One of the more prominent figures in a church is that of the pastor. The pastor is essentially the chairman of the board of directors, where the church elders make up the remaining members. Regardless of how a particular church has formed its government, the pastor is the public face of the organization. One of the reasons (besides Biblical) the pastor is at the fore-front is because week-in and week-out, the pastor has to get in front of hundreds of people and preach a sermon.
There’s a widely held belief that the number one fear or any particular individual is that of public speaking. A church pastor has to perform public speaking at least once a week. Talk about bravery!
As brave as it is for pastors to get in front of a lot of people, I have several problems with regards to their approach on public speaking. I’ve attended many churches, and the style of preaching is more-or-less the same. The arena of public speaking is to capture the audience’s attention and lead them to a logical conclusion. Pastors and public speaking, however, tend to break a lot of the rules when it comes to giving a speech.
In a typical formulaic speech, the first thing the speaker must establish is credibility. If the speaker has no credibility, then there is no reason for the person to continue to speak. The next thing the speaker must establish is emotional appeal. The speaker must grab everyone’s attention and lead them to a conclusion. The last thing the speaker must establish is a logical flow. The speech should be structured so that the audience will be led to the conclusion logically.
Listed below is a rough outline of a typical speech:
- Introduction (Establish credibility).
- Tell the audience what the speech is about and what you intend to tell them.
- Go over all of the points in a logical order.
- Conclusion. Remind the audience of what you have told them.
A pastor’s speech (from my own experience) goes a little like this:
- Introduction. No establishment of credibility is needed because of the pastor status.
- Introduce the context of the Bible verses.
- Read the Bible verses.
- Start going through each Bible verse one-by-one.
- Talk about each Bible verse individually and give a brief story.
- Re-read the Bible verses and give another brief story.
- Start the close of the sermon.
- Read the Bible verses again. Reiterate the overall point.
- Tell another brief story.
- Read one last verse.
- Tell another brief story.
- Tell the audience how everything was relevant.
- Quote an established Christian author.
- Read one more verse.
If you have observed the above points, you will note that the conclusion started somewhere in the middle of the speech. I have nothing wrong with a pastor going over the allocated time, or even if a sermon seems to drag on and on. However, when a pastor states, “I will close with this”, the audience is about ready to go. When the sermon then drags on for twenty more minutes, I can imagine why the audience is a little peeved.
If a pastor ever reads this, here is my advice. Never use the words “close”, “conclude”, “end with”, “finally”, or “in conclusion” unless you are two minutes from wrapping up. The worst thing an audience member can hear is, “After these four points, I will conclude.”
It amazes me that pastors can make somebody feel guilty for being bored when the pastor himself is a poor public speaker. Being a pastor is not a golden ticket for being a boring public speaker. Sometimes when I’m sitting in church, I can hear the “Monty Python” characters saying, “Get on with it!” There’s no real reason to drag on a point. There’s also no reason to lie to your audience. If the pastor is going to conclude, then the pastor should conclude — period.
As a disclaimer, this is in no way targeted towards any particular pastor (including the one I currently have). I happen to like my current pastor. Thanks for reading.