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March 5, 2009Interviews, Leadership

Andy Stanley on Communication (Part 2)

If you missed the first post in this series, be sure to go back and read the introduction and Andy's philosophy of preaching. We had some good discussion on that post, and I am guessing we'll have even more on this one.

This five part interview reflects some of what you'll find in Andy's book, Communicating for a Change. It's a good book that should be read by anyone who speaks, teaches or preaches.

The book is actually number one in three different categories on Amazon.com right now. From Amazon:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #1,967 in Books

Popular in these categories: (What's this?)

#1 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > Preaching

#1 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Leadership

#1 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > Sermons

I'd like to think it is selling so well because of my recommendation on Monday. Or, perhaps I just say that to cover up my "book envy." ;-)

In this part of the interview, we specifically asked how Andy engages an audience, something that North Point (and Andy) are known to emphasize. He gives some interesting insight in answer to that question.

Also, we asked about a hot-button topic, verse-by-verse preaching. Andy went to Dallas Theological Seminary, a school known for verse-by-verse preaching, but he takes a different approach today. And, in his answer to our question on the subject, he was (I think) being intentionally provocative.

Take a look and share your thoughts in the comments.

Engaging the Audience and Andy's Defining Moment as a Communicator

Question: So, how do you engage people?

Andy: One of the things that we talk a lot about around here is what makes for a relevant environment?

There are three things:

1) an appealing setting,

2) engaging communication, and

3) helpful information.

So the two parts that relate to the sermon are:

1) Was the presentation engaging? and

2) Was the information helpful?

As a pastor we tend to err on: Is the information true? Not even helpful, but is it true? That is, if I present true information that is true to God's Word, then I get an A. No, we are teaching the Bible, so we are assuming it is true. You don't get any points for that. Good grief, we are teaching the Bible--it better be true! The more relevant questions should be: Was the presentation engaging? And was the information helpful? If you have an engaging presentation with helpful information, people will come back next week for more of that. If you are engaging but not helpful, after awhile they will grow weary. It is interesting but I did not learn anything. If it is helpful but not engaging, then I am bored. And it may be stuff that I really need, but if you didn't engage me, I can't stay with you. You need to be helpful and engaging.

People who are trying to figure out communication in preaching need to figure out where do I need propping up? I may have all this great insight and truth, but if I am not engaging, then somebody needs to help me be more engaging. That may be visual aids. That may be speaking shorter. There are ways to make almost anybody be more engaging. It may be good to start off by saying, "I am not a very good communicator." That helps. I want you to know what you are about to discover--"I am not really that good but I have some helpful information." Now I am engaged. And as guys evaluate their preaching, those are two huge things. Is it helpful? Am I engaging?

Question: What do you think about preaching verse-by-verse messages through books of the Bible?

Andy: Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible-- that is just cheating. It's cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn't how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There's not one example of that.

All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally applicable or relevant to every stage of life. My challenge is to read culture and to read an audience and ask: What is the felt need? Or perhaps what is more important, what is an unfelt need they need to feel that I can address? Because if they don't feel it, then they won't address it.

So how can I make them feel an unfelt need and then make them feel like they need to do something about it? But when you do that, people are like, "Man, that is amazing. You're brilliant." No, all you have done is unearthed a need and you talked about it. "I have never heard anyone talk about that before." Probably, no one has ever made you feel that before. So they talked about it, but it didn't register because they didn't make you feel like you needed to hear about it to start with.

I believe the true defining moment of my life as a communicator took place when I was in seminary. I was asked to do a chapel for the high school academy at First Baptist Church, Dallas. So I got the message all ready to go, and I was going to preach on the story of Naaman. And God told him to dip in the water seven times and he would be healed. I had all this great stuff. And I was sitting in my one-room efficiency apartment and I was thinking, "These kids have heard everything. They go to church all the time. They are not going to remember this. This is just another chapel. What can I do so that they can remember this? I am just going to come up with one phrase and I am going to say it so many times that they can't possibility forget it."

So I came up with this phrase: "To understand why, submit and apply." That was over 30 years ago and I still remember it. So I told the whole story. And I said the bottom line was: "To understand why, submit and apply. " And I said that God is going to ask you to do some things that you might not understand why, but you must submit and apply. I had them say it over and over.

Three years go by, and I am working in the college department in the same church and a freshman walks in and says, "I remember you. To understand why, submit and apply." He didn't remember my name. He wasn't even sure where he had seen me before. But it stuck in his head. And I'll never forget thinking, "That is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to take all this stuff in the Bible, and I want to say it so simply that it gets so lodged in people's hearts that in the moment of transition or temptation or whatever it might be, they think: What is that statement? What is that phrase?"

It is hard to take things down to that level...to help people see things from God's perspective. That was huge for me. I think it defined what effective preaching or effective communication is for me. It isn't three points or four points. It's really one point that is somehow connected to a passage and it is connected to a life. And then you should stop talking because you are done.

As always, I love the dialog in the comments, but stay on topic and don't fight old fights on my blog.

I will be speaking in Chattanooga today and will not be around to interact in the comments.

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Andy Stanley on Communication (Part 2)