “laborious and punishing.”
While much of that information needs to be known and understood to ensure an accurate “weather report,” not all that information needs to be sermonically included to ensure a trustworthy proclamation of the truth about life and living.
If you as a speaker or preacher are going to include the weather from “around the nation,” at least ask yourself . . . .
- Will the listeners be traveling to another area of life and living in coming days?
- Is what is happening in another location bound to affect what will be happening in their lives?
- Is happening another the lives of others bound to affect them sooner or later?
- Will what I am addressing affect their friends and family?
- Is there a connection which can be made between where people are today and where they were at one time in the past?
- If I leave this out, will I fail to address a curiosity which should be addressed?
- Are they listening only because they have nothing else to do at the moment?
Think seriously about cutting out what is not relevant to your point and reasonably to the audience’s life and living.****
*If we live in Florida, we will hear something like this . . . .
- There is a front moving through the Pacific Northwest.
- Washington and Oregon are going to experience high winds through the weekend, with showers throughout the coming days.
- Temperatures will dip in the Western states.
- However, the drought will continue in California — to date, they have only received one inch of rain through the month of February to now early March
- It will be unseasonably cold in the Northeast, reaching down to the mid-teens overnight.
- Another nor’easterner will be coming through this weekend, dumping about 2 to 3 inches across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. This added to last weeks snow storm brings snowfall to 22 inches.
- The Southeast United States — the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida — will range from seasonable-to-unseasonably colder than normal.
- Northern Florida will be colder than normal, central and Southern Florida will be in the 50’s – 60’s at night, and in the 70’s and 80’s throughout the day. Rainfall in Florida will be minimal over the next week.**
** I understand the “push-back” with this analogy — yes — there are some biblical truths which I need to hear even if they are not relevant to my life right now. In life and living, the “storms” and “weather” are coming and I need to be prepared even if I am not in the middle of the storm today.
***While I am sure the professional meteorologist needs to know a breath of information to predict what will be happening a week — maybe happening? — I would suggest that . . . .
a number of listeners have generally checked out until “Florida” or the “Southeast area of the country” is mentioned — (Many a pew sitter will check out rather quickly when they see no relevance to their lives.)
some listeners will continue to listen because they are just there – right now they are seated there with a colorful changing map in front of them — (A colorful speaker with good stage presence will hold attention whether it is relevant or not.)
the fellow meteorologists & meteorologists types may well be still interested and listen to it all — (The theological students will be interested in it all!)
most all “non-meteorologist” are actually only listening because they want to know what is happening which will affect them — (The average church member just accepts that it must be included and might affect them.)
****Part of public speaking is . . . .
- keeping the focus
- cutting out what is not relevant
- limiting the scope of the examination of the passage
- deciding on what “could be” versus what “can be” included
- deleting what may be good material, but time does not allow for
- paring down the content just because it must be shortened
- paring down the content because it is too repetitious – we got it!
- cutting out what does not drive the Big Idea
- avoiding “rabbit trails” which divert away from the main points and/or main point
- refusing to do a review of last week’s message when moving into the next portion of the chapter or book
- staying on course even when your mind — off-the-cuff — wants to also say . . .
- realizing that some things you say will be accepted without going into all the technical support for your understanding