Pastors face a lot of pressure to perform. Some of it, admittedly, is self-imposed.
One of the main places this pressure is felt is in the demand to research, write and deliver a great sermon every week.
In fact, several times in the last few months, I’ve read blog posts that have suggested that every Sunday sermon should be like a TED Talk. Wow. Talk about adding a little extra pressure.
Pastors face enough challenges without being expected to deliver the near-equivalent of a Pulitzer-prize-winning talk every week.
In today’s post, I’d like to do two things for my fellow pastors that may seem impossible to accomplish simultaneously.
- Relieve some of the performance pressure
- Challenge us all toward something better
But first, let me answer a question that many of you may be asking.
What’s a TED Talk?
TED Talks are presentations made at TED conferences. They’re delivered by some very high-end experts to a roomful of high-level achievers.
A TED conference is so exclusive that you can’t even attend it until you submit an application with six essay questions for them to evaluate. If you’re deemed worthy to attend, you then have the privilege of paying the $7,500 registration fee. No, that’s not a typo. $7,500 just for the conference registration. It’s $15,000 if you want an upgrade to the VIP package.
TED started over 30 years ago as an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. But it has grown from that into a leading-edge clearinghouse for the latest ideas and innovations.
So how do I, a lowly small church pastor, know about such exclusive things? Because, after they’re delivered, TED Talks are uploaded to the internet where anyone can watch them for free.
We Don’t Expect a Weekly TED Talk
I’ve watched several TED Talks. They’re impressive. For $7,500, they’d better be.
TED speakers have six rules they must follow:
- Distill your life’s work or experience into a 3, 6, 9 or 18 minute talk
- Be authentic / vulnerable
- Convey one strong idea
- Tell a story that hasn’t been told before
- Tell and not sell
- Absolutely and positively stick to the time limit
After watching and learning from several TED Talks and looking over that list, I agree that TED Talks are great, the rules make sense and everyone who speaks to an audience can learn something from them.
But how can anyone seriously ask pastors to pull off the equivalent of a TED Talk every Sunday? That’s 40-50 TED Talks every year on a different subject every week, for the same people who’ve heard each of the previous talks.
Sure, points 2, 3, 5 & 6 are something we should always strive for. But points 1 and 4? I think I could maybe put together one TED-level Talk. No, not one a week. Not one a year. One and done. Which is all most TED speakers are ever asked to do.
So here’s the let-the-pastor-off-the-hook part.
No pastor should be held, or should hold themselves to standards like that. They’re easy to ask for, but they’ll kill you if you try to fulfill them.
And they’re entirely unnecessary. No one needs a TED Talk from their pastor every week.
But here’s what we do need. Whether we’re a spiritual seeker, a new believer, a frustrated church member or a mature disciple, we want one thing from our pastor’s sermon above all else…
We Need a Heartfelt God-You-And-Us Talk
When we come to your church, we don’t expect a $7,500 sermon. Given current offering stats, most people aren’t even expecting a $75 one.
We need to know you have a growing relationship with Jesus because you’re willing to share some of it with us every week.
We need you to
- Tell us how you struggled with or learned from the Bible this week
- Share the rock-solid foundational truths that hold you strong when your life gets hard
- Tell us when God and his Word break your heart or lift your spirit
- Show us when the Lord shows you something you never saw before
- Be real and vulnerable about your relationship with Jesus
- Connect those truths to our everyday lives
We don’t expect mind-blowing hermeneutical and homiletical acrobatics. Most of us don’t even know what those words mean. Any pastor who’s sharing a new, heart-wrenching spiritual breakthrough or trauma every week should be talking to a therapist, not their congregation.
But what is pastoral leadership if not sharing your spiritual growth with your congregation?
Genuine Matters More that Spectacular
As good as they are, TED Talk presenters are missing an important key element. The personal touch. They don't have a relationship with the people they’re speaking to.
That’s an advantage that pastors, especially in small churches, have over the most polished, highest-paid speakers in the world. No money or prestige will ever make a professional talk better than a personal one.
We don’t need another celebrity speaker to dazzle us. We need a humble shepherd who’s willing to be vulnerable. We need the real deal.
We don’t expect every word from your lips to be original and unique. So we’re okay with you sharing what you learned from someone else’s book or conference. But please don’t cut-and-paste someone else’s research, experience or story onto yours and pass it off as your own.
An awkwardly delivered, but genuine expression from where your heart has met or is struggling with the heart of God is more helpful than a finely crafted sermon that someone else wrote.
Your voice matters.
We can learn something that applies to our lives when we hear a genuine expression of your faith and your life through your voice.
We want to be led by that kind of person. We want to be pastored by that kind of pastor.
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