10 Things the Inexperienced Preacher (or Lay Speaker) Needs to Learn Fast
- Wednesday, August 31, 2011
8. That the off-the-cuff and ad-lib remarks need forethought, too.
Someone once said of Winston Churchill--for my money, the greatest public speaker in modern history--that he spent half his life planning his ad-libs.
For preachers and lay speakers, those impromptu remarks usually come when we walk to the pulpit, look at our audience, and begin to speak. We have our message, it's well-planned, and we're ready for it. However, we feel we need to make a few casual remarks about "How good it is to be here in Greenwood" or "Wasn't that a wonderful song? Thank you so much, Sister Cherry!"
In many cases, those casual remarks can come out all wrong, can be embarrassing, can be distracting.
Pray about them in advance. I do. If there is a special significance to this day, this occasion, or this place, I'll prayerfully figure out what I want to say about it in advance. Recently, while supplying the pulpit for a pastor friend, I began: "In the 16 years Pastor Jim has led this church, he has had me for three revivals. That means you have heard everything I have to say...three times!" They laughed, and I launched into the introduction of this sermon, as to why it was something very special.
Frank Pollard, celebrated pastor and personal friend of years past, sometimes began his message by acknowledging the introduction: "The Lord needs to forgive my brother for that wonderful introduction--and forgive me for enjoying it so much!" His words brought laughter and connected him with his audience, and he was off, into his message.
9. That your personal appearance matters.
Give some thought to your appearance. The primary rule--at least for me--is: "Have nothing in your dress or appearance that will detract from your message."
For ladies, that means to dress conservatively (watch those earrings!) and tastefully. We have all seen young women presenting a solo in church when their dress was cut too low at the top or too high at the bottom. Too tight, too loud, too busy, too gaudy, are also no-nos.
Men will want to dress in a way so as to reflect well on their assignment. Whether he wears a suit or a dress shirt and tie may depend on the culture within that church. It's better to err on the side of over-dressing than be guilty of looking slovenly while on the King's business. Guys, get a haircut, shave, and look your best.
Recently, I was in conversation with a mature pastor who has taken to leaving off the necktie. "I don't want to create a barrier between me and my congregation," he said, "or the casual visitor."
I understand. However....
A necktie won't create such a barrier. It does not wield that kind of power. It's a little thing.
This week I spent a few hours in two airports and noticed one class of men all wearing neckties: the pilots. They looked sharp and professional, and frankly, I appreciate that. I do not want the captain of a 737 wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. I'm not sure why, but dead certain I don't.
Does a necktie inspire the members of my church to have more confidence in my professionalism? I don't know. But it might. It's certainly worth some thought.
10. Not to sabotage your own message.
By now in writing this article, I had used up all the points hastily scribbled in the middle of last night when the burden for this message was weighing on my mind, robbing me of sleep. So, I ran this by my pastor, Mike Miller, and asked for his input. "I'd like ten points instead of nine," I said. He was ready for me.
"What I hate to see any speaker do when he approaches the pulpit," Mike said, "is to undermine his message by beginning, 'Now, I don't know anything about this subject.' Or, 'I'm not a theologian.'"
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