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 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 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 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).




Four Categories That Help Us Evaluate Our Preaching

If you are a dentist you might be interested in the product advertised above. If you are a preacher, the four quadrants I list below are a great way for you to evaluate and potentially elevate your preaching.

Quadrant #1 Am I Biblical?

Most preachers answer, yes, but it’s important to note the difference between preaching from the Bible without preaching the Bible. Biblical preaching occurs when the intention of our sermon matches the intention of the Scripture being preached. Notice I said, intention, not meaning. The two are connected. However, matching intention assures that we are using the Bible in the way God designed it to be used. For instance, if you preach the Parable of the Prodigal and focus on the prodigal son, your intention does not match God’s for Luke 15.

Quadrant #2 Am I Relevant?

Exposition sometimes deserves the bad rap it receives. During student sermons I will sometimes start my stopwatch and mark the time when the preacher strikes relevance (when I hear them speak to me about me from the Bible). In a 15 minute sermon, there have been times when I have stopped the clock at 8 or 9 minutes! Up to that point, I was listening to fairly good exegesis. Just no relevance.

Quadrant #3 Am I Clear?

Have you ever been in a conversation, said something, saw the reaction and said, “I didn’t say that right”? Sermon clarity involves, among other things, choosing the right words to say. While I’m writing my sermon throughout the week, I’m working hard to create clear sentences, sentence fragments (due to conversational style), and clear paragraphs. Besides my Bible, my Reader’s Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder is the book I consult the most each week. It’s a combination dictionary/thesaurus.

Quadrant #4 Am I Organized?

My wife, Michele, listened to a sermon preached by one of my pastoral colleagues. One thing that stood out to her was how well the sermon flowed. That’s the sign of a well-organized sermon. That kind of organization allows congregants to follow along without getting lost in all the details and without losing sight of the intention.

So, before Sunday, evaluate your sermon:

  • Is it biblical?
  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it clear?
  • Is it well-organized?

And, as always, preach so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. I was introduced to a similar critique back in the good ole days at DTS in the mid-80’s.

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).


Read More, Preach Better

From a human perspective (FHP), there are some things we can do to improve our preaching. For instance, if you haven’t read some of my recent posts, you might enjoy the summary takeaways from TED Talks. Providing the Holy Spirit is carrying you and your listeners during your sermon, you will be a better communicator of God’s Word by putting into practice the best practices of the best communicators.

And here’s another one: READ MORE. PERIOD.

Christmas week of 2016 I set a goal to read one book each week (no more than 250 pages, which means large books bleed into the next week).

The backstory: Back in the mid-eighties at Dallas Theological Seminary, Prof. Howard Hendricks encouraged us to follow his practice of reading one book per week. As a young masters level student, I remember being impressed by this seemingly out-of-reach goal (not realizing that all the pages of required reading in my formal studies easily equaled this!). As a young pastor, I remember thinking: “Ya, but Prof. doesn’t realize that pastors are not professors. We don’t have the luxury of devoting all that time to research.”

It only took me thirty years to finally see Prof’s wisdom (He’s probably doing his famous sniffle in heaven at the thought of this!).

And this practice has changed my life/ministry. Try it.

  • Convince yourself you can do it. No excuses.
  • Discipline yourself to do it. Schedule between 30-60 minutes.
  • Read authors that will stretch your thinking. Don’t waste your time on things you already know and practice. Aim for theological depth.
  • Skim whenever you can. I’ve learned that even the best of books can be read quickly if I do not allow myself to get bogged down by reading every word. Many sentences and paragraphs do not provide what you are reading the book to gain.
  • Don’t ever read without a highlighter in hand. You’re reading for research, not for pleasure (you have other times for that).
  • Use Evernote or some other system to record your notes for future use.

Watch what happens. You will gain momentum and your preaching will reach another level of sophistication (in the best sense of the word). God will receive His due 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).



Why Gaining Attention and Interest Isn’t Enough in Our Introductions

I just completed a very satisfying week of teaching Doctor of Ministry students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. That’s my excuse for not creating a blog post last week. The track is called, Preaching the Literary Forms of the Bible. Pastors and professors from all over the world made up the class and, as always, the final day or so is devoted to hearing them preach.

I was amazed at how many, regardless of where they were from or who trained them, chose to begin their sermon with some kind of attention-getting device. And in all cases, their opening stories or illustrations were effective in gaining attention and initial interest. But that’s not enough.

Over and over throughout the day I repeated and restated the same thing:

“Try telling us why we need to hear your sermon. How does this Scripture function for the Church?”

Homileticians sometimes refer to this as surfacing need in the introduction and I believe in the practice for the following reasons:

  • it shows our listeners in the opening minutes that the exposition of Scripture is relevant. This is critical because there are expositors who will begin their sermon and preach several minutes without ever telling their listeners that this affects their lives.
  • it’s an opportunity to clearly state how we will worship God as a result of hearing the exposition of Scripture. This keeps expository preaching from being a history lesson about the Text. This reminds us that preaching is an act of worship when we respond to the revelation of God.
  • it allows us to begin the process of application in the introduction instead of waiting till the end of the sermon or near the end of major points in our outline.

So, before Sunday, start with the “why?”, and not just the “what?” of your sermon so our Lord receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. Some of you might be thinking that starting with “why” is giving too much information in the introduction. Some practice a much more inductive approach. My answer is that I want my listeners to know why this information/exhortation is being given from the start so that they can remember the purpose for our being together throughout the sermon.