At the Yale Lectures on Preaching in 1877, Phillips Brooks offered a definition of preaching that has stood the test of time. He defined preaching as “the communication of truth through personality.”
There are two parts to this definition.
- Preaching speaks truth.
- Preaching is delivered through a preacher.
Assuming that the content of a sermon is true, that it is communicating truth, then the second part of the definition becomes critical. The impact of a message increases or decreases depending upon the human connection the audience feels with the preacher. This is not about being boring or relevant; it is about being human.
Your audience wants to hear a word from God. They want to hear what is true. But — and this is important — they have chosen to hear it from you.
Here are a few quick tips when it comes to forming a human connection with your audience:
- Be yourself. Don’t speak in a “preacher’s voice” or use words you wouldn’t use in a regular conversation.
- Look at them. If you avoided eye contact in a coffee conversation, the other person would assume you didn’t like them.
- Show how you have wrestled with the text. If there are parts you don’t understand, say so. If a verse led you to repentance, say so.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously. Remember: you’re human, too.
Preachers and listeners out there, let us know what you think.