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preaching and the human connection

At the Yale Lectures on Preaching in 1877, Phillips Brooks offered a definition of preaching that has stood the test of time.  He defined preaching as “the communication of truth through personality.”

There are two parts to this definition.

  1. Preaching speaks truth.
  2. Preaching is delivered through a preacher.

Assuming that the content of a sermon is true, that it is communicating truth, then the second part of the definition becomes critical.  The impact of a message increases or decreases depending upon the human connection the audience feels with the preacher.  This is not about being boring or relevant; it is about being human.

Your audience wants to hear a word from God.  They want to hear what is true.  But — and this is important — they have chosen to hear it from you.

Here are a few quick tips when it comes to forming a human connection with your audience:

  • Be yourself.  Don’t speak in a “preacher’s voice” or use words you wouldn’t use in a regular conversation.
  • Look at them.  If you avoided eye contact in a coffee conversation, the other person would assume you didn’t like them.
  • Show how you have wrestled with the text.  If there are parts you don’t understand, say so.  If a verse led you to repentance, say so.
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously.  Remember: you’re human, too.

Preachers and listeners out there, let us know what you think.