Stand and deliver

Today is my tenth post in this series on preaching, and if you missed the previous nine, just click here to catch up.

Today I'm covering general things that help in the actual delivery process.  I'm sure I sound like a broken record for those who have been reading this for all ten posts so far, but remember, these are just things I've found helpful that you might too. I'm by no means considering myself an expert nor saying, "THIS is the way it needs to be done."  I'm sharing this because a good friend asked me to do it here on the blog.  So here we go.

If you are speaking somewhere where you are not the person in charge, always acknowledge the leadership who invited you.  Never forget what a privilege it is to stand in someone else's pulpit.  You are there by their invitation and under their authority.  This weekend Larry and I are actually away from the church we pastor -- we are in Phoenix, AZ for the week for General Council and this weekend we are speaking at Celebration Church Center, Mesa, AZ, pastored by our good friends Pastors Randy & Dawn Visconti.  Larry will preach this morning, I'll preach tonight.  We will both begin our remarks by thanking our hosts and encouraging those gathered about the excellent leadership that they are blessed to sit under.  When you visit somewhere as the guest speaker don't ever take for granted that you are there under the person who brought you and part of your role is to affirm them and what God is doing there.

Memorize your introduction if at all possible.  I've found it helps to start off this way because I can immediately develop eye contact and a rapport with the audience from the beginning.

Refer to your notes as needed by glancing down -- read sparingly, looking into their eyes as much as possible.  I try to reserve looking at my notes for times when I'm reading scripture, and also quickly getting my next point and then looking up again.  The more you can maintain eye contact with people, the better.

Don't focus on who's not paying attention, focus on those who are.  I key in on people who are obviously "getting it."  For those who aren't, don't let them distract you or irritate you in the least.  Always move with the movers.

Speak clearly and confidently.  God has sent you to share something with these folks, so boldly declare it.  In fact, one of the things I most often say is, "God has sent me to tell you....."  Never lose the wonder of standing on earth and speaking for heaven!!!

Know when to be quiet.  Don't feel the need to speak constantly with no pause.  Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do in a message is ask a powerful (rhetorical) question and then pause for about 10 seconds to let it sink in.  For instance, tonight in my message I'm going to ask my audience, "What might be possible in your life if you refuse to talk about your past for 30 days?"  Then I'm going to pause for a few moments to just let them think about it before I go on to say something else.

If you use PowerPoint, be fully  prepared.  Call the event coordinator or the media tech at the church beforehand and ask what is available and if they will have someone well trained to run it.  I use PowerPoint on a weekly basis at our church and I always send a message script to the media director a few days ahead of time, as well as the PowerPoint so they can look it over and let me know if they have any questions.  Our media team at CC know me well enough that I don't have to put the number of the slides alongside on my message script but when I'm preaching elsewhere I print a handout for the media person of the PowerPoint slides with corresponding numbers, and I place the numbers actually on my script and give to the media person to ensure that everything goes right.  If a church doesn't have this capability or they are iffy about whether someone can run it properly, I dispense with using it altogether as it might be more a distraction than a blessing.

If using a handout give it out in the beginning, and put someone else (ushers, etc.) in charge of passing it out to latecomers.  I don't make handouts too long or laborious because I don't want people to have their head in their notes or worrying too much about writing the whole time.

Use humor liberally.  It serves to open people up for more serious topics later in the message.

Become skilled at telling stories and illustrations.  This comes with practice.  You don't have to be preaching to practice.  When sharing stories with friends, hone your skills at describing true stories and situations.  Even practicing joke telling will help you to become a great speaker.

Don't be afraid to move around.  I usually come down to the audience at least once or twice during my message and walk in the front of the room, or even down the aisle to the first few rows.  If I notice a certain group isn't paying attention I might walk toward that section and stand there a few minutes while I speak. I don't ever address that they aren't paying attention, I just get even more animated and make it more difficult for them to tune out.  A huge part of your message is body language.

Be spirit led.  Although you have prayed and prepared and written your message the Holy Spirit will drop things in your heart just for the specific people who are gathered there.  You won't always understand why you're saying certain things -- you may never this side of heaven.  Be obedient to speak what God lays on your heart in the moment. Sometimes at the altar or later when talking to the pastor, you find out why God told you to say it and it becomes a miracle story.  (Those stories sometimes provide the best future sermon illustrations!!)


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