That term, “great communicator,” seems to be in vogue among ministry people. They no longer talk about great preachers or speakers. Today they’re looking for great communicators.

These great communicators rise to ministry rock-star status. They attract a sizable fan base. They become a brand.

I’ve heard our teams at Group refer to great communicators when planning upcoming national conferences, such as LifeServe, KidMin, and the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.

Many churches attribute their success to their high-profile preachers, who they refer to as great communicators.

But what do they mean when they say “great communicator”? What separates a great communicator from all the also-rans? When they hear one, what do they instinctively notice that elevates that one to a great communicator? What is the primary litmus test?

Sometimes they’ll say so-and-so “has great things to say, but he’s a lousy communicator.” So that tells me the true test is not content.

Other times they’ll say so-and-so “really knows her theology, but she’s a mediocre communicator.” So, biblical acumen can’t be the deciding factor.

So, what really makes a “great communicator”?

I’ve come to realize it’s the speaker’s ability to hold people’s attention. In other words, the “great communicator” is a great entertainer, one who helps the time pass quickly.

The evidence appears in the audience’s adoration. “I love to listen to him.” “She’s so funny.” “I could listen to him for hours.”

I heard a co-worker say, “Let’s get (so-and-so.) I heard him at a conference last year. He was great!”

We asked, “What did he say? What did he do for you?”

She paused, scratched her head, and finally said, “Well, I don’t remember his point. I just remember leaving his talk thinking he was really great.”

He was an entertainer.

Entertainment is often a good thing. I like to be entertained. I’m just uncomfortable with the current use of this term—“great communicator.” It implies communication, which I regard as a two-way interchange between the sender and the receiver. And in ministry, what happens in the receiver should be far more important than what happens with the sender on stage.

Truly great communicators ignite life change. In ministry work, this results in someone noticeably growing and following closer to Jesus.

When this happens, people may not even remember the great communicator. They remember—and see—God, and his life-changing impact on their lives.

Truly great communicators realize the great truth: it’s not about them.

So, are you interested in being a truly great communicator? I’ll share some tips in the next blogpost.