It’s true: if you want to be a better preacher, you should turn that radio dial to a country music station from time to time. I’m not suggesting that you have to like country music, but I am suggesting that you listen to it once in a while. This is a prescription of mine for just about anyone I’ve ever coached to become a better preacher or teacher.
Here’s why. A missing element for most aspiring preachers is the capacity to move people emotionally—to get them to the “ah-ha” moment when the listener says, “Wow, this is impacting me. This is totally worth it.” Younger preachers often convey a lot of information, but they often don’t focus the message in a clear way that brings listeners to that emotional discovery moment. But country music does that. Seriously. Listen to it, and you’ll see that within the context of telling a story, most of the songs have a pithy, succinct, emotionally-packed big idea. I’m not a fan of country music, per se, and I could name very few artists or songs. But when I need to be reminded of ways to super-charge my messages, that’s one of the places I turn.
Two good resources:
The one thing we’ve learned about public speaking is: one thing. Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching gave us the technical method of focusing a message (subject + complement = big idea) to a singular thought, with the prodding to make the idea succinct and repeatable. Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change pushed us even further in terms of making a memorable statement that hearers can take into their week. Those are two good books, and I highly recommend them. If you can figure out how to craft a single idea you’re well on your way toward creating an excellent message.
Country music teaches us about story…
This is where country music can help you. Just listen to it (particularly pay attention to the refrain) when you’re driving or running or recreating, and you’ll find that you’ll pick up a knack for saying things in more simple, compact, and emotionally impactful ways. Make that an experiment for the next few weeks, and I’ll be you’ll see what I mean. It will benefit your preaching and teaching.
And you might even get back the truck, the girlfriend, the dog, and the farm.
(Did you know I regularly coach people in preaching and public speaking, and I have years of experience doing so? Check out my Coaching Services page above if you’re interested in improving your skills in this area.)