Communicating for a Change, by Andy
How to communicate like their life depended on it
Outreach Magazine just released their annual list of the nation's largest and fastest growing churches. It is always encouraging, if not a little intimidating. (The dark side of me will often compare myself and think, "What about me? Am I doing anything significant for God?") Then, I remember, it is not about me. Oh, yeah.
When you are in as many churches as I am that are struggling, it is just encouraging to see churches that are thriving.
Here are some highlights:
Outreach is my favorite magazine. I would highly encourage you to subscribe. For more information, see:
Also, see John Vaughan's web site. John Vaughn did the actual research and compiled the list for Outreach:
What do all these churches have in common? Not much. They are Charismatic and Charismatic-hating. They are contemporary and old fashioned. They are Sunday School based and home group based. They are seeker targeted and seeker hostile. They are of every denomination--and no denomination. They are found in every geographical area. They are found in cities and relatively small towns. Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, AR made the list. I noticed it because my brother used to be on staff there. I have been to Jonesboro. It is, well, Jonesboro. This is not Atlanta or Dallas, this is Jonesboro for heaven's sake.
What do these churches have in common? Not much. But, they do have one thing in common. There is one thing that every single one of these churches shares in common--no exceptions. (Can I get a drum roll, please?)
They all have able communicators in the pulpit. Crowds do not throng to boring preaching. One of Thom Rainer's findings years ago is that the number one predictor of the growth of any church is the preaching ability of the preacher. People like to go where the preaching is interesting. In this issue of Outreach, Thom Rainer repeats this finding, "Our reseach has shown consistently that while megachurch growth can be explained a number of ways, one factor is pervasive [Note: ONE factor]: Megachurches have high quality preaching.
Let's take it down a level. Let's talk about Sunday School classes and small groups. The number one predictor of the growth of any group is the teaching ability of the leader.
This is not to say that other things don't matter. Everything matters. Music matters. Fellowship matters. Facilities matter. Everything matters. But, the thing that matters most, in terms of predicting the growth of any group, be it a small group or a mega-church is the communication ability of the communicator.
The importance of great preaching to the growth of churches and great teaching to the growth of classes is often missed because of one thing. When Bill Hybels teaches on how to become a prevailing church (his preferred term to growing church) it is a little brash for him to say, "The reason Willowcreek has grown is because of my great preaching." It may be brash of him to say, but it is true.
This is why I would like to ask you to join me in a commitment. If you are a communicator, I would like to challenge you to make a promise to God that for the rest of your life, as long as you get to do this thing called communication, you are going to work at getting better and better at it. I want to invite you to continually read the books, listen to the audio, take the classes and attend the seminars that will help you to be a better and better communicator.
"Where do I begin?" you might be asking? What do I read that will help me be a better communicator? I have good news for you. Every year, someone will write another great book on communication. This year, the book is Andy Stanley and Lane Jones' new book Communicating for a Change. Don't walk--run to your nearest book store and get this book- it is great. If I were a Pastor we would be studying this book with my teachers this fall. It is great. I rarely finish books. I devoured this one and will likely read it again. If Andy releases any audio, I will likely buy those and listen. It is just that good.
Communicating for a Change is divided into two sections. The first half is a story about a man who learned to preach from a truck driver. In this story, the authors weave into the conversation the seven principles of Communicating for a Change. The second half details the seven principles in a more straightforward way.
Principle #1: Determine your goal
There are three approaches to teaching adults:
Andy subscribes to the last one. The point is not to make smarter sinners. The point is not to cover the material. The point is to teach people how to be doers of the word, not hearers only.
What is wrong with this rendition of the Great Commission:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
Did you find it? I left out two important words: "to obey." The text actually says, "teaching them to obey." That is the goal of effective teaching.
Andy tells the story of a conversation he has with one of their communicators. He--not Andy, the other guy--was trying desperately to keep everything straight in his head. He badly wanted to get it right, to do well. Andy called him to the side just before he was to speak and gave him a talk he has given to himself many times:
Principle #2: Pick a point
The goal is life-change. The point is the single area of life-change that we are seeking in this teaching. What is the one thing you want to communicate to your people this week? What is the one thing I want the to know? What do I want them to do about it?
I ought to be able to stop you before you walked into class and ask, "What are you going to teach today?" You ought to be able to say in one sentence. I ought to be able to ask any one of your students after class, "What did the teacher teach on today?" And, I ought to hear the same answer.
Andy is a big fan of the one-point sermon and not a big fan of the three point sermon. You might be thinking, "Well, what about his dad? Charles Stanley seems to have done O.K. with the three point sermon.
Andy talks about a conversation he had with his dad about this at their monthly breakfast meeting. "You have to have a burden," Charles said. "If you don't have a burden, it is just a bunch of fluff."
As they continued their conversation it became clear that when he talked about the burden, he was talking about the one thing. That one message, idea, principle or truth that just had to be communicated. The one thing isn't just information. It isn't just a carefully crafted phrase. It is literally a burden. It is a burden that weighs so heavily on the heart of the communicator that he or she must deliver it. Everyone knows whether the communicator is carrying a burden or dispensing information.
Principle #3: Create a map
Andy recommends a five-step process in communicating the one thing. He calls it ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE.
ME: This section introduces the speaker to the audience and to the dilemma the speaker has been wrestling with.
WE: In this section the speaker seeks to find common ground with the audience around this dilemma. We don't want to transition to the next section until we have created a tension that the audience is dying for you to solve. In other words, assume no interest.
God: In this section the speaker unpacks what the Bible has to say about the matter. Andy recommends that you avoid two extremes. We don't want to be so shallow that we fail to really deal with the text, but we also don't want to go so deep that we lose the audience. There is such a thing as teaching that is too deep for this audience at this time.
YOU: This is application. Imagine someone asked you after your teaching: "What do you want me to do about what you said today?" Again, you ought to be able to answer in a sentence or two. Andy Stanley rarely makes the application life-altering decisions. Rather, he prods people to take baby steps in the right direction--to try something today or this week.
WE: This section is all about inspiration. It is about vision casting. If we can find one, use a heart warming story to drive the point home. Otherwise, perhaps a simple question would do.
This five-step approach to teaching is amazingly flexible and can work with virtually any material. It creates a great map for taking people from where they are to where you want them to be.
Next week we will look at the final four principles:
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