The 30-minute lecture (a.k.a. sermon) anesthetizes the audience every week.
As I reported in my last post, most people remember very little of the typical sermon after a few days. Few show any life change as a result of the oratory. Yet preachers keep following the same old protocol week after week.
A pastor friend of mine once said, “I know over 95 percent of the people check out of each sermon I preach. But if just one person can get a kernel of truth from my sermon, I’ve done my job.”
Really? Is that all we can expect? Well, for the medium—long lecture—that’s about all anyone should expect. Most people today simply aren’t moved by long lectures.
So, how can we see greater results? How can we deliver the greatest message in a way that truly moves people, week after week? Let me suggest a few things.
- Keep it short. We know kids’ attention span is short. But adults’ ability to concentrate on a speaker’s words is very limited as well. Researchers at Indiana University found seriously diminished results after 15 minutes of lecture. And look at Jesus’ example. His messages averaged just a few minutes.
- Change-up the medium. Recharge your listeners every few minutes with a different delivery system. For example, talk for eight or ten minutes. Then do a colorful demonstration or show a video clip. Then pose a thought-provoking question for people to discuss. Then sum up for a couple minutes.
- Share the stage. Allow others to tell how God is working in their lives. Their authenticity more than compensates for their lack of professional oratorical skill.
- Allow give and take. Entertain questions and comments from the crowd. Jesus did.
- Use experiences. Jesus interspersed his messages with active, memorable experiences. He built a powerful point around a paralytic lowered from the ceiling. He challenged antsy listeners to throw the first stone. He washed his people’s feet. He engaged his listeners with numerous spectacular feats.
Jesus was effective. His messages were memorable. He moved people. But he didn’t follow the numbing ways of the religious elite. He challenged the status quo—not only with his words but with his ways.