Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is monologue dead?

Preaching is finished, some would have us think. It's the internet age of short attention spans. It's the cinema age where you can hold someone for 180 minutes... if you do it with a huge audio-visual experience.

But, bucking the trend is TED. Inspirational talks between three and eighteen minutes long that are crafted to capture their audience. Speakers are used to saying more but the 18 minute maximum requires speakers to refine their material rigorously and say only what needs to be said. A lesson for preachers to consider!

When you experience good communication it makes everything else look amateur and clunky.

When you read Andy Stanley's Communicating for a change you discover story telling that carries you along. When you read Donald Miller you experience imagination and creativity that makes you realise you're often quite dull. Bad monologues can't compete.

Spirit-filled congregations will tolerate unengaging preaching for a while because they're hungry for the word. But, urgh.

I want to pursue better preaching and - alongside deepening communion with God - thinking about TED is a good way to do that. I've got a lot to learn. A lot.

Help is on hand.

Jeremy Donovan - How to deliver a TED Talk - 100 page Kindle book for £1.95.
  • Donovan's book is no TED talk, it's his research on the TED way of speaking.  He takes the lid off.
  • Excellent on opening a talk with stories and questions. And using them to keep re-engaging the listener, throughout the talk - don't just grab your audience, keep grabbing them again and again.
  • Don't miss his section on introducing a speaker - CU's and churches take note!
  • Tony Morgan summarises 10 applications for teaching pastors from Donovan's book.
There's much more to preaching than just engaging communication, but many a divine revelation has been made to a preacher in their study that has been buried beneath poor communication. At least I know I've done that.

I'm not saying TED is the perfect model for preaching. But TED speakers are undeniably among the best communicators in the world, the most engaging, and most impacting. We don't depend on wise words and rhetoric, but there is such a thing as good and bad communication. The same Paul who dismisses a dependence on Greek Rhetoric in 1 Corinthians is a master persuader, a builder of arguments and a masterful teller of stories.  So too, Jesus.
  • Watch TED Talks - just bask in a few videos and catch a vision for better communication. 
TED rests on its speakers having world changing messages, the Christian preacher has no place in the pulpit if they've not got the definitive world changing message. But if the preacher doesn't open their mouth, and doesn't speak a language that can be understood by the congregation, and doesn't convey a message then the preacher isn't preaching.

Love for Christ raises the bar for the preacher to communicate better. This matters. Content is king, but preachers are heralds of content - verbal artists who speak the word of God, speaking people who offer Christ to people. What is said and how its said. The gospel is the ultimate idea worth sharing, the invitation worth receiving, an encounter with the person - Jesus - who is worth knowing.


  1. I've been around long enough to remember when charismatics used to sneer at homiletics.

    Glad we're growing up a bit!

    Good post, thanks.

    1. Movements that abandon preaching don't spread far or last very long... Thankful that charismatic life goes hand in hand with a strong emphasis on preaching.