I’ve read a number of things recently which have encouraged preachers not to ‘waggle on the tea’ but rather get on with it. Most of these comments come from bright middle class Christians who want to be fed and have little time for fluffy intros and the like. Unfortunately it’s a narcissistic approach to preaching and is no different from anyone else who wants to have their ears tickled. What the preacher has to bear in mind is that not everyone there actually wants to listen. Some will be there under duress of parents, or simply to please friends. Some of your regulars will be tired and grouchy. Some visitors will be suspicious and will suspect, before you even open your mouth, that the message will be boring, irrelevant, and untrue. The two most important questions that preachers must constantly ask in preparation are these:
- So What?
- Who Cares?
These questions are the difference between lecturing and preaching. The former seeks to convey information to an audience, and it is incumbent on the audience to pay attention. The preacher, on the other hand, expects that a number of folk will be less than ready to listen and so will work hard in the opening minutes to show people why what he has to say is massively important and relevant to those listening. If you don’t grab them in the opening couple of minutes with a mixture of ethos and pathos then the remaining 28 minutes is an opportunity lost to speak to those who were less than ready to listen. If you constantly ask the ‘so what’ and ‘who cares’ question in your preparation, not only will you communicate with those initially un-engaged, but you also communicate to your regulars that they can bring their friends because you’re interested in them and will communicate to them without ignoring or patronizing. So before you start your sermon with ‘we’re looking at Leviticus 5 this morning’ ask ‘so what’ and ‘who cares’.