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).

Randal

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 3): The Dangers of Preaching When You’re in a Good Mood

I’ve discovered something about myself and my preaching: I don’t preach well when I am too down-hearted or too upbeat. Either extremes cause me some problems in the pulpit.

One of the benefits of reading Bradberry and Greaves’s, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (TalentSmart, San Diego, 2009), is they helped me remember how important it is to be aware of my emotions. I want to get you thinking about how your emotional condition affects your preaching, especially when you’re in a good mood.

If you’ve been a pastor for a while, you probably remember times when you are downhearted due to criticism. As I read the book, I expected to come across a section like, “Know Who and What Pushes Your Buttons” (p. 72). High EQ pastors know what kinds of people and circumstances in church make them want to scream.

What I didn’t expect was the section titled, “Don’t Be Fooled by a Good Mood, Either” (p. 82). But then I spent some time reflecting on when my carnality is most apt to rear its ugly head during the sermon. You guessed it: when I am in a good mood.

The authors write, “Stay aware of your good moods and the foolish decisions these moods can lead to, and you’ll be able to enjoy feeling good without any regrets” (p. 83).

So, the high EQ preacher monitors his emotions and especially marks the times when things are going very well in the church, when everyone is singing our praises, when we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. This helps us maintain the Spirit’s control and keeps us from saying things we regret after the fact.

At least, that’s the way it goes with me. When I’m in a good mood, I am more apt to say things in jest that I might not say when my emotions are evened out. Nothing puts me in a good mood more than ending a sermon knowing I didn’t say anything stupid due to being in a good mood!

Before Sunday, assess your mood. Avoid extremes and preach well for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

 

 

Preaching Deborah’s Song in Judges 5: Celebrating Our Spiritual Victories

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First, the image is not about me.

Second, it fits because our world consistently celebrates victories such as being tobacco, alcohol, porn, or drug free for x amount of time.

That’s sort of what’s happening in Judges 5 and Deborah’s song. Judges is peppered with defeats. Deborah and Barak sing a song that celebrates a tremendous victory. Throughout the study of Judges I’ve had to translate their victory over their physical enemies into our spiritual victories over temptation and sin. That’s especially important if we’re going to preach this chapter in a way that functions for the church.

I think it’s easier for our faith-family to celebrate financial milestones. It’s important for us to develop a culture that can celebrate spiritual milestones too.

But, if you ever preach on Judges 5, it’s a great opportunity to highlight how God fights hard for us. In another famous OT song in Exodus 15:3 we read, “The Lord is a man of war…” Maybe not too popular in our day, but I love the fact that our God fights for His own. Judges 5:20 contains this great statement: “From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera.” (If you’re interested in understanding this statement, take some time to read Parry’s fascinating book, The Biblical Cosmos.)

Our cause for repeated celebration is that our God continually gives us spiritual victories over temptation and sin. This gives our people opportunities to express their thanks and joy for these “wins.” Verses 1, 3-11a, 19-22 contain this thought of God protecting His own.

Then, in vv. 2, 11b-18, 23-27 we learn the vital part that God’s people play in their own victories. God fights for us. True. We also fight for faith and obedience. We read in v. 2 “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly…” Then in v. 18 “Zebulun is a people who risked their lives to the death…” Passivity won’t cut it in the fight against temptation and sin.

The chapter closes with some incentive for us to be on God’s side in this fight (vv. 28-31). Deborah’s song contains a terrible scene of Sisera’s mother waiting for her son to return and wondering why he’s taking so long. Verse 31 states: “So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!”

This chapter–this song–is one of the hardest to preach in Judges. The key is to be genre sensitive. Chapter 5 is a celebration of having achieved a victory. Let that drive the sermon. We could use a little more celebration in our faith-family, a little more acknowledging of how God is carrying us through this world with our faith intact.

Preach well for the sake of His reputation (Ephesians 3:21),

Randal

 

Preaching in Relatively Emotionless Bible Churches

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Our preaching portion for this past Sunday evening began, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1). So, I began the exposition with that concept. Our Lord is returning and we are going to join Him.

Nothing happened.

Preaching without notes means that, when I’m not looking down at my Bible, I’m looking at congregants. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing when I see them responding; it’s a curse when I see that their emotions are turned off.

Over the years I’ve half-joked with our faith-family something like this: “Let’s be careful. We’re a Bible Church. We know things; we don’t feel things.”

But, tell me how it’s possible for a Christian to hear about the coming of Jesus and not feel something! That tells me that my job is not just to teach what the arrival of Jesus means. I have to also urge them to feel it. I argue that if they don’t feel something, that says something about their faith.

Some of it’s habit: we’re in the habit of learning without feeling. Some of it is apathy created from living in America where we have things so good most of the time. Watch the reaction of young people when they hear about the arrival of Jesus. Then watch the reaction on the faces of elder people who are battling terminal illness. Circumstances do tend to affect the way we feel our faith.

It’s like when someone says, “I sure hope Jesus doesn’t come back until after our wedding.” You understand their sentiment.

Before Sunday, see if there are places in your preaching portion where an emotional response is the natural result of saving faith. Along with explaining the doctrine, think through what you can say to help switch their emotions on. Some congregants will beat you to it. Feed off them as you urge the faith-family to feel what they know so that God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

And preach a good sermon, will ya?!

Randal

Believing Your Sermons, Especially When They Don’t!

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Can you tell when your listeners don’t believe you? If you’re an expositor you could ask it this way: Can you tell when your listeners don’t believe God (because you’re telling them what God is saying)?

One of the values of preaching without notes or with few notes is that you have lots of time to look at your listeners. The only problem is that you get to see them not reacting to the message. Do you ever see this look on Sunday?

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It would be easier on us if we didn’t!

I see this most often when God’s Word asks for praise and thanksgiving. Probably I’m part of the problem. I’m from Maine and Mainers (not, “maniacs”) aren’t known for celebrating. Probably part of the problem is being in Lancaster County. Folks in the County aren’t famous for showing much emotion (okay, maybe for the Eagles, Steelers, Flyers, and Phillies). And then, we’re a fundamental kind of Bible Church. I often joke about what that does to our emotions.

But, as you know, much of the problem lies with our carnality. We simply are not gripped by God’s grace like we should be. We seldom relish our riches in Christ. But I need to.

It is important for me to believe my own sermons, especially when some congregants don’t. And I need to fight the urge to allow their look to pull me into the same lack of feelings. It’s a good thing I really believe this Word of God. Sometimes preachers have to believe for the congregants. And in doing so, sometimes God’s Spirit will prompt me to ask them, “Do you believe that?” Sometimes my question will actually help them realize they really do believe it, even though they haven’t been showing it.

Before Sunday, make sure you’re ready to react emotionally to God’s Word and be prepared to help your listeners do the same.

Preach well for His glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).

Randal

Helping Guard Your Congregants Against the Rarely Confessed Sin of Greed

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In over 20 years of pastoral ministry, no one has ever entered my study to confess their sin of greed or covetousness. They’ve confessed other sins, but not that one. Is that true of your ministry too? If it is true of your ministry context, then preaching Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:13-21 is extremely important.

In verse 15 Jesus commands, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness…” He follows that up with a frightening parable. I realized that if I was going to be faithful to this Text, I needed to do what God was doing. God was putting the fear of God in us.

Last week I had the privilege of conducting a preaching workshop at Lancaster Bible College. One of the segments included observations about how Jonathan Edwards motivated his listeners to apply the Scriptures by moving back and forth between fear and love (fear of God and love for God). Jesus clearly employs a scare tactic (you might decide that term needs an adjustment) when He says in v. 20, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you…”

I doubt that many, if any, of our parishioners realize the power and presence of this sin. But I know you won’t let them remain in that condition for long. Sooner or later, you’ll preach a Text and/or topic that will provide an opportunity to guard them against this rarely confessed sin.

Preach well for the reputation of Christ in the Church and in the world.

Do You Let Your Listeners Know You Love Them While You’re Preaching And Does It Matter?

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I recently read the lead article of Crosswalk.com’s newsletter which arrived in my inbox on November 1, 2013. The article was, How to Spot a Healthy Church–Quickly, by Ray Pritchard. Ray suggests there are two indicators of a healthy church that visitors can spot immediately. The first one is hearty congregational singing. The second one caught my attention: obvious affection between the pastor and the congregation. It made me wonder what we can do while we preach to show genuine affection.

I’m a firm believer that people skills have a greater affect on a sermon’s hearing than exegetical skills. I must love my listeners as much as, if not more than, I love to study and preach to them. And the affect of interpersonal relationships on communication are well documented. Every communication event, including preaching, contains a content element and a relational element. The relational element affects how we receive the content and what we do with it. When our relationship with our congregants is healthy, they place more importance on our content. When our relationship is unhealthy, they place less importance on our content. In an unhealthy relationship, the words don’t mean as much or the same thing we intend. That’s part of the reason why when two people are arguing during tense times, you’ll hear something like, “That’s not what I meant!”

So, what can we do to let our listeners know we love them while we’re preaching?

  • smile at them
  • laugh with them
  • dialogue with them (besides being an effective teaching tool, dialogue during a teaching time is a great way to build rapport)
  • tell them (say things like, “you know I love you dearly…”, at appropriate times
  • join them as a fellow struggler on the Way
  • (add some others…)

Does your faith-family know you love them? Let it show while you’re preaching. Our best listeners are the ones who feel the love.

Becoming a Moody Preacher

A moody person is someone who is given to changes of mood.  Because the mood of the sermon needs to match the mood of the Scripture, preachers end up being moody.  I confess a bit of resistance to this thought.  I am a fairly even-keeled-kind-of-guy, not given to mood swings.  However, listen to how drastically the mood changes from Romans 16:16 to Romans 16:17.  Greeting one another with a holy kiss sounds very welcoming.  Watching out for those who cause division sounds very threatening.  The mood of the preacher should probably match the mood of the passage.  Your personality may cause you to lean more naturally in one direction, but be open to being a moody preacher.