By Joe McKeever
Email marketers are always on the job, seeking more clever and effective ways to cut through the clutter.
Their goal is to have you skid to a stop and open their message. They know you’re racing through your mailbox with your finger on the “delete” button.
We all get so many that begin, “Dearest Benefactor,” “I have a favor to ask of you; please contact me,” or “Would you like to fly a plane?” Deleting such spam is no chore.
The problem is that occasionally we miss a legitimate message from a friend because it looked like all the other junk. It didn’t stand out.
In a previous pastorate, I was cutting 30-second spots for our church at a Top 40 radio station. This being my first time in that studio, the salesperson wanted to make sure I knew what was playing in and around my message.
She turned up the volume on what was being broadcasted at that moment. THE DJ WAS BLARING OUT HIS MESSAGE! The music was EAR-SPLITTING, and the announcer was SHOUTING!!!
So, when I began speaking into the microphone in a conversational tone, she stopped the recording.
“Pastor, did you not hear what I just said?” she asked. “You need to fit in with our format.”
I politely replied, “Thank you, but I don’t want to ‘fit in.’ I’d like to stand out.”
She agreed to let me do it my way for the first series of spots, and we’d discuss the results on my next visit.
Six weeks later, on my return, she said, “You’re right. The message you share isn’t one that needs to be blared and shouted, but is most effective when given thoughtfully and reasonably.”
The pastor needs to bear this in mind while preparing the message. How do you help the sermon stand out from the noise and clutter your people hear every day?
Here are some thoughts and suggestions.
1. Ask the Father.
No one is more concerned that the people hear and comprehend His message than the One who called you into this work in the first place.
Jesus began a tough message with, “I say to you who hear….” (Luke 6:27). Not everyone does. So, we do all we can to help those who do.
2. Experiment with different approaches ahead of time.
Sometimes stories or difficult points need a different tool. You don’t always need a hammer because not everything is a nail.
But when you want to try something new, test it out with someone you trust first.
Trying out a new approach on my wife always worked well when I was pastoring. “Honey, do you have time to listen to something?” I can hear it now.
3. Study effective preachers and speakers to see what they’re doing.
Most people won’t be analyzing Adrian Rogers’ or Andy Stanley’s sermon techniques or Andy Andrews’ motivational messages for his uniqueness, but you will.
You want to know what made them effective communicators.
4. Imitate no one, but find your own voice.
While you want to learn from others, you do not want to mimic them. Do it your way.
God has called you, specifically you, to your current position. Don’t forget that when tempted to copy someone else.
5. Find out the best approach for your unique audience.
You have a congregation full of retired senior citizens or a church packed with young professionals. Discover what resonates best with those God has given you, but don’t get complacent.
Nothing will help you learn the best approach like experimenting with various ways of communicating your message.
Dr. James Taylor, a longtime preaching professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, used to say, “In preaching, the poorest style is the kind you do most often. Vary your approach!”
Sometimes you want to blend in, and sometimes you’ll want to stand out. Ask the Father to help you know when is the right time for each!