The High EQ Preacher (part 5): Do You Have A Preaching Mentor?

Early last week I learned that one of my mentors, Dr. Haddon Robinson, passed away. Our relationship was one of God’s good gifts. I won’t bore you with details about what we enjoyed together, but will get to the point of this post about being a high EQ preacher.

In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, authors Bradberry and Greaves advise, “Talk To a Skilled Self-Manager” (p. 112). In other words, make sure you have a mentor. If your mentor is a good preaching pastor, it’s a safe bet their emotional intelligence is high.

Sometimes a professor can function as a mentor. That was the case with Haddon. Classroom interaction led to ongoing interaction where I could observe his communication and people-skills. Other times a pastor or former pastor can become a mentor.

It’s a great relationship, but can also cause some angst. Mentors worth their salt are sometimes tough on us. As you can see from the picture below, Haddon was not overly thrilled with what he was hearing in the classroom that day. He combined tenderness and toughness.

A good mentor will, at times, push you out of your comfort zone. Mentors don’t always know God’s will for us. That means that following their suggestions could cause some bumps along The Way.

Like a good coach, good mentors want the best for us. That means they will push us hard to excel. In order to do that they will have to be the bearer of bad news at times to keep things real. Rarely anyone enjoys having their life or sermons critiqued. But it’s so important for spiritual and ministerial growth.

Part of being a high EQ preacher is having a mentor, someone who manages themselves and their sermons well. I hope our Lord has provided one for you (sovereignty); I hope you have been actively pursuing one (human responsibility).

May our Lord receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21) because such relationships exist in our lives.

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).




Are You A High-EQ Preacher?

EQ stands for Emotional Intelligence. Current research continues to report that EQ is a more accurate indicator of success then having a high IQ. B & G (authors I list below) state that EQ is “the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace…” (p. 21).

Successful preaching pastors have a high EQ.

In these next few posts I will be summarizing some of the ways in which EQ studies affect our responsibility and privilege of preaching God’s Word.

I just finished reading Bradberry and Greaves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (TalentSmart, 2009).

It had been at least 15 years since I read Daniel Goleman’s book on the same topic. My good friend, Andy Bunn, is completing his Ph.D. in leadership studies and he highly recommended this little book. Evidently, EQ is still a hot topic in leadership studies. I have yet to read anything on how it relates to preaching, so here goes…

If you’re unfamiliar with the subject of EQ, the authors define it as

“…your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” (p. 17)

Here’s a quick overview of four EQ skills to get us started:

Personal Competence consists of

  • self-awareness (your ability to accurately acknowledge and understand your own emotions, your typical reaction to certain events and people)
  • self-management (your ability to use your awareness of your own emotional condition so that you are able to consistently act positively in every situation)

Social Competence consists of

  • Social awareness (your ability to accurately interpret the emotions of others and understand what they’re really thinking)
  • Relationship Management (your ability to use that knowledge of others so that you interact effectively with a variety of people in a variety of situations)

And, if you’re wondering if any of this EQ stuff is worth thinking about and developing, B & G write,

“The weaker the connection you have with someone, the harder it is to get your point across.” (p. 44)

See why I’m interested in exploring the subject of high EQ preachers? And all so God can receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Lessons I Learned From Preaching About Head Coverings

It was inevitable. I am currently preaching through 1 Corinthians and it was just a matter of time before reaching chapter 11 and the subject of head coverings. Yikes!

Jesus didn’t come back in time.

So, here’s what I learned. Maybe this will help when you preach a variety of difficult texts:

  • “I will disappoint many of you. Thank you for loving me anyway.” I said that more than once preaching about head coverings in chapter 11 and spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14. I said it to prepare parishioners for what was coming and not coming during the teaching times.
  • If ever there is a time to model hermeneutical humility, it is while preaching such multiple-ways-to-understand texts!
  • I had to fight against the fear of losing some congregants because of my approach. It took more courage than normal to say to a non-hat-wearing faith-family: “We need to give this instruction a fair reading regardless of our current practice.”
  • I needed to remember that, for some listeners, their past experience in churches will keep them from hearing this teaching. So I needed to try to show why what God is saying may not be equal to what “turned them off.”
  • I trusted my leadership to hear the Word that Sunday and respond appropriately. I do that every Sunday, but it seemed more important due to the controversial subject matter. We agreed that no head covering “policy” was needed but that everyone should take seriously the need to maintain God-created gender distinctions in church.
  • That last sentence was important theologically. Paul wrote about head covering in order to address a more foundational issue (cf. 11:3; look for that with other difficult concepts). That issue of responsibility within a relationship was key. And in a culture that is blurring many lines, God’s Word needs a fresh hearing in the Church.
  • Finally, I learned that nothing beats some measure of pastoral longevity when having to preach difficult texts. One of God’s good gifts is the opportunity to be a part of a faith-family that will love me and think hard about difficult truths in the Word of God.

For what it’s worth…

Preach well–preach difficult texts well–for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Top Four Questions The Spiritual-But-Not-Religious Are Asking: Part 4 of What Are Our Listeners Thinking?!)


One of the things I learned from Mercadante’s book, Belief Without Borders, is that the spiritual but not religious (SBNR) routinely ask the following questions:

1. Is there anything larger than myself, any sacred or transcendent dimension, any Higher Power?

2. What does it mean to be human?

3. Is spiritual growth primarily a solitary process or is it done with others?

4. What will happen to me, if anything, after death? (p. 15)

These four themes kept coming up in Mercadante’s interviews and it reminded me of the need to keep them in mind during sermon preparation and delivery.

You may have seen similar lists. The concept of creating a sermon series from such questions has been around for a while. Number 4, for instance, is certainly not new.

However, while the sermon series idea has merit, I find it more effective to include these questions and answers in any sermon where they apply. Over the long haul of pastoral preaching week in and week out, congregants will benefit more from hearing answers to these questions embedded in sermons that are not particularly aimed at these questions.

Although the SBNR are not represented solely by one age bracket, I find the younger crowd asking these questions. Young professionals and artists voice their concerns more readily than my parent’s generation. If you have younger people in your church they will appreciate any time you address their questions.

You won’t have any trouble identifying questions #1 and #2 in most preaching portions. Virtually every Sunday affords opportunity to spend a minute or two on them.

Question #3 caught my eye. As the years go by, more and more people are believing less and less in the local church. The days of Mrs. Jones teaching Sunday School for thirty years seems to be gone. Question #3 will continue to be an issue pastors will have to address for years to come. In churches over 200 attendees, a smaller percentage of parishioners are involved in small groups. A greater percentage only attend Sunday morning worship and have little, if any, contact with others throughout the week.

Before Sunday, see if any of these four big questions can be addressed so that God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).



“I’m just going through the motions”: (part 2 of What Are Our Listeners Thinking?!)


According to Linda Mercadante’s book, Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious (Oxford, 2014), some of our congregants might be thinking: “I’m just going through the motions. My heart is not in this.” It made me wonder if I ever address them during the sermon.

Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious

The spiritual, but not religious (SBNR), population is growing and I wanted to know what they were thinking about church and Christianity (in that order). The reason is because our parishioners breathe this same air in every day and inevitably bring some SBNR thoughts to church.

This phenomenon of going through the motions is not new to SBNR folks. Churchgoers have always had to fight this at times. But, evidently, a number of people who classify themselves as SBNR attend church while their faith gets weaker, not stronger.

Mercandante writes: “Those whose beliefs are weakening often hang on for a time as ‘ritualists,’ that is, going through the motions rather than being deeply committed” (p. 9).

So, this made me wonder how many of my listeners are experiencing a weakening of their faith. How many are ritualistic with no heart in their worship? How many are just going through the motions without feeling a deep love for God and neighbor?

And then I wondered if I ever address this crowd at all during Sunday sermons. Do you address them? Do you ever say something like: “Some of you know your faith is not strong right now. You know you’re just going through the motions. Remember that our Heavenly Father loves you dearly. So much so that He gave His only Son for you…” (Here I’m resisting the urge to add more guilt on them by telling them how to fix their problem through their own actions.) They’re there. We need to let them know we know they’re there.

May God give us wisdom to preach to this kind of listener so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).




What Are Our Listeners Thinking?!: Confronting the Thoughts That Are Slowly Making Their Way Into the Church


A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Linda Mercadante’s book,

Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious (Oxford, 2014)

I had two goals in mind:
  1. I wanted to begin to understand what this growing population is thinking about Christianity and the Church. Not often, but sometimes relatively unchurched or been-out-of-church-for-years visitors attend. I wanted to learn what they’re thinking.
  2. I especially wanted to understand the kinds of thought patterns that our parishioners are unknowingly drifting towards. The kind of stuff that’s in the air we breathe by virtue of living in this world.
Knowing this helps me when I’m preparing and preaching sermons. I can ask how certain Scripture interacts with such thinking. I can explore how the Gospel creates a renewed mind. It’s a way for pastors to cut worldliness off at the pass. (Sorry if the spacing gets lost below.)
Let me begin with Mercadante’s citing of Harvey Cox:
“Cox asserts that religion is leaving behind the ‘Age of Belief,’ which is characterized as inordinate focus on ‘right belief,’ and entering, instead, the ‘Age of Faith’ where dogma is ignored, religious difference is minimized, and spirituality replaces religion” (p. 8).
We’ve got our work cut out for us!
Little by little our listeners will drift away from being learners of Jesus Christ. Unless, of course, we challenge those with ears to hear to think carefully about Christian doctrine/dogma and how it directs the Christian life. This involves preaching biblical sermons that are incontrovertibly true. This involves creating sermon segments that dive deep into doctrine.
Before Sunday, see if your sermon contains the incontestable truths of God. See if “right belief” is the foundation for righteous living. See if Christianity is expressed in such a way that automatically maximizes religious differences (“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name…” Acts 4:12). Let’s do so for God’s “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 3:21).
Preach a good sermon, will ya?!