Preaching: Trust and You


Delivery matters because
communication does.

Preaching DynamicsPreviously we considered two important questions: can they hear and will they listen?  Two additional important consideration relates to how listeners perceive the speaker and you. Are you you?

Do They Trust?

There are many factors that influence whether listeners will trust or distrust the speaker.  For instance:
1. Eye Contact.
You wouldn’t buy a car from someone who refuses to look at you.  Shifty eyes are a real turn off.  If someone wanted to tell you about a wonderful place they visited, but kept hesitating and checking some notes, you might be suspicious.  Eye contact is massively important in the whole package of sermon delivery.  Whatever we can do to maximize appropriate eye contact, let’s do it.
Don’t skip around or you’ll seem flighty and untrustworthy.  Don’t linger too long or you’ll communicate intimidation or intimacy.  But do make and maintain meaningful eye contact with listeners if you want them to trust what you are saying.
2. Belief.
Bert Decker’s book, You Have to Believe to be Heard, is well worth a read.  We are able, as listeners, to perceive whether someone believes what they are saying.  The signals are made up of multiple factors in tone, articulation, gesture, expression, posture, etc.  If people perceive cockiness, that won’t help.  But if they don’t perceive belief, they won’t trust.
3. Body Language.  
So what are some of these visual signals of conviction?  If something is important, then not only should the words chosen reflect that, but the communication of our bodies should reinforce it.  A confident and secure posture is important.  Don’t stand awkwardly and squirm.  Be seen.  Don’t hide behind a heavy pulpit, be as visible as possible.  Leaning forward tends to underline an important point.  Appropriate gestures help.  Leave the hands in pockets casual look for a casual illustration.
One of the biggest challenges in sermon delivery is being yourself.  Preaching is not about performing.  It is not about taking on a new persona.  A pulpit voice should be a thing of the past.  People don’t trust performances.
Let’s move on to consider my next thought.

Are you you?

Three thoughts to ponder:
1. Being Natural Is Not Natural
When we walk up to the pulpit we step into an unnatural environment.  People sitting in rows and looking up at us is not normal.  Consequently, our presentation will be anything but natural if we just “go with the flow” and try to be ourselves.  It takes work for movement, gesture, expression, voice, etc., to come across as natural and authentic.  Remember, if people feel it is frozen, forced or fake, they will subconsciously not trust the preacher.
2. Breaking the Froze-Zone
The default reaction is to freeze.  I have heard many people say something like this, “when I ran through it earlier it was so natural and free-flowing, but then I went to preach it and I froze.”  That is normal.  Our voices become restricted to a narrow zone of pitch with a constant level of volume and a clipped (often too rapid) pace.  Our gestures become limited in variety and extent.  Our expressions become as fixed as a wedding photo shoot, typically without the smile.  Our movements become rigid and awkward.  This is natural.  Thus we need to work to break out of that fro-zone in order to come across without conveying nervousness and tension.
3. Don’t Be Too Much
Some people are more successful than others at breaking the frozen effect.  They can end up going too far.  While it is true that gestures need to be larger to look natural in front of a larger group of listeners, it is possible to go over the top.  This can be physical excess, or vocal excess, or even content excess (beware of feeding off nervous energy and turning into a bad comedian).  Dare I say it, some personalities are naturally over the top and putting them in a pulpit can make for an uncomfortable situation.  If there is a chance that this applies to you, pray and then ask some trusted advisers.  Not easy, but better to know than to unknowingly make others suffer.
You may comment on the question “Do they trust?”  here at Cor Deo,
or, leave a comment on “Are you you?” here at Cor Deo.
~ Peter
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit Peter also authors the website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]