The High EQ Preacher (part 6): Do you look friendly?

Please tell me that’s not your preaching face!

I can easily forget to smile when I first address the faith-family. Some of it is due to trying to remember all I’m supposed to say at the beginning. Some of it is due to my serious side and the seriousness of the task at hand on Sunday mornings. But none of that helps accomplish the goal of enjoying a vibrant relationship with a healthy church.

This is the final post summarizing some of the more relevant information gleaned from reading, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Bradberry and Greaves, TalentSmart, 2009). EQ is thought to be the most important indicator of leadership success. And you know that pastoring, preaching, and leading are intertwined, right? And a big part of  a healthy EQ has to do with the kinds of relationships we build with others.

So, when these authors tell us to “smile and laugh more” (p. 114), I had to stop myself and ask whether this was really that important.

The answer is, “Yes.”

Take Chuck Swindoll for an example. I first learned about the importance of smiling and laughing through my limited interaction with him during my years at DTS. His smile and laughing were infectious. And it did not detract from his preaching; it enhanced it because it was genuine Swindoll.

Ask yourself whether your smile and laughter is indicative of who you are as a Christian minister who has the benefit of the joy of the Lord as their strength.

And one final instructional nugget from EQ: “Greet People by Name” (p. 139).

I’m taking that one step further and asking you to consider addressing some of your listeners by name during the sermon. It’s the result of having built a strong relationship with them and realizing that the sermon is the time to address them about them from the Bible.

When you speak their name, watch the level of interaction increase. Often a smile will come to their face (if, as above, you’re smiling at them when you say their name!).

Before Sunday, let’s continue to be high EQ preachers who build strong relationships with God’s people so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. If you have not read anything about EQ, this book is a good place to start. It’s an easy, quick read. You will find much that pertains to your church ministry, including food for thought on how to assess the effectiveness, or lack of, of your leadership.

The High EQ Preacher (part 4): Invite Them To Think With You

I knew Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (by Bradberry and Greaves) was worth reading when I read: “If you want people to listen…” (p. 44). Every pastoral preacher or Bible teacher wants people to listen. And, evidently, from a human perspective, assuming God has graciously given ears to hear, a preacher’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is a factor.

But let’s start with this question: Do you ever think about what your listeners are thinking and feeling while you’re preaching? High EQ preachers want to know the answer and work hard at getting listeners to think and “talk” to them. It’s easy to get caught trying to remember what you need to say. When that happens, it’s impossible to think about whether you’re communicating effectively.

So, we certainly need to know our material well so we can focus on our hearers’ reaction to what we’re saying.

On page 46 the authors urge all their readers to

“…create a safe and inviting forum for discussion.”

That happens in two broad ways:

First, we must continue to work hard at our relationships with congregants before and after the worship services, and during any other times when interaction takes place during the week. As I’ve said before, our faith-family members need to know we love them dearly.

Second, we must continue to work hard at our relationships with congregants during the teaching times in church. You can create a warm, inviting atmosphere during the sermon. At a minimum, invite them to think along with you while you preach. At the maximum, invite them to talk to you while you preach. I enjoy actual, limited dialogue virtually every Sunday.

Whether your congregants actually enter into a conversation with you during the sermon is not the point. The high EQ preachers relate to their listeners in such a way that parishioners want to be a part of the conversation.

Maybe the most important thing you can do is make sure that you don’t sound so dogmatic that you shut down any discussion. If you heard that and raised your red flag, you might be prone to squelching dialogue. High EQ preachers have a way of speaking authoritatively for God without putting up unnecessary barriers to communication.

Before Sunday, work on knowing your material so well that you can focus on what your listeners are thinking while you’re preaching. And may our Lord receive His due in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21) because you’ve created a safe place to interact with His Word.


P.S. A few days ago I watched a couple of sermons by T. D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, TX. My mission was to simply watch how he relates to his faith-family during the sermon. He’s an extremely high EQ preacher!


The High EQ Preacher (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago I completed reading, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, written by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves (TalentSmart, San Diego, 2009). My good friend, Andy Bunn, highly recommended it. Andy is near completion of a Ph.D. in leadership studies and the subject of EQ is important.

Sidenote: Andy is the head of Leadership Vistas, a missions agency that trains pastors and church leaders in Africa. If your church is looking for a way to provide excellent training for national pastors who have no training, contact Andy.

I’m glad I read the book. Especially when I read this:

“We’ve tested EQ alongside 33 other important skills and found that it subsumes the majority of them, including time management, decision-making, and communication” (p. 20, emphasis added).

Preaching is communication. Preaching is a form of communication that involves a mixture of ability and spiritual gift. From a human perspective, a preacher’s EQ greatly affects their ability to communicate with others. Everything we do during a sermon happens within the context of relationships we have with our congregants. Our EQ largely determines the success of those relationships.

I’m also glad I took the EQ test. If you purchase the book, you’ll receive a code that provides access to the test. It took about 15-20 minutes. I took the test on June 15, 2017 because I didn’t want to just guess and think I had a relatively high EQ. My scores out of 100 were:

Personal Competence: 93 (combined score of self-awareness and self-management)

Self-Awareness: 88 (the ability to accurately perceive my own emotions and staying aware of them as they happen)

Self-Management: 98 (utilizing that knowledge to affect my behavior)

Social Competence: 95 (combined score of social awareness and relationship management)

Social Awareness: 95 (the ability to perceive the emotions of others)

Relationship Management: 95 (utilizing that knowledge to build effective relationships)

Overall EQ score: 94

The perfectionist in me was disappointed. I resisted the urge to re-test.

If you’ve never read anything on EQ, I recommend this book; if it’s been a while since you’ve read about EQ, I recommend this book. It will help you remember how much pastoral preaching is relational. It will help remind you to work as much on your relationships as you do on your messages…

and all for God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).




Making Congregants Smile

In his book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, Carmine Gallo has a chapter called, Lighten Up (p. 159). Gallo states that,

“Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message” (p. 160).

Good to know. But I believe in the “ears to hear” theology, that God grants to some the ability to hear and receive His Word. I don’t want to rely on a human method to “create” a convert.

But then he writes,

“[Humor] also makes you seem more likable, and people are more willing to do business with or support someone they like” (p. 160).

Okay. That’s different.

I know this might surprise you, but I genuinely like the people I shepherd. We enjoy a wonderful relationship together. Smiling at them and making them smile is a regular part of our teaching times. It’s a natural part of being a faith-family. And this doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the event.

Gallo asserts that “[Humor] will work for you…but you must learn to incorporate humor creatively and naturally” (p. 162). That means not planning times to be funny. We’re not comedians; we’re pastor-theologians.

And we’re also spiritual leaders by God’s calling. And humor is evidently a strategic part of leadership. “The University of Western Ontario psychology professor Rod A. Martin says people use humor to ‘reinforce their own status in a group hierarchy. For example, you are more likely to crack jokes and amusing others in a group in which you are the leader or have a position of dominance than in a group in which you have lower status…than others'” (pp. 163-164).

So, while we shouldn’t plan on how to get a laugh, there should be plenty of times when we preach the Good News in such a way that you “put a smile on people’s faces” (p. 167) so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).



Give ‘Em Something They’ve Never Heard

In these posts I’m reviewing my best takeaways from Gallo’s book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking-secrets of the World’s Top Minds. One of them helped confirm for me something that goes against some conventional wisdom on preaching.

I remember being warned not to try to come up with something new for Sunday sermons. The reason was that novelty can easily slip into unorthodoxy.

Gallo, however, includes a chapter entitled, Teach Me Something New (p. 111).

He writes, “Reveal information that’s completely new to your audience, packaged differently, or offers a fresh and novel way to solve an old problem” (p. 113).

The word, “completely,” might be a stretch since older, well-versed congregations are familiar with most, if not all, the Bible–cover to cover. But the quote is helpful in telling us how to look at developing sermons with the goal in mind of giving them something they’ve never heard.

Here’s why giving ’em something they’ve never heard before should be your goal for this Sunday:

  • Your spiritual gift yields new insights into God’s Word.
  • Your spiritual gift, which includes your unique thinking patterns and study habits, yields new insights into God’s Word. The first two bullets produce the new theological information.
  • Your spiritual gift, unique thinking/studying, plus your style and personality yields new insights into God’s Word. This last bullet produces the different packaging; different everything from introduction to conclusion, the entire sermon sequence.

One of the things that makes good preachers good is their ability to say some new things and say some familiar things in new ways. Think about the preachers you admire. Am I right?

Before Sunday see if you have something remarkable to say. Gallo writes, “And ‘remarkable’ is a really cool word because we think it just means neat, but it also means–worth making a remark about” (p. 127).

Finally, keeping asking God for insight so that novelty doesn’t lead to unorthodoxy and so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).



Preaching As Intense Conversation (not delivering a sermon!)

Carmine Gallo’s book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, is one of those books that will instantly help your preaching. The reason is because preaching is communication and this book inspires its readers to be good communicators. The book also is a fresh look at effective communication theory and practice.

Like, for instance, the importance of having a conversation with our congregants.

Not every congregation will appreciate this. You may be in a church setting that expects a more traditional preaching style. If not, your faith-family may benefit if you practice what I call an intense conversation with their listeners.

In the section, Have a Conversation, Gallo writes, “Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.” (p. 75)

One of my favorite compliments I’ve received over the years is from a relative of one of our attendees who attended one of our worship services. The visitor happened to be sitting near the front of the sanctuary and described her experience as having “sat with me in my living room.”

What’s important is to notice the unusual combination in the quote above. I experience this same oxymoron each week: practicing and sounding conversational.

If you listened with sanctified ears to pop music in the seventies, you may recall Rod Stewart singing, “You’re in my heart; you’re in my soul…” There’s a line in that song that goes, “your ad lib lines were well-rehearsed.”

Well-rehearsed, ad lib lines. That’s how conversational preaching occurs.

Gallo writes, “Authenticity doesn’t happen naturally….An authentic presentation requires hours of work…” (p. 76). Citing Richard Branson, Gallo states, “Prepare, then take your time and relax. Speak from the heart” (p. 244).

Not from your notes, but from your heart. It’s intense conversation.

You can do this naturally because you began writing out your sermon on Monday morning when you started studying your selected Text. You’ve been writing and rewriting the sermon all week-long and reviewed it late Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. The ad lib lines you’ll deliver are well-rehearsed.

Instead of delivering a sermon, have an intense conversation with your faith-family about what God has been saying to you so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Making An Emotional Connection With Your Passage

Look at the image. If you’re like me, many times we make a rational connection with our Sunday preaching portion (e.g., 1 Cor. 15 and all the proofs/arguments for the resurrection). Goodness, I’m in a Bible Church so I don’t feel an emotional connection to anything! But that’s not important right now.

What is important is understanding why making an emotional connection with our Text is so important to preaching. It has to do with one of the top characteristics of all good preaching:

the presence of passion.

I just finished reading, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-speaking Secrets of the Word’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo.

I selected that book to continue my practice of reading one new book the week before I begin teaching a new class. I am currently teaching Advanced Homiletics to a fine group of students in the MAM or MDiv program at Lancaster Bible College/Capital Seminary in Lancaster, PA. This year I selected Gallo’s book because I wanted to spend some time reading about effective communication (I’m usually reading heavy hermeneutics stuff throughout the year).
I wasn’t surprised to read: “passion is the key to mastering a skill like public speaking.” (p. 8)
It’s one of the keys to “mastering a skill like” preaching too. Chances are good that if you heard a “good” sermon, passion was one key ingredient. Which is why Gallo writes,
“Dig deep to identify your unique and meaningful connection to your presentation topic….passion is contagious, literally. You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic.” (p. 17)
We might think that would be automatic for preachers: “Of course we preachers are deeply passionate about every preaching portion we ever preach.” Right? Wrong. Especially if you are preaching through books of the Bible. The topical preacher has a better chance of connecting emotionally with their topic/texts because they selected it for a reason. Expository, through-the-Book preachers don’t have that luxury. The next Text is, well, the next Text. It might be up your alley or it might not.
So, what can we do to make an emotional connection with this weekend’s preaching portion?
  • Love God this week. Feel something for Him. You know it’s possible for us to study hard all week and not do this, right?
  • Love His people in your church this week. Feel something for them. You know it’s possible for us to study hard all week and not do this, right? (these first two form the foundation for the next one)
  • Identify the one place where you are inspired by your preaching portion. How did it cause you to worship God as you studied it?
Before Sunday, make an emotional connection with your passage so you can say with 2004 TED presenter, Matthieu Ricard, “‘I am just full of joy to be able to say a few words about…’” (p. 23)

Preach well so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Listening to Yourself While You’re Preaching

Every once in a while I realize I’m listening to myself while I preach. And it’s a good thing because sometimes I need to back up and correct or clarify myself. If only we had an autocorrect feature built into our sound system! It would be helpful because, if you’re like me, you don’t naturally pay attention to what you’re saying while you’re saying it.

In his theology of preaching, God’s Human Speech, Bartow writes: “Preachers are self-critical, that is to say, throughout the homiletical process, in the preparation and delivery of sermons, and, afterwards, when the preaching moment is revisited. This does not mean that preachers are ‘uptight,’ forever second-guessing themselves. But it does mean that they are self-aware, conscious of what they are doing, not just before and after, but also while they are doing it.” (p. 129, emphasis added)
It was the “while they are doing it” part that jumped out at me. Being self-critical during sermon delivery is not automatic, but the congregation is better for it when it happens.
Here’s what I’ve experienced that helps me listen carefully to myself while I’m preaching:
  1. The better I know the material, the easier it is for me to listen to myself while I’m preaching. I’m not thinking about what I’m going to say next. When I’m prepared in heart and head I’m in the moment.
  2. There are times in the sermon when I know I didn’t use the right word. When I catch myself, I can back up and use a better word. There’s no shortcuts to expanding one’s vocabulary. Next to my Bible, my thesaurus gets a tough workout every week.
  3. There are times when I know I wasn’t clear. Writing out the sermon manuscript word for word helps decrease the chances of being unclear on Sunday. But there’s usually times when a puzzled look in the congregation tells me it’s time to pause for clarification.
Bartow writes, “Somehow we know that something just said needs modification, amplification, correction. Somehow we sense our involvement or lack of it, our believability or unbelievability. We sense the involvement or lack of it of our congregants too. And we take action as needed on the basis of our tutored (by our criteria) instincts.” (p. 130)

So, before Sunday be ready to listen to yourself preach so that God’s glory is enhanced in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Avoiding “Ping Pong” Preaching

Not that long ago I finally finished reading Bartow’s, God’s Human Speech. I say, “finally,” because for years I’ve read authors who quoted Bartow. In the book he says,

“there is no need for what has been called ‘ping pong’ speech, exposition followed by application: ‘This is what the text meant then, here is what the text means now.’ Whatever the exegetical method behind the sermon, in it, with texts of Scripture, God speaks to us in the present….It may deal with the past. it may look to the future. But its stance from beginning to end is in the here and now.” (p. 131)

There is no need for ping pong preaching because of the nature of Scripture. In Scripture God is addressing us. But expositors, in an effort to be biblical, often spend precious sermon seconds in background material and historical exegesis. As I’ve written before, preachers are often more historian than theologian (real bloggers would now write, “tweet that”).

Remember, our task isn’t to talk to our listeners about the Bible, but instead, we talk to them about them from the Bible. God is addressing us every Sunday.

To avoid bouncing back and forth and giving your congregants chronological whiplash, try the following:

  • begin the sermon with a clear, concise statement about how we will worship in response to this revelation (somewhere in the introduction, say, “This morning we worship by…”)
  • think in terms of “you” and “us” and “we” instead of “the Corinthians…”
  • translate as much exegesis as possible into theology that functions for and addresses the church (as opposed to historical, exegetical fragments about the text)
  • repeat and restate the intended worship response at strategic moments/minutes in the sermon (as opposed to only thinking about a big idea that summarizes the content)
  • rhetorically speaking, speak in such a way that your listeners never forget that God is addressing us.

Before Sunday, especially this coming Easter Sunday 2017, write your sermon manuscript–yes, you should write it out and leave it in your study (another topic for another time!)–with as little ping pong approach as possible.

Preach well so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Preaching the Intention of Difficult Texts

Yesterday morning, I preached the end of 1 Corinthians 13. Calvary Bible Church of Mount Joy, PA is a typical non-charismatic, revised dispensational church that expects to hear that the phrase, “when the perfect comes,” (cf. v. 10) refers to the completed New Testament.

You might recall from a recent post about preaching through the head covering section that I find it helpful to warn congregants up front as to what they won’t hear. That’s right. Won’t hear.

In yesterday’s case, I wanted to prepare them for my not spending much time on what “the perfect” is, when it “comes” and what “the partial” is that “will pass away.”

My reason: because that whole discussion is not vital to preaching the intention of chapter 13. And I am intentional about preaching the intention of the Text. I’m not so concerned about preaching the incidentals of the Text.

So, I was delighted to recently read Walton and Sandy’s, The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority, and learn how the Bible is authoritative. Along the way of explaining how oral cultures passed down authoritative teaching, the authors review one main contribution of Speech-Act Theory: understanding “that communication is an action with particular intentions” (p. 41).

Speech-Act Theory provided us with three helpful categories of communication, all of which affect preaching God’s Word.

God’s Word involves:

  • locutions–the genres, words, sentences, and grammatical structures
  • illocutions–what God intends to do with those words (instruct or make a promise)
  • perlocutions–the response God anticipates His hearers to experience as a result of His Word (think application).

The middle one–the illocutions–is most important when preaching difficult texts like 1 Corinthians 13:10. W and S write, “The important point is that if we misread the illocution, we are likely to also misinterpret, because understanding the illocution provides the doorway into interpretation” (p. 42, note 5).

So, when preaching difficult texts, texts with exegetical pitfalls, focus on the intention, not the incidentals. Imagine a congregation that “knows” what the perfect is, when it arrives, what the partial is that will pass away when the perfect arrives, and yet has no love.

Before Sunday, nail down the illocution, the intention, of your preaching portion so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).