Six Ways To Blow Up Your Pulpit
You as a speaker can make it hard for an audience to listen by . . . .
#1) Weak-to-Poor Speaking Abilities
#2) Your Platform
What are the first thoughts which come to your mind when you hear the names of such people as . . . .
- Tim Tebow
- Jase Robertson (of Duck Dynasty)
- Vice President Pence
- Franklin Graham
- Billy Graham
- Martin Luther King
- Dr. J – (Julius Erving – of the 76’s)
- Jack Eckerd
- Chuck Colson
- Dale Evans / Roy Rogers
- James Dobson
- Tom Landry
- Pete Maravich
- Cecil Day (Day’s Inn)
- Zig Zigler
- Payne Stewart
- H. G. Heinz
- Art DeMoss
- George Pillsbury (Pillsbury Corp)
- Truett Cathy
- Clarence Thomas
- Reggie White
- J. C. Penny
- Sam Walton
- Bill Gaither
- Alan Keyes
- Billy Sunday
One person they all have or had in common was Jesus. They were all professed believers in the Gospel.
However, along with those names goes . . . .
Each of the various personages carries an “ethos” — a platform
“Ethos” is a classical rhetorical word which speaks of the audience’s impressions, feeling, opinions, emotions, regard of you as a speaker.
It is about credibility!
It is about an audience’s disillusionment over time!
It plays into an audience’s willingness to listen and/or to be impacted by your words.
It plays into the platform!
The pushback from some is . . . .
We are relying on the Holy Spirit, to take the Word which He has authored, and speak to the hearts of men, which is His ministry. We just lay out the truth of God’s Word to the minds and hearts of God’s people!
Surely, that cannot lead any honest person to take the position that one does not speak from “a platform” — can it?
In the Lord’s program, the Platform is so important that there are numerous and various qualifications which are laid out for being a pastor.* One of the qualifications is “apt to speak.” That qualification may be met by many, but not all meet the remaining qualifications which give them a right to be heard or regarded by those listening.
Over the years I have seen pastors show little awareness of how they are blowing up their platform, and then are confused, no less shocked, that those who are listening are not moved or impacted by their words and the front door is revolving!**
There are at least six reasons that a speaker’s platform is slowly being eaten away and the congregation is unmoved by what is being said.
#1) Non-verbal communication — Some fail to understand the presence and nature of non-verbal communication! They have a “tin ear” when it comes to what they are saying by their actions!
- obvious sermon preparation & passion, or lack of such
- heartiness when singing
- reasonable recognition of the work of others
- an attendance @ which reflects that which is expected of God’s people
- the interaction or lack of such with all the people
- attendance when a special speaker is speaking
- uncertainty as to what you are doing in your part of the program
- how you listen to others who are preaching
- where you spend time before the service begin
- who gets attention – (and who does not)
- not knowing what is on the schedule of the service
- respect for the demands and schedules of others
- what seems to be of important and unimportant
- presence of spouse
- promotional literature poorly laid-out or late
- focus or lack of focus on the service
- remembering events in the lives of God’s people
- general and broad interest in the body of Christ
- talking with others while the service proceeds
- regard for those who are there ministering
- the car you drive
- the house you live in
- awareness of who is in the service
- office availability
- willingness to do physical work as needed
- talking during special music
- the cancellation of the service
- eye contact
- arrival time in the auditorium
- family present at what God’s people are expected to be present
- attention to what is happening when others are ministering
- knowing names
- office hours
- flipping through your notes while others are ministering
- time taken after the service to meet, greet, and/or catch up
- where you sit and with whom you sit during times of fellowship
- how you speak to and/or of your wife
- sloppy procedures
- your children’s behavior
- what you allow from those you recognize and call leaders
- what you reference in books, magazine, tv programs, music, etc.
- visitation practices
IT ALL SPEAKS — non-verbally.
If you think the audience is not hearing it, you would be mistaken — sorely and regretfully mistaken!
You may not like it, but you are living in a fishbowl. If you don’t like climbing ladders, don’t be a fireman! If you don’t like being an example, don’t be a pastor. Otherwise, stand tall and “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
If you don’t hear it, you might have a “tin ear” and also confused as to why people come and go, why you are not growing, and why people are not following your lead. It is because you are speaking a message non-verbally!
I understand the pushback here as well! “Someone can always misread what we do! We can’t always walk around looking for where someone can misunderstand out actions!”
That comment is a strawman and is disingenuous as well! — I can’t always — but I can try to ensure that someone does not misread what I am doing because I am not thinking about others! I have a selfless obligation to attempt to help others! – read I Corinthians 8 (especially 8:10-11); II Samuel 18 – 19 (19:5-6); Matthew 17:27; I Thessalonians 5:22 (and I understand the pushback on this passage as well, unfortunately! — but please note: “eido” “to see” is the root word!)
#2) Disingenuous – not genuine! Like is often said in America, the people are not as “dumb” as you think. They read “fake” fairly easy and if they miss it initially, over time they are able to separate the real from the fake.
People do not give credibility to those who are guileful or duplicitous. If you as a speaker or preacher are seen as finagling rather than forthright, if you are underhanded rather than above board, you will lose the respect and therefore the attention and interest or those who are dutifully seated before you!
I have seen it happen (and been guilty of it myself). Rather than just dealing with an issue straight on — myself –I sought to take a roundabout route to resolve it. When that happens, you lose credibility and respect.
Don’t send someone else to do what you need to do, especially when the person you send does not agree with you about the issue, but is operating as a unpersuaded shill. Because, when a pastoral or deacon “decoy” is potentially asked, “Is this your concern, or is this pastor’s concern?” and the decoy then answers that he/she really has no issue with it — you will righteously “anger” that person.
I have learned to say — “Shoot your own bullets, mine don’t fit your gun.” Don’t use my thought, words, or opinions as bullets in your gun. Do your own thinking and get your own ammunition if you want to say something.”
Have you ever said, “Why didn’t they come to me and ask me?”
Operate above board when it comes to confrontation, correction, problems, and/or differences! And when you are not, do not think that because God’s people ought to have right attitudes, that you cannot provoke negative emotions and attitudes by verbal and non-verbal messages. In fact, we are even admonished to not provoke our children to wrath, and the biblical issue/answer is not that our children are to have right attitudes towards authority and their parents! Their attitude has been provoked.
It is disingenuous to play these kind of games (and others), and listeners will lose respect for you.
There are other games pastors and preachers can play and think that the congregation doesn’t get it.
- Sham reasons for doing this-or-that
- Bogus reasons for not doing this-or-that
- Selfish decisions which benefit you or your family
- New policies which are suspected to be personally motivated
- Shallow arguments for this-or-that decision (“Really – That’s the reason?)
The people “get it” and see through it, no matter how gracious they try to be and no matter how desirous they are to think the best in their response.
#3) Dishonesty — Lie to someone, and it is all over for that person and probably the interest and attention of them and others!
I remember being asked a question, and I hesitated giving an answer but knew I just needed to tell the truth when asked. I hesitated because it was embarrassing, not criminal, sinful, immoral, unseemly — just embarrassing that I would have picked up some soda at a liquor store. I said, “Yes I did.” The response was, “I know you did because I saw you going into the store and knew it wasn’t about liquor but thought it unwise.” — and it was! I was so glad that I said yes when asked.
Issues of honesty are more often less black and white. If you make statements “from the pulpit” which are known to be nuanced, but not entirely an accurate representation of the facts, do not be shocked that people do not follow and/or give weight to your words.
Today, nuanced statements are the common coinage of the political world. What is often criticized concerning those in the political world is seeping into the local church’s operation. There is a lack of honesty in the business and operations of the local church.
Someone asked another leader what advice he would give to a new pastor beginning their ministry. Their answer surprised me! — “It is one word, loyalty.” — Really! —- that is the password of those who know how to surround the wagons. My thought was the word . . . integrity or honesty. Be honest, show integrity and loyalty will flow as a by-product.
#4) Power Plays — Politics do come into the local church – unfortunately! Some pastors are going to get their way and willfully avoid any and all pushing against their stubborn direction. No matter how unable or unwilling to defend a decision or direction, the pastor has made the decision and that is it!
Surely, this approach doesn’t affect the credibility of a speaker! — (tongue in cheek).
#5) Unresponsiveness To Biblical Truth — While the preacher expects the people to listen to the preaching of the Word, when it comes to making a Scriptural argument which now touches a pastor’s thinking or behavior, what the Bible teaches is for all practical purposes, too easily dismissed.
Sometimes, you just need to “touch” a pastor’s idol, and it sets off a series of responses which engenders the respect of no one! What has just happened is recognized for what it is — I guess I touched someone’s god — and what has happened is not a pretty picture — “That idol must be pretty important if it engenders such a response, not to mention its various actual and potential implications!”
We ask God’s people to be teachable. How about those who do the teaching? Do we show ourselves open to those who disagree, but still love the Lord!
#6) Dogmatism — How many times have I been approached by a fellow believer who came up after the service and asked a question or made a statement which balanced out what was being said! A preacher’s response to those situations, or a willingness to engage in an alternate viewpoint will impact “ethos.”
Is there . . . .
- An unwillingness to be challenged in our thinking
- Room or no room for others to hold an alternate position
- A graciousness to recognize that we might not be right about
- A willingness to engage in honest discussion
- A recognition that others can disagree with you, and we all still love Jesus
- An authoritarian or non-authoritarian vantage on being “The Pastor”
- A thinking that the church is you, and not the people
All these play into your platform, into how people will or will not listen, focus, and regard what you are saying!
There can be a refusal to allow others to propound ideas which are diverse from the company line. I am reminded of the statement that not everything is worth dying over (unless you have a dog in the fight! — and pride and ego are now at stake)
I have often said over the years . . . .
“If you listen and find yourself disagreeing over this or that, I’m okay with that. You don’t have to buy into everything for us to be going the same direction in the work of the kingdom. If you leave here and say, I am not sure I agree with pastor on that understanding OR application — we don’t need to take that as being critical, but as being biblical!” And then in order to add a little lightness I often say, “When we get to heaven you will find yourself agreeing.”
We don’t need to take it personally when someone in another adult class or youth session disagrees with us — (unless we have a dog called “ego” in the fight — an ego which is being exposed due to years of holding onto a particular public position). In fact, I have said, “Pastor so-in-so takes a different position on this and it is an arguable position.” That is, there are some arguments, some good arguments, which are made to support this-or-that position!
We as pastors and leaders ARE NOT right about everything!
Anyone who knows me understands that I feel strongly about the positions which I hold and teach as God’s truth. I am not intimidated by those who hold a different position and am willing to hammer out the reasons for the position I hold, while also understanding some of the good arguments, and weak arguments which companion with alternate interpretations and applications.
The dangerous is not the “Bereans,” but those who do not want to engage with those who disagree, but just try to shut down other voices with no reasoning or argument, but by the power of position.
You have probably heard it said . . . .
“Major on the major!”
Are you making it hard to listen because YOU are blowing up your platform?
or is it —
By the way . . . .
That is the seventh cause!
#7) Blame Shift!
* I Timothy 3:1ff
** I have also seen little to few people reached for the Lord with this same “platform-less” mentality. Talking to others about their need of Jesus also relies on “having a platform.” If people have little to no regard for you as a person, they have little interest in listening to what you have to say about Jesus.
The pushback from some is . . . .
We are relying on the Holy Spirit, to take the Word which He has authored, and speak to the hearts of men, which is His ministry.
Surely, that cannot lead any honest person to take the position that the platform from which one speaks has little relationship to the responsibility the Lord has given His people and/or its impact on the listener. Whether it be the Word of God, the prayers of God’s people, and our lives, all are parts of what God has said He uses to speak to the hearts of men.