Different From Other Public Speaking Environments
#1) A Serial Audience
#2) A Complex Medium For Communicating Great Truths
#3) Preaching Is Relational
At times, I am not surprised that pastors find themselves moving from church to church more often than seem reasonable. I say “than seems reasonable” because of the very nature and essence of pastoring. Pastoring is about relationships, community, and building an effective ministry which has an impact on the lives of people.
That takes time!
Changing leadership is counter-productive to impacting the lives of people.
There may be good reason constant change when it comes to other occupations and employs . . . .
- a better opportunity
- salary & benefits
- working with unethical people
- being asked to engage in questionable practices
- a lack of any potential personal development
- a questionable future
- the recognition of a poor business plan or strategy
- unpleasant people and/or working conditions
- horrible supervisor-boss
Obviously, we could point to some amalgams of these reasons which affect the decision to move or change when it comes to ministry — i.e., There are some churches which are seemingly marked by “lay power struggles” and “congregational strife.” The working conditions in some churches can be more than unpleasant, and no pastor has been able to “tame the horse” of which wants recognition, power, pride, and/or position.
Nevertheless, it seems that the ministry should be more stable than the secular world of employ, and more stable than what it actually is! Why? — Because ministry is surely far more about . . . .
Relationships, Than About Benefits
At least most would concur that the ministry is far more about relationships than benefits.
Relationships take time.
Effective ministry takes time.
It takes a few years just to get acclimated to a different congregation, before they are comfortable and trusting of a new leader and before a pastor gets a handle on the makeup and experiences of that flock.
A “pulpit merry-go-round” is not conducive to building relationships.
Preaching is so highly connected to relationships.
Whether a person gives his/her attention, focuses and/or listens to what is being said, gives what has been said any meaningful weight in his or her life, or even takes the time to expose him/herself to a pastor’s preaching-teaching ministry or consistently over time, is all connected to relationships.
None of us “listen” to everyone. There are individuals who talk but command very little and even no regard by those “hearing.” We can, and we do, give some people our visual attention, but not any mental credence. We may be polite, cordial, civil, and even kind when it comes to hearing someone talk, but that does not mean that we put any stock in their words.
One (not the only, but one) of the reasons we “listen” or give weight to the words of others is because of the relationship we have with them — because there is a relationship which is operating.
When it comes to the pulpit ministry, relationships operate like few other speaking situations, because the pulpit ministry is built on . . . .
a long-term relationship — Pastors minister to people for years!
a voluntary relationship — People choose to come and listen, and to listen sporadically or consistently.
a time demanding relationship — Listening means listening to a message which is around 30 – 60 minutes long. There are few other times that a person ever exposes themselves to listening to a “speech” for such a period of time.
When it comes to preaching or teaching, relationships operate like in few if any other public speaking environments.
In Law: Those who listen to an attorney argue a case in a courtroom are not listening based on a relationship. They may or may not come to like this-or-that prosecution or defense attorney. They listen because they have been chosen to give a fair audience to both sides of the argument. In fact, if you have a relationship with the prosecutor or the defense attorney, you are ineligible to serve as a juror.
In Politics: Neither are those attending a political rally for this-or-that political figure, whether it be from a favored or disliked political party, listening because of a relationship. If they are there, it is because they want to hear “their man” or even “the other side” of the argument. If you have a relationship with a political figure, then you may feel personally compelled to attend this-or-that event.
In “Religion:” People will attend a church, and leave a church, for two basic reasons — Relationship and/or “Meal.” If you as a pastor do not grasp how “relationship” plays into your audience’s attention, interest, and presence, you misunderstand the nature of communication and the unique dynamic which operates with “pulpit speech.”
In the church, people do not just listen to content unconnected to the person who is speaking. Most people who . . . .
- consistently / faithfully attend
- invite others
. . . . because of relationships (and/or the quality of the “meal”). People listen to those they regard. That is what makes preaching one of the most difficult speaking situations. Lose your relationship with a person or the people, and lose being hear and/or them.
Preaching is not merely a matter of giving a speech, God’s people can hear that and more online these days. It is about having an impact and influence on the lives of people which is the result of them giving you their focus, interest, attention, and heart. They are influenced by who you are (ethos — real or perceived), and by your relationship to them.
Ignore relationships at your own peril, when it comes to this form of public address, preaching.
Don’t take the time to visit and care about people, their families, and their children and see how it affects your preaching ministry.
Forget names, and see how that plays out! This point alone argues for the importance of relationships! Relationships and remembering names are kindred — “You don’t know me, if you do not even know and remember my name!”
Think that your purpose is to be a “teacher” of theology and you will watch today’s flock find different pastures.
Be there during a difficult time in a person’s life, and you will have built a relationship which will impact their listening for decades.
My advice to those who do NOT grasp the role which relationship plays into the preaching ministry is — “Work Hard In The Kitchen.”
If you are dismissive about the role of relationships, you will have to rely on serving “great meals” — messages which are deemed some of the very best.
Pray that you can consistently deliver great sermons. Those listening can go to many “online restaurants” today. Why “church?” — because it also includes a relationship with the speaker, which changes listening, impact, interest, attendance, and involvement.
However, if you are an average speaker, people will go to a “McDonalds” over other places which may serve far better meals, because they have a relationship with you.
There Is A Unique Connection Between Preaching & Relationships Which Makes It One Of The Most Different & Difficult Public Speaking Experiences.
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