Building Bridges to Communicate

by John Meador

As preachers, the quest to connect our people with the Scriptures is paramount. Since the Scriptures tell us that the seed for transforming lives is but one thing-the Bible itself-our challenge becomes, "How do I best put the Word in peoples' lives through my preaching?

To do this we must have "balance" in our messages. The desire and need for balance in our preaching is what compels us to insure we have both biblical content and relevant communication. To be both biblically-based and culturally relevant, three things must be present:

First, an in-depth understanding of God's Word, which comes as we spend time with God in study and prayer. This is non-optional. Your lack of it would make you virtually unusable in the hands of God. Since you are to be His messenger, if you fail in this category, He may simply put you on the shelf.

Second, balance is forged in the realm of relationships with real people who struggle with real issues. The greatest advice I've ever been given is this: "The most important word in the English language is the word relationship.'" That statement speaks to relevance. To be relevant, we must be involved with our people:

1. Maintain e-mail contact with your people.

2. Listen to people and "hear" between the lines.

3. Create a feedback team to get honest evaluation and constructive comments.

4. Mentor people (you should be doing this anyway) and let God teach you through those mentoring relationships how to connect with real life issues.

Third, and finally, balance is completed when we learn to build bridges of communication so real truth meets real life issues. Why do we need to build bridges of communication? The answers are myriad. One reason is that Jesus built bridges to the people in His teachings. He used frequent word pictures; He drew illustrations from nature; He used mysterious pauses (remember He drew lines in the sand before the Pharisees); He asked heart-rending questions; and He told intriguing stories. Jesus is the master communicator.

Another reason is that people are wired to see variety in communication. Studies show that people lose interest in a TV program if the image doesn't change every three seconds. What does that say about the pastor who stands in one place for forty minutes and never varies his tone of presentation? It says he's already lost many of his people.

Preaching to a "remote control" generation is challenging. Standing and delivering spiritual information to people who can take the Internet and get some of that same information in seconds-and who are used to doing so on a regular basis-places us as pastors in a dilemma. Pastors typically fall into one of three categories:

1. We determine to change nothing, and preach as though it were another era.

2. We become ultra creative, but lose the significant content of the Word that will change people's lives.

3. We look for balance. We become creative without compromise. We use creativity to illustrate, to introduce, and to conclude, but we never cease emphasizing the truth of God's Word, and never cease emphasizing the words of God's Truth!

Balanced preaching in this light is what I call "creative exposition." I still do my primary study in the text of Scripture. I still put in those hours in prayer and word studies. I still preach through the Scriptures and honor the texts. I still read the Word to people as we begin, and highlight each segment of the text. I just creatively introduce, illustrate, and conclude.

I spend time determining what my resources are, to keep them in a listening and hearing mode. After all, if I know they are listening, and I realize that what I'm giving them will change their lives, I sense I'm moving into those great moments of transformation that we all pray for on a daily basis.

I recently preached a message on forgiveness, entitled "Life Won't Wait on the Unforgiving," out of Matthew 18. I asked my creative team to find suitcases and bags to litter across the stage before the service, and I introduced the message by talking about the baggage of unforgiveness that people carry. Throughout the presentation, I picked up various pieces and talked about various areas of unforgiveness, and finally I led the people to imagine having to carry it all. The application of the text was to forgive, and we showed them a picture of getting rid of baggage. It was simple, effective, and memorable. Lives were transformed.

You get the point. Use all your resources, not just your words. Cultivate stories, video clips, and other people to help you illustrate. Make it fun to preach and exciting to listen to, but never, ever lessen the transformational content of God's Word.

Then watch as God blesses His Word, never allowing it to return void.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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