Public Speaking

The Problem With Your Face

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Your face probably lies . . . a lot!

You think you know what your face is saying, but it’s very possible you don’t. I discovered this the hard way. For years I thought I was expressing a kind, friendly expression everywhere I went.

Here are two examples:

  • A few years ago I was driving to work and passed by a church attendee walking in the parking lot. She saw me and lifted her hand in a brief wave of greeting. I made eye contact as I passed by, moved my mouth muscles into what I considered to be a ‘greeting smile’ and nodded. Immediately, I got the impression I should ‘check’ what my smile looked like. So I looked up into the rear view mirror and repeated the smile, only to be horrified to see a scowl looking back at me!
  • I remember sitting in my office across from a young couple in our church. The young man was interested in a job and had brought his wife along to discuss details and options with me. At one point in the conversation, he made a great comment that solicited a positive emotion inside of me. In a purely automatic response I again, moved my facial muscles in a modicum of a smile and nodded thoughtfully. A few moments later, I remembered the ‘scowl’ from the parking lot and realized that I had just frowned at him when I should have been smiling!

Most people smile at least a few times a day without even thinking about it. At least, they smile on the inside. Something happens that brings a small measure of joy into our hearts and we respond, either intentionally or unconsciously with a smile or nod.

The problem is, for MANY of us, our outward reactions don’t even
come close to our intention or genuine feelings.

This was true for me. One day my wife mentioned something about my ‘frown’ and I finally started paying attention. I was appalled and embarrassed. What I thought was a thoughtful or gentle smile was a total frown. I’m not exaggerating. My mouth automatically turned down on both sides creating a perfect frown. Ugh!

Since then I have been having an almost daily battle with my face – forcing it to truly express what I think and feel instead of what it (as if it has a will!) naturally expresses.

As a pastor, public speaker and Jesus follower with a strong desire to encourage and strengthen those around me, this became a very important issue for me. I’m afraid to think too much about the number of people I have given a negative impression about me, or worse, Jesus Christ, because of my expression.

The Scary-Mad Man

A while back our church hosted a national speaker and pastor for a conference. He brought one of his pastors and associates to assist him during the conference. Since I was sitting behind him, I engaged him in some breif conversation before the service. My first impression was less than nice. He seemed extremely unfriendly and antisocial. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was mad at me.

What shocked me was when the national speaker got up and introduced him as one of the kindest, passionate man with a huge hunger for God. I realized I had fallen for his scary expression. He seemed to be constantly frowning, even when it seemed like he should be happy.

It’s sad to say, but this has happened to me more often that I want to admit, and often from pastors and christian leaders that are, or should be, held with a measure of respect and esteem.

In his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki said, “What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if it prevents you from connecting with people. While smiling sends a very clear message about your state of mind, not smiling creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger – none of which helps you enchant people.”

It turns out little orphan Annie had the right idea, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

How is your smile, really? 

Check out “Teach Yourself to Smile” to learn some great tips on how to smile!

Four Terrible Assumptions Church Leaders Make

I was standing in the lobby of a local church talking to an unchurched first time guest. It was one of the first times he had ever visited a church and he knew nothing about God or christianity. The service had just completed and people were filtering out of the sanctuary and collecting in small groups, visiting with one another. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere. I was so glad when the pastor noticed me and came over to talk to us.

Alas, my joy was short-lived. The pastor introduced himself to my new friend and then proceeded to talk about his sermon and how important it was for “us Christians.” It was sort of an “insiders” conversation. I wanted to step on his toe or something. I wished he could read the urgency in my eyes. In desperation, I finally interrupted him and blurted out, “Pastor, I didn’t know if I mentioned this or not, but this is our friend’s first time here this morning. Did you get to meet his wife and kids yet?” I’m still unsure if the pastor got the message, but I was at least able to distract him from the unhelpful conversation and redirect it to a more safe topic. Ugh.

I happen to know this pastor has a heart of gold. He’s a great guy, a seasoned minister, and truly loves both his congregation and the people in the community. I know he has a heart for the lost.

But he has fallen into a trap. One that, unfortunately, is very easy for pastors and church leaders to stumble into. He’s forgotten that the people who sit in his congregation are not like him. He’s making several bad assumptions about the people in his church, and I’m afraid it’s potentially turning them away.

Four Terrible Assumptions Church Leaders Make:

Since I visit a lot of churches as a ‘Mystery Guest,’ I have the chance to experience their church from a very unique perspective. Following are four terrible assumptions I have seen church leaders make way too often. 

Assumption #1: Guests Know What To Do

It saddens me greatly when church leaders assume guests have experience attending churches and know what’s going on, what they are supposed to do, where they are supposed to go, etc. They forget that the church environment, one they are intimately familiar with, is a brand new environment for many guests. Even those who have, perhaps, attended church before may still be in the dark, especially if their ‘church experience’ was from a different denomination or style of church.

Imagine visiting a place that you have never visited before, where everyone but you feels at home and nobody thinks to help you get acclimated. Even better, go find that place and check it out. Perhaps your local health club or golf club, I don’t know, try the New York Stock Exchange. Visit that place and be reminded that your guests are experiencing something similar.

They don’t know what to do with their kids. They don’t know the words to the songs, and probably feel a little uncomfortable singing them. They don’t know if they are supposed to give money or take communion. And they don’t know when to stand, when to sit or what to say. At one church I visited, everybody quotes, from memory, the Lord’s Prayer and sings the Doxology every week. Your guests know neither of those things.

Assumption #2: Guests Know the Bible.

Walk up to just about any adult in America and you will discover that they know how to drive a car. It’s a given – and it’s pretty much assumed. After all, everyone we know eventually ends up behind the wheel. Sometimes we ride with them while they drive. That sense of familiarity has seeped into many churches regarding the Bible. Church leaders spend a ton of time with other people who read the Bible, understand what it’s about, and know all the stories. So it’s not that great a leap for them to assume that anyone who is in the church has Bible knowledge.

Imagine walking into an advanced physics class at your local university. Even better, go visit it sometime. Don’t tell anyone who you are or why you are there. Just let the instructor & students talk to you as if you’ve already been through the other physics courses, like everyone else. You get the picture.

You’re guests probably don’t know where to turn in the Bible, if they even own one. And it’s likely they don’t know the story of Jonah, David & Goliath, the parting of the Red Sea, the Last Supper, Pentecost and quite possibly even the story of Jesus’ death & resurrection. You learned all that as a kid in Sunday School; they didn’t. For many of your guests, the most they know about the Bible and it’s stories is from what they’ve seen at the movies. Do you really want to briefly mention Noah after they just watched Hollywood’s rendition of the story? 

Assumption #3: Guests are Christians

Perhaps one of the worst assumptions church leaders can make is that guests are already Christians. The tragedy behind this assumption is that, by making it, there is little to no room to actually open up the most important conversation that individual may ever have. When we assume someone has already discovered Christ’s love and forgiveness, we no longer think to share the Good News with them. Even worse, when we talk to unbelievers like they are already believers and part of the family, we may even give them the false impression that they are, in fact, Christ followers. They may end up attending and serving in the church for months or even years, and have never truly grasped the simple, yet profound message of the Gospel.

Imagine being invited to a football party with a bunch of people you don’t really know. What if, without being asked, everyone assumes you’re rooting for the same team as everyone else in the room? When a touchdown is made, everyone cheers and slaps five and nobody even stops to think that you aren’t rooting for that team, and maybe don’t even like football! Is it possible that our Sunday morning environment and the way we talk to and treat guests aren’t too far off from that hypothetical situation?

There is no guarantee your guests know God, or understand God. Jesus Christ may simply be a religious and historical name. Salvation? Forgiveness? A loving God? Atonement? All may be totally foreign words or concepts. The next time you shake the hand of that guest, assume nothing about their faith in God. Realize that they could be completely unchurched, or an atheist or agnostic; or to complicate matters, even possibly a Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim . . . you get the idea.

Assumption #4: Guests have it all together.

I’m convinced most Christian leaders would make terrible police officers. We have no idea how to truly profile another person. I’m pretty sure if we were sitting in the police car with an officer, watching the same people, we’d point out the nicest people as being potential criminals and totally miss those truly guilty. Sad to say, but I think a lot of church leaders look at our guests and falsely assume that, if they’re smiling, dressed well and friendly, then they are happy, well off and emotionally healthy; and if they’re scowling, dressed poorly and want to make a quick exit, then they are grumpy, in loads of debt and emotionally unstable.

Think about what you’ve gone through, personally, this year. I know you’ve faced a few challenges of your own – we all pretty much do. If this has been a good year, then go back a couple years until you hit that particularly difficult situation. Now, how many of the employees knew about your challenge at the local supermarket when you were buying milk? No. They thought you were fine. 

Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” That includes your guests. We don’t know if the battle is a recent loss, an addiction, a broken relationship, a serious illness, major debt or a lost job. Whatever it is, you aren’t going to see it when you introduce yourself and welcome them to the church. Don’t be fooled. They need the hope, love, healing, peace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

How about you. Which assumption are you most guilty of making?

Communicating For A Change

I’ve listened to a lot of public speakers. Unfortunately, many tend to operate under the assumption that they are ‘good’ speakers when, really, well, they aren’t. Don’t worry. I won’t name names (that way I can ensure my name stays off the list too). I think we can often come to the conclusion that we know how to preach, or teach, because people listen to us – and maybe even nod their heads at times.

Of course, the real issue isn’t whether people listen to us so much as what happens after they are done. Is there any change or transformation taking place in their hearts? Do they have something they can and will do? Are they motivated to become more of what God desires of them?

Every preacher or teacher wants to see people’s lives impacted for eternity through their message. This is why I am recommending the book, Communicating For A Change, by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. This book has played a HUGE role in my own career as a speaker. That’s not to say I’ve ‘arrived’, but I know I have grown. If you don’t already own it, I urge you to purchase and devour this book this week! If you do own it, I recommend you crack it open and give it another read. I know you won’t be sorry.

Here’s a great & simple excerpt from the book:

Create A Map: ME, WE, GOD, YOU, WE.
With this approach the communicator introduces a dilemma he or she has faced or is currently facing (ME). From there you find common ground with your audience around the same or a similar dilemma (WE). Then you transition to the text to discover what God says about the tension or question you have introduced (GOD). Then you challenge your audience to act on what they have just heard (YOU). And finally, you close with several statements about what could happen in your community, your church, or the world, if everybody embraced that particular truth (WE). page 120

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday Announcements: Information Overload

Dark microphoneSeveral months ago I and my family visited a small church as a ‘mystery guest’. The goal of my visit was to provide some helpful feedback to the Sunday morning experience, especially as viewed through the eyes of a guest.

I was completely overwhelmed (or maybe the word is underwhelmed) by the morning announcements. They were boring. The person giving them was practically reading them from the bulletin. And perhaps most frustrating, there were way too many. I stopped listening when they got to the special event happening 6 months from now. If it wasn’t my job to listen, I’m not sure I would have ever ‘started’ listening,

I was recently reading a book summary of a book I read a few years ago entitled, “Less Clutter, Less Noise” and ran across this very poignant paragraph.

“A Sunday edition of the New York Times carries more information than the average nineteenth century citizen accessed his entire life. Information used to be a rare and precious as gold; now it is so inexpensive and plentiful that most of it ends up being overlooked, ignored, or tossed like garbage. The barrage of data to which we are constantly exposed carries a cost – physically, mentally, and financially – regardless of the generation. People who live in today’s world respond in one of three ways: they become overwhelmed and shut down; they labor over whether they are making the right decisions; or they just ignore you and move on. More isn’t what people are looking for; relief from the pressure of more is what they’re looking for.”

Well said. My advice is simply this.

  • Keep your announcements to a maximum of 3, preferably 2.
  • Sell what you have to say. Convince people why it’s important to them.
  • Communicate everything else through other means (like a weekly eblast, the Sunday bulletin, the church website & calendar, facebook, word of mouth, etc.)

photo credit: istockphoto

Preparing/Delivering Great Messages

The church where I attend has been known for it’s outstanding preaching right from it’s birth in 1988. For more than 20 years the founding pastor, Mike Cavanaugh, fed the body of Christ through a steady diet of timely, relevant, God-inspired messages. A few years ago, he handed the reins over to his successor and the current pastor, Joshua Finley. Pastor Josh has done a fabulous job of picking up where he left off. He is one of the best communicators I’ve ever heard.

In the following workshop, Pastor Josh shares some keys to preparing and delivering great messages. I trust it will help you strengthen your communication skills. Enjoy!
[vimeo 42830604]Can’t see this video? Try clicking this link.

‘Preach Better Sermons’ Cliff Notes

Looking to get some advice on how to improve your sermons? Chris Zeigler from BASIC College Ministries has graciously agreed to share his notes from the recent Preach Better Sermons” online conference. Thanks Chris! For more information on Chris, BASIC, or college ministry check out the links & information at the end of this post.

You might also want to check out my cliff notes from last year’s ‘Preach Better Sermons’ online conference right here!


  • Plan your sermon series about 4 months out.
  • Build a team around you who will brief you on each series you do. Let them ask tough questions! And allow them to meet on their own to brainstorm ideas on how to integrate popular culture, what scriptures are being used, memorable illustrations, etc.
  • Remember – “The game is won or lost in transition” (Urban Meyer). Don’t focus so much on the message that you ignore other important elements in the service.
  • Develop a routine before each service that helps you focus your mind and center your heart on God.
  • Don’t worry about how people will react to your message or what they will Tweet about it – focus on the fact that God has anointed you to speak His Word.

LOUIE GIGLIO – 6 Rules of Preaching

  1. Have something to say – be honest about what God is putting on your heart
  2. Above all things – be faithful to the text
  3. Lead people to Jesus
  4. Don’t be boring!
  5. Prepare
  6. Be led by the Holy Spirit
  • Find and refine ‘you’ – your own voice and style. Don’t waste your God-given talent trying to be a Steven Furtick or Andy Stanley.
  • Remember the menu is just a suggestion – be flexible and let the Holy Spirit lead you.
  • Stay humble – don’t fall into the trap of using your messages to trumpet yourself.


  • Don’t rely solely on inspiration – build on a foundation of discipline in sermon preparation.
  • If you want people to receive what God gave you, walk them through the same process God took you through.
  • Remember that Paul said not to use impressive words – doing this can be manipulative.


  • Don’t forget about humor – if people don’t laugh every 7 minutes, you’ve lost them.
  • Public speakers say that for every hour presenting you should prepare for three. The preparation should take even longer for preaching.
  • Keep culture in mind. If their attention spans have dropped, make your messages and series more focused and shorter.


  • Write out your sermons as you would a manuscript. Many of his sermons become book chapters. *Key – have your manuscript done in time to pray over it.* 
  • Remember to use metaphors. They are important and biblical metaphors are the most powerful.
  • Keep your dependence on God in perspective (example – fast on the day you are supposed to preach).
  • Great Preacher vs. Great Prayer – you can’t be a great preacher unless you are first a great prayer.


  • The best speeches and sermons are when you and the audience go where you are leading them together.
  • Don’t over-practice – it will come off sounding more rehearsed and less genuine.
  • A well used prop can be both simple and powerful.
  • Remember – the greatest way to ruin a sermon is to be the star of your own success story – people want you to be real.


  • Your preaching flows out of your relationship with God.
  • Remember, in the Bible God is far more concerned about leadership development that He is about leadership technique.


  • Draw from other pastor’s series and books that impact you.
  • Don’t let the success or failure of your sermons attach themselves to your identity.


  • Keep it relevant – take a walk in the audience’s shoes and spend time in their minds.
  • You rarely see a film win any awards without it first having had great editing. It is the same for preaching.
  • You only have one hour with your people – make the most of it.


  • The key to keeping an audience’s attention is your approach – approach is what makes content interesting.
  • Let new people know you are happy they are there – don’t call them visitors.
  • Preach with new Christians or unbelievers in mind – acknowledge the odd things in scripture. Then give the unbelievers permission to not believe or obey what they heard. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t believe until after the resurrection.
  • Stay plugged into a community of unbelievers.
  • Bring energy to your text – not just to your stories.


  • Maximize your studying by minimizing your searching.
  • The Bible is always relevant – people just don’t always realize it. Our job is to show them how it applies to them personally.
  • Keep in mind that pastors are prone to exaggeration because they are prone to motivation.


  • Remember that our mission is to make more people God’s people and that it is God’s truth coming out of your mouth.
  • Give yourself some grace to discover who you are – who has God wired you to be?


Chris Zeigler
Chris Zeigler
Assistant Director
serving the church // to reach the colleges // to change the world

19 Tips on Preaching

I received this email from the team over at yesterday and thought it was so helpful I should share it with you. These people know what they’re talking about. You may recognize them from the webinar they hosted and I wrote about entitled,Preach Better Sermons Online Conference. I recommend their webinars and services to pastors at large! Enjoy.


We wanted to share some tips with you that you could apply to your message this week. Don’t try to use all nineteen this weekend just chose one or two to incorporate into your message this Sunday.

  • Get feedback on your message BEFORE you preach it.
    Feedback after the fact is great, but if you seek input before you preach, you can make your message better. This could be as simple as sending it to another pastor, another staff member, or a volunteer or two in your church. Chances are, there are people in your congregation who would review your message seriously and be a great help to you. Ernest Hemingway said the first draft of anything is #$&*@, so make sure you never preach your first draft.
  • Finish on time.
    Whether you use a countdown clock or a watch, it’s a good idea to stick to the allotted time. The Gettysburg Address has 300 words. Nobody remembers the other guy who spoke that day (who spoke for a couple of hours). Besides, nobody ever got mad at the preacher for finishing a few minutes early.
  • Don’t hide in the greenroom.
    Connecting with real people before your message is one of the most powerful things you can do. Last minute study is a sign of poor preparation and while some last minute prayers are always appropriate, that doesn’t mean you can’t speak a few words to people in the congregation. Leave the green room mentality and shake hands with people.
  • Pick a point.
    Most sermons try to cover too much information, so pick a point and stick to it. One 30-minute message isn’t going to be the final word on any topic. If you want to learn how to make that point memorable and sticky, here’s a free webinar that might help.
  • Be interesting.
    Helpful content that doesn’t engage the audience won’t have the desired effect. In other words, be interesting. Boring presentations, lifeless information, and passionless points will sail right over the head of the congregation. And over the head misses the heart every time. It’s absolutely imperative that you have accurate, Biblical content. But it’s equally important to present it in a way that connects.
  • Stories say it best.
    You’ve listened to speakers too, and, chances are, when the speaker told a personal story, your interest level increased. There’s something about stories that cause people to lean in. So make sure you tell a story every ten minutes or so. “Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form,” writes Nancy Duarte.
  • Know your material.
    Before you preach your message to anyone else, you should preach it to yourself. Be familiar with your content so you can preach from your heart. A reliance on notes could be a sign that you don’t know your material. That’s why we teach members how to finish early in the week so the message can sit in a crockpot.
  • Get better as a preacher, don’t just work on your next message.
    Watching yourself on video is a great way to improve. Joining a community of people committed to improvement might also be right for you. For most churches, the sermon is the most visible thing you do and a key component in the discipleship process. So don’t get stuck in a rut, get better.
  • Speak to everyone.
    Those football stories you tell are awesome, and about 30% of the audience really relates to them. Referencing 2 Peter commandment on the fly is cool, but unchurched people think you’re talking about a race. You’ve got a diverse audience – that calls for diverse application and varied illustrations. Make sure your message is sensitive to your audiences (yep, you have more than one).
  • You’re not preaching in the first century.
    From time to time, I meet people who say, “Jesus didn’t need PowerPoint.” That’s true. (He would have used Keynote or ProPresenter anyway.) But Jesus was preaching in a first century context that didn’t have electricity. You didn’t ride on a donkey to church or ask the congregation to bring grain to the alter. It’s okay to use modern methods to communicate a timeless message.
  • Preach to who is NOT there.
    If you want guests, address guests. If you want to reach men, talk to men. If you want to reach the educated, add a little more intellect. Preach to who is NOT in the room, not just who IS in the room.
  • Summarize your sermon for twitter.
    Your sermon needs a central theme or a big idea. J.H. Howett was right when he wrote, “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as crystal.” We’ve got a
    free webinar that will help you craft these simple statements.
  • Find common ground.
    People don’t think preachers have real lives, real marriages or real struggles, so the fact that you’re a preacher is NOT instant credibility. Make sure you find common ground with your audience to let them know that you share some of their struggles, doubts and feelings.
  • Talk about your failures, not just your successes.
    John Maxwell said if you want to impress people, talk about your success, but if you want to impact them, talk about your failures. When you appropriately share your struggles, mistakes and failures, and communicate from a place of humble brokenness, you’ll make a far greater impact on your congregation.
  • Make people laugh.
    Everybody wants to laugh, and you don’t need to disrespect God’s Word or be a comedian to make people smile in church. Proverbs 17:22 says a joyful heart is good medicine. So let’s not talk about a boring God with lifeless sermons and give people the impression that God has no personality. God created laughter…it’s okay for it to happen in church.
  • Present Jesus as the hero.
    Not the audience, not you, not even the church. No matter your topic, you can find a way to point to Jesus. By the way, that’s exactly what Jesus did when he opened up the Old Testament scriptures and connected the dots for people.
  • Preach to inspire action, not just to inform.
    What do you want people to DO as the result of hearing this message? When Peter finished preaching in Acts 2, he told the people exactly what they should do (repent and be baptized). Make sure you’re not just presenting information but calling people to action.
  • Add some visuals.
    Whether it’s a graphic, or a slide, a prop or an object lesson, look for ways to make your words visual. Study after study shows this is the key to rememberability. If this doesn’t come natural to you, fight through the hard work…it’s worth it.

One of the most significant things you can do as a communicator is work ON your skill and develop your calling. This is very different from working on your next message. It’s why we created the Core Coaching Program.

Thanks for letting us serve you today!


CEO of The Rocket Company

P.S. Here is a summary of the FREE stuff in this email:

  • Preaching With A Point Webinar: How to craft a memorable bottom line statement each week that your church attenders will be repeating on Wednesday at Starbucks.

My Notes from Preach Better Sermons Online Conference

For anyone who missed the workshop on how to ‘Preach Better Sermons’. I watched it and decided to take notes for you (with help from my friends at Elim Gospel Church). This seminar was sponsored by Check out their website to see how this new service can help you be effective as a communicator and preacher.

Here are the main ideas/concepts shared during the conference. Enjoy.

Perry Noble is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina.

  • Why create a preaching calendar?
    I need to give my people time to prepare for creative elements. My job is to serve my team by planning in advance.
  • When did you discover you had a gift of preaching?
    One of the best sermon you could ever share . . . how you discovered Christ?
  • What do you do to get better as a preacher?
    Read Andy Stanley’s book, ‘Communicating for a Change‘. Trying to preach shorter messages. I’m going to be here a long time. I don’t need to try to say everything in one week. How can I say the ‘one’ thing.
  • How many times do you preach in the year?35-40 Times
  • How do I figure out what to preach on? 
    Nearly every idea I’ve preached came out of my quiet time. A preacher preaches best when he does so out of the overflow of his heart. I use Evernote to keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, concepts that I can preach on at any time. That’s what he uses as a resource for a preaching calendar.
  • What have you learned working with your team?
    We have a Creative Pastor who takes all our creative ideas and makes them happen. He invites various people to creative team meetings. Single people, men, women, married, etc. Different people give him unique ideas that he couldn’t figure out himself. I learned how to ask the right questions to the right people and have learned to listen to other people.
  • I don’t have a big staff? I’m the ‘Lonely People’ Pastor.
    You can do this without a staff. Invite {the right} people to lunch and tell them you want them to help you put your sermon together. They will come.
  • How do you deal with criticism & praise?
    Pastors have foes, fans, and very few friends. Foes tell you how bad you are (makes you think you’re worse than you are), fans tell you how awesome you are (makes you think you’re better than you are), friends tell you the truth. Your friends love Jesus first, the church second, and you third. So you know they will always give you the feedback you need because their priorities are straight.
  • Closing Thoughts:
    Let the Bible speak for itself and be your platform. Listen to other preachers as much as you can. I’ll say what other preachers have said all the time. Podcasts are the common day commentaries. Surround yourself with people who can help you communicate better. Get a great team to support you as the preacher. Don’t ‘give them hell’ on Sunday. ‘Give them hope’ on Sunday.

Jud Wilhite is an author, speaker and senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Jud talked about how we can find common ground with other people. We have to communicate in language that people relate to. Here are a few insights to do that.
  • Communicate from your life.
    I often start my messages by sharing something personal in my life that relates to my topic. The most powerful illustrations are when those illustrations overlap with the person’s personal experience/life. My favorite definition of preaching: expressing truth through personality.
  • Communicate honestly.
    Be honest about what you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing, etc.
  • Communicate to the broken.
    I imagine broken people around my desk as I prepare what I’m going to say. The 17 year old who doesn’t want to be there. A single person struggling at work. A couple struggling in their marriage. Someone struggling with an addiction. I write my message to each of them. I want people to feel like I’m talking directly to them. “If you speak to the broken, you will always have an audience.”
  • Communicate the Word.
    Just preach Jesus. We don’t have to apologize for the Bible. People are there to hear what it has to say. 2 Timothy 4:2. Be careful about religious language. Don’t water things down, just remember to use language that everyone understands and explain/define things when you don’t. I try to stay in ONE Bible passage when I preach. I shifted to the NLT version because it’s at a younger grade reading level so people could track with the task.
  • Communicate for Next Steps.
    Let them know whether the Bible has something to say AND it has a connection with their life. I ask what the text says to me as a person, to the imaginary individuals around my desk, and to my church and my community as well. I define a crystal clear ‘next step’ opportunity. 

Andy Stanley is an author, speaker, and Lead Pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia. Get his book on preaching, Communicating for a Change.
  • How did you know speaking was a gift for you?
    Taught a Bible Study in a home and a woman spoke a word of encouragement about that gift.
  • Discuss how you prepare your messages?
    Most importantly is that the process needs to be relational. The pattern I mostly use is Me. We. God. You. We. This approach can help you connect with the audience. It may allow you to be able to preach without using notes so much. It breaks your message up into chunks, instead of points.
  • How do you craft a Sermon based on application instead of information?
    I tend towards (wired) application because my strengths/gifts are exhortation oriented. I’m not satisfied if people don’t know what’s at stake and don’t know what to do. Make sure they know what to do at the end. It’s not just about what they need to know. It’s also about why it’s important to know it and what to do about it. It’s critical that you have a burden to preach.
  • How do you create these memorable phrases when you preach?
    It is very difficult to do, but the phrase is the best way to make an idea stick. You owe it to yourself to create a ‘bottom line’ phrase, question, application statement. It will equip you to be more successful as a communicator. I also prepare my sermons way in advance which also gives me a lot of time to mull over the concepts and get these nuggets. The ‘crock-pot’ approach. This approach also protects me from bad ideas. I have time to come up with something else.
  • What have you learned about ‘tension’ in communicating?
    It’s critical that you create tension in the first few minutes if you want people to track with you during the sermon. Tension makes things interesting. You are never bored where there’s tension. If it’s boring, then you haven’t interested people by creating a tension they can get into. I’m OK with developing an entire series to focus on one tension, as opposed to taking care of it in one sermon.
  • How do you preach to the unchurched & everyone else at the same time?Some of it comes back to tension. It’s not about content, it’s about the approach we use. Get his new book coming out in the fall to read about it more.
  • What are you doing lately to improve yourself?
    I watch myself preach. I listen to other people. I watch other communicators, including comedians, newscasters, etc.
  • Closing Comments
    When you speak, do it with a burden to reach broken, hurting people. Make it personal. Think of the person you know who needs to hear it or that you think needs to hear it. Pick a target audience and preach to them, not about you.

Jeff Foxworthy is one of the most respected and successful comedians in the country. There are many similarities between what comedians and preachers do. One of them is using humor.
  • How can preachers lean into humor when preaching?
    It’s important for us to not take ourselves too seriously. I figured out that what I think, experience, and see probably isn’t unique to me. I trust that truth and am willing to take risks by sharing them with others.
  • What have you learned about timing with humor?
    Usually people who are good ‘joke-tellers’ have learned how to cut the fat (details). Trim humor down to the bare essentials. This includes telling funny stories. 
  • How do you prepare jokes/humor?
    I use note-cards. I put a thought that occurred to me on a note-card that I keep nearby. I try ideas/thoughts on people, either randomly or formally. The yellow notepad is where I develop thoughts and jokes to a context. When do you develop content . . . always. 
  • How can we reach the heart of men?
    Make sure we don’t portray Christianity or Christ as a ‘sissy’ faith.
  • Closing Comments:
    Be vulnerable from the pulpit. Let people see you living life to the full.

Thanks to Eric Scott, Care Pastor at Elim Gospel Church for the below notes. Unfortunately, I had to step away from the conference at this point.

Vanable (Van) Moody is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor of The Worship Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Start with the end in mind.
    All navigational systems start with the end in mind.  A message is the same.
  • The most effective form of preaching is behavioral.
    Behavioral preaching goes after the impact the message has on the hearer. Jesus gives many examples in this way (John 4 or Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to get better?” this was about behavior.
  • Impression or Impact?
    Settle this issue – Do you want to make an impression or do you want to make an impact?  It’s great to hear, “Good message!”  Yet it’s better when a person’s life is impacted with the gospel and it brings about lasting life-change.
  • The Behavioral Purpose.
    Come to an understanding of what the behavioral purpose is.  What is God wanting to change and do?  Craft your message around that purpose. When you are clear with this then you should be able to reduce your message down to one crystal clear statement – your objective statement.  The message should then consistently support this message.  What do you want people to do as a result of this message.
  • Message vs Messenger
    While behavioral messages are important, it is imperative that you not separate the message from the messenger.  
  • Keep it Clear and Simple
    Make sure as you communicate the purpose, make sure it is clear and simple. Use words phrases and sentences your people can grasp onto. Give points for their head and pictures for their heart. Provide a vehicle for them to do what you have been preaching about.  Muscles grow because they are exercised.


Dan Cathy is the President and COO at Chick-fil-A.

  • Strive to be a communicator who communicates to real felt needs.
  • When putting a message together work with a smaller audience first.
  • Rehearse the message.
  • Illustrations on stage are powerful!


Dr. Charles Stanley is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.

  • The most important part of sermon prep is my personal walk with God.  A man can preach no better than he prays.
  • Discipline is key to the pastor’s life.
  • It boils down to this: I must have a balanced schedule, a healthy body, healthy relationships, the courage to be obedient to God no matter what he requires and most of all a pure heart before God.
  • You must have the weight of the message on your shoulders concerning what you believe God wants you to communicate through this message.  This way you’re preaching for impact.  

Preparation Process:

  • Ask: “What’s the need of the people listening?”
  • Ask: “What is the text that best speaks to this need?”
  • Ask: “Now, what does it say personally to me?”  
  • Number your statements as you gather materials and then ask yourself, “How do I put this together into a  format that will work?”  With that in mind, ask, “What is the one thing they can walk away with?”
  • Once this comes together the outline comes next with the theme in mind – that one thing.
  • Look for clarity, movement and always with the idea that this must have impact.
  • You cannot be thinking about yourself and also have an impact on others.  You’ve got to have the people in mind.
  • I does not give an outline to the congregation.  I want it bottled up inside me until it is just right in my mind, even up to the evening before.  I do not want anything between myself and those hearing the message prior to giving it. I do not manuscript, but use an outline and memory.
  • In the midst all of this I pray and ask for help with points in the outline that are troubling me.
  • It should be a rare exception to step into the pulpit without proper preparation.
  • “Obey God and leave all consequences to Him.”
  • “Your personal intimate relationship with God is above all else.”
  • I feel a tremendous responsibility when I think about who I am speaking to and who is listening and that deeply moves me.  I am not nervous, but feel very responsible to communicate for impact.
  • My goal during personal devotions is to ask, “What are You speaking to me, Lord?”  If my life is not right, it will not communicate what it needs to a waiting world.  Every test and heartache I have had has been seen later as something God worked about for good.
  • Changing Bibles periodically helps me quite a bit in reinvigorating my personal devotional life with God.
  • Closing thought:  “See everything that comes at you as coming from Me (God).” If you’ll come to this then you’ll begin to see the purpose behind the circumstance that came.  He’ll turn it for good if you’ll turn it over to Him, listen to Him and obey Him.


Louie Giglio is an author, speaker and Lead Pastor at the Passion City Church in Roswell, Georgia.

  • Recognition of the gift came early and encouraged came in phrases like, “You have no idea what God has in mind for your life…”
  • Calling and self-discovery plus affirmation tells you that you are in the right spot.
  • There was an inner-witness inside of him that said, “I’m going to speak here someday.”  However, you need to park that in the recesses of your spirit and speak where you can, where you are invited and grow from there to the place where that word actualizes. 
  • The God Factor – At the end of the day it is the Spirit of God moving through God’s Word that impacts people.  Even Paul said he was not perfect in speech.  It’s more about the power of God happening there.
  • Ask: “God, what do you want to say and what do You want Your people impacted by?”  And then get to work.  Craft it into a message that impacts people.
  • Preparation and presentation are much like a funnel.  The wide end is all your life, experience, study, etc., but you need to bring it down to that one thing that comes from all that wide area of the funnel and work it down to that one thing. 
  • Let the text work its way through you until what comes out leads to that place of impact.

Practice Out Loud

Whenever I have to speak to a group of people I try real hard to rehearse out loud when I’m by myself. I’ve never regretted doing it and have often regretted NOT doing it. If I’m the emcee and will be giving announcements, I practice out loud. If I’m going to be sharing communion on Sunday, I practice what I will say out loud first.

I know way too many people who don’t do this and a couple who refuse to do it. I’m not sure what the issue is. The point is to refine and clarify your message in such a way that people will hear and understand. Some of the best communicators of our time have been known to rehearse their message out loud. As an example, I’ve heard both Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley confess to this practice.

Not convinced? Check out this article by Michael Hyatt called “How to Improve Your Public Speaking by Practicing Out Loud.” He gives some great practical tips on preparing your message for the greatest possible impact during delivery.

What did you say?

Several years ago I purchased a book by Dr. Minirth called, A Brilliant Mind: Proven Ways to Increase Your Brainpower. Like you, I’d really like to be smarter. So I had a mild hope that this book might help. What I found astounded and disappointed me. The premise of the entire book is that you’ll be smarter when you increase your vocabulary. So the book is full of lists of words to learn, prefixes, roots of words, adjectives, verbs, etc. After a quick leaf through the book I set it down and chocked it off as not super relevant to me.

The idea kept coming back to me that perhaps Dr. Minirth really knew what he was talking about. Today, I can say I’m pretty sure he did. Language is powerful. Your words can be confusing, irrelevant, boring, disabling and offensive; or they can be inspiring, motivating, informative, equipping and empowering. Here’s a great example from Scripture of the power of words (emphasis mine):

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. John 4:39-41

So many times we can be guilty of just saying whatever comes to mind without thinking about what we are saying and how it is being said. This apply’s both inside and outside of the pulpit. When you work hard at communicating clearly and effectively, you are partnering with God to give the very best to those with whom you are talking to.

This 2 minute video illustrates this idea really well. Check it out.

What did you say?
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