Category Archives: Communication

What Makes Preaching Good (according to listeners)?

Hans Vandergeest, a Lutheran theological liberal set about to study what constituted a good or great sermon according to listeners. He studied a couple hundred or so sermons and evaluated listener responses. He then categorized their responses into three groupings. All sermons characterized as being good or great had all three of the following elements in them:
1. Geborgenheit

What emotions does the sermon elicit? Is the sermon warm or cold? Is it gripping or moving? Does the sermon appeal to the emotional and mystical needs of the child of God: trust, certainty, assurance, etc? Is there intimacy (as in Psalm 23, 131 and Zeph. 3:17) Do the people respond with feelings of trust, courage, peace. Do they have a sense of being fed? Does the sermon address the personal dimension and love- relationship with God?
Perspective that preaching addresses: love. The affections, touching upon the priesthood of the believer.
2. Befreiung

This is less deep, but more broad than Geborgenheir. It deals with such things as, “Does the sermon touch my life?” or “I never thought of it that way before…” God’s people respond when they have a sense that they are liberated from old patterns to find hope in their situations. Does the sermon awaken wonder? Did the preacher preach in a surprising way? Does it underscore victory of God’s kingdom in our own moment of time?
Perspective that preaching addresses: hope. It touches upon the kingship of the believer, upon one’s volition. What are they to do or can they do now based upon what they have heard?
3. Erkennen

The sermon taught something biblically. There is doctrinal content or something the listener learned. The sermon addresses faith, knowledge and growing in the Truth.
Perspective that preaching addresses: faith. Focus upon the prophetic, the intellect, and the mind. What will they think now? What do they know?


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Four Things About Preaching from Colossians 1

Read  Colossians 1:25-29

We can learn four important things about biblical preaching from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

1. Paul, like all God-ordained ministers, was appointed to the office of preacher (1:25)

…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known

2.  There is an essential message of preaching (1:25b-28a)

to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

3.  There is a biblical method for preaching (1:28b)

…warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

4. He shows what is the aim of preaching (28c-29)

…that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

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A Lesson on Biblical Preaching

A. One of the biblical marks of a true church is biblical preaching. Why?

1.  The church of Jesus Christ is the place where true teaching takes place

(Prov. 29:18; Hosea 4:6; Matt. 28:19)

 2.   Because one of the ways God the Holy Spirit imparts His grace is

through preaching (1 Peter  1:25).

 3.  Because in the Old Testament God’s Word was God’s work. What he

spoke through his ordained “mouthpieces” set into action what he

was doing.

a.  Read Isaiah 55:10-11.  What does this passage say about

proclaiming God’s Word?

b. Read the following verses: Jeremiah 1:9; 23:16, 28; 27:14-16;

compare 2 Peter 1:21.

What does this tell us God’s Word, man’s word, and


4.  Because in the New Testament God speaks through specially called

and ordained men

a.  Mark 1:14, John 1:1ff, Heb. 1:1-2 – through whom does God


b.  Mark 1; John 1 – who else does God use to proclaim His truth?

 c.  Mark 3:14, 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:5 – and who else?

            So, one of the main marks of a true church is true and faithful


B.  What is true and faithful preaching?

1.  One of the key passages about preaching is 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

This text is important because it bridges the span between the

apostle’s era and ours.

2.  We know that in the Old Testament, when the prophets faithfully

proclaimed God’s Word they weren’t merely giving information.

By studying the Old Testament closely we see that preaching  the

Word of God wasn’t merely telling about God’s deeds. It wasn’t

merely telling God’s will for living or his plan for the future. Instead

his Word proclaimed was His work. It was his redemptive activity.

It was life changing power and activity (see for example Psalm 33:6,

9; 107:20; 147:18 and Romans  1:14).

3.  Preaching is indeed communication, but it is a very unique form of

communication.  How so?

a.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term for preaching, which is

used by Paul in 2 Timothy 4 is used in several ways:

(1)   Genesis 41:43, Daniel 3:4 – ______________________

(2)   Ex. 36:6; 2 Chron. 36:22; Jonah 3:2,4 – ______________________

(3)    Ex. 32:5; Zeph. 3:14; Zech. 9:9 – for religious

proclamation or heralding.

b.   The term in each of the cases refers to the official herald of a

king, state, or religion. In nearly all  cases, it is an official,

public, authoritative, verbal proclamation, usually of a decree.

C.  Preaching in the New Testament

1.  Mankind now sees in Jesus what was once only heard.

a.  Jesus is true “preaching” (Heb. 1:1-2)

b.  He is God’s declared Word (Jn 1:1)

2.  Salvation comes through biblical preaching (Rom. 10:14-15)

3.  The apostles  were sent as ambassadors to preach and teach God’s

Word as God’s spokesmen (Matt. 10:5-7, 40; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim.

1:11). The Koine Greek (the language the original New Testament

was written in)  term for preaching is the same word:   kerux.

4.    Read Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 1:21; 2:4; Titus 1:3.  “Preaching” in these

verses is an official, public, authoritative, verbal proclamation of


5.    What we find when studying the Scriptures is that the English terms

preach or preaching is used for these same Greek words:

a.  to herald  (2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11; Rom. 10:14-15;

1 Cor. 2:21; 2:4)

b.  to exhort  (2 Tim. 4:2; John 14)

c.  witnessing  (Acts 26:5; 23:11)

d.  to announce  (1 John 1:3; Acts 20:20; 1 Peter 1:12; Luke 9:60)

e.   teaching  (Acts 4:2; 5:25; 13:12; 2 John 9)

f.    evangelize  (Luke 16:16; Gal. 1:11; Acts 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5)

g.   there are twenty-seven other Greek terms in the New Testament

which are synonyms for our English word “preaching.”

(From Dr. Joseph Pipa, Trinity PCA pastoral internship course;  1994)

E.  The vital importance of God’s preached word

1.   The coming of God’s Spirit is the coming of God’s Word.  There

is an intimate connection between God’s Spirit and God’s Word

(Gen. 1:1ff; Num. 11:29; Num. 24:2ff; 2 Sam 23:2; 2 Chron. 24:20;

Neh. 9:30; Ezek. 11:4; Luke 1:67-79; John 14:16-17; 16:26; 16:13)

2.  The coming of God’s kingdom is by the power of God’s Word

(Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:14-18).

a. The preached word of Christ revealed his power over Satan,

demons and evil (Matt. 11:12; 12:22-32; Mark 1:24; 3:20-30;

Luke 4:35-39).

b.  Christ’s preached word was evidence of his kingdom power

                  (Matt. 11:15; 13:16, 17; Luke 4:16ff; 16:16)

c.  The primary way God uses to extend his kingdom and bring

people into it is by the preaching of  his Word (Luke 2:29ff;

24:46-49; Acts 2; 8:4, 12ff, 32-40; 10:36ff; 11:1ff; 13:5; 15:35;

19:18;  28:23ff).

3. The growing of God’s church is by the growth of God’s Word (Acts


a.  Salvation in Jesus Christ comes through the preaching of God’s

word (Rom. 10:14-15)

b.   The apostles were sent for the purpose of preaching God’s Word

(1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11)

c.  As the Word grows so grows the church (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7;

8:14ff; 10:36ff; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20)  (Dr. Dave Eby, 1996).

4.   The preaching of God’s Word is therefore a high and essential

priority of God’s Church

(Acts 2:42-27; 5:42; 17:11; 1 Pet. 1:25; Rom. 1:14ff; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet.

1:3ff; 3:18; 1 John 2:5).

 F.  The preached Word is the very power of God.

1.   1 Cor. 1:20ff – preaching is foolishness to natural man, but the power

to save.

2.   Matt 11:12; Mark 3:20ff – the preached Word is power over Satan’s


3. Matt. 4:23; 9:35 – the preached Word either brought forth miracles

and signs, or was confirmed by miracles and signs.  It was and is


4.  Matt. 11:15; Lk 16:16; Isa. 40:9 – the preached Word is the power

that brings down the gates of Hell and is the power through which

God’s kingdom grows.

5. Acts has many illustrations for how God’s Word goes forth and his

church grows through the means of the teaching and preaching of

God’s Word.

                  (Dr. Al Mawhinney, Westminster Seminary Cal., class notes; 1989)


G.  A Summary Definition of “preaching”:

Biblical preaching is God’s redemptive, life-saving, grace-giving,

mystical, Spirit-endowed work, because it is the official, authoritative

proclamation of King Jesus to his people and to the world.

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Listen Up!

In my opinion, the quality of a good relationship is measured in part by how well the parties listen to each other.  Reflecting back on the best of all times with others it was when genuine conversation took place; where there was a sweet rhythmic dance of the dialog.  I am reminded of such times with a set of friends in Louisiana. We’d gather spontaneously, usually at our home.  What often started off as checking in with each other ended up hours later with a most memorable and delicious fraternity.  We joked and laughed as we played games, then strolled into one another’s lives touching upon the ups and downs we faced.  Often we would get seriously quiet as we contemplated some pretty profound things one or more of us were facing.  At times we would cry together. At other times we would laugh together.  All in all, those were good times, and we bonded more than mere friends would.  In those hours we were like an ideal family.

As time marched on, those events happened less and less.  Why?  We had tasted something very good, and we longed for it.  The most obvious reason was that we moved away, or they did.  Periodically when we would travel to Boise, we would enter into such heavenly episodes with family or those old friends (who had lived in Louisiana).  Once in a while we found the dance among people and friends in Denver, San Diego, Monterey, or San Jose.

Certainly there is a positive chemistry between dancers. Temperaments, personalities, and common interests come into play.  With some, such as a dear family we met in Long Beach before we moved, things just click. With them it is as if we had known each other for years and therefore could converse pretty much about anything.
But why?  There are, no doubt, many reasons.  I will name two.  First of all, I think that we all had a mutual respect for each other.  There was no fear.  Neither was there an attempt to be better than the other.  There was a simple humility that said, “You are important and I am going to respect you and what you say.”  Second, I believe, is that there’s a willingness and ability to listen.

As a seventh grader, relatively new to a town in New Jersey, I wanted to know how I could make friends.  In one of our required hours at the school library I noticed a book that grabbed my attention.  Now that was rare because I had not yet learned to enjoy reading.  The book was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  The biggest thing I gleaned from that popular and informative book was the value and importance of listening. From that time on listening was a premium quality worth owning.

A few years ago, while preparing to teach a leadership class on the subject of communication, I came across another good book. Listen Up by Barker and Watson is well worth absorbing.  It is from this book that I write the rest of this article.

One of the reasons why I (we) have not often been able to find those enriching engagements is because most people are poor listeners.  The Bible is informative on this subject, as is Listen Up. Here are a few reasons:

* they never learned good skills for listening
* they learned skills from bad behaviors taught or modeled by others
* laziness (for it takes work to hear a person out)
* mental deficiency or disorder
* mental fatigue
* talking too much so as not to give others the chance to talk

However, it seems the most common reason is due to pride.  Pride carries the belief and attitude that what another person has to say is unimportant. Pride says that I know enough or more, so I have no reason to hear you.  Pride says that I am more important, so I will not waste my effort or time on you.

Pride also practices irritating habits. Listen Up lists only the top ten (Barker and Watson, p. 88), but they are worth mentioning:

1.    Interrupting the speaker.
2.    Not looking at the speaker.
3.    Rushing the speaker and making him feel that he’s wasting the listener’s time.
4.    Showing interest in something other than the conversation.
5.    Getting ahead of the speaker and finishing her thoughts.
6.    Not responding to the speaker’s requests.
7.    Saying, “Yes, but…,” as if the listener has made up his mind.
8.    Topping the speaker’s story with “That reminds me…” or “That’s nothing, let me tell you about…”
9.    Forgetting what was talked about previously.
10.    Asking too many questions about details.

What I seem to encounter most often by others in my little world is the habit of disconnecting within the first few words of a discussion.  Their eyes get this glazed over look revealing they have changed their mental channel.  On occasion I’ll start a conversation in one direction and jump to something completely unrelated just to see if there’s any reaction.  There rarely is.

The other thing that often occurs is being cut off by the “listener” while you are speaking.  Oh, pardon me, but was I talking? The third most annoying thing that frequently happens is when someone will tell you something, usually having to do with their life, and when you begin to sympathize by talking about something similarly encountered they ignore what you say and continue talking about their thing or their life.

Those irritating habits are certainly annoying. What’s more, they are denigrating and at times humiliating. Like the pride from which they flow, they say that “I am unimportant, unworthy of being in their presence.”  So, my response, good or not, is to leave, or if it’s someone who is known to have these irritating habits then I just merely refuse to engage, and if possible to avoid altogether.  Nearly everyone who comes to mind who regularly does these things do not even seem to care whether anyone is listening.  They’ll talk and talk and talk.  I suppose it’s because they are the only ones they will listen to?

Frankly, bad listening negates relationships. Bad listening will not allow for the dance of caring engagements or the melody and rhythm of beautiful dialogs. Indeed, bad listening often destroys established relationships, be they friendships, marriages or familial ties. For all those counts I really, really hate bad listening. It’s torture. My worst nightmare would be that I would end up in Hell for eternity, and Hell would be a place where you are among a dozen or so people who are all perpetually talking but no one is listening.  I am there, but functionally invisible. Perhaps I hate bad listening most of all because it steals the slightest opportunity to have a precious, rewarding, life-enhancing discourse and exchange?  It’s like going to a dinner and being served a plate of rotting, putrid fish when you know that the possibility exists for having your favorite dish.

So what to do?  Bad listeners, can, with desire, determination, training and a good measure of humility, become effective and good listeners.  The authors of Listen Up tell us that good and effective listeners have these common characteristics (Barker and Watson, p. 108):

1.    patient
2.    caring
3.    loving
4.    understanding
5.    selfless
6.    attentive
7.    poised
8.    generous
9.    open-minded
10.    thoughtful
11.    intelligent
12.    empathic
13.    involved

Not surprisingly, most of these qualities are presented in biblical Scriptures (but that’s for another time).
The authors help us by giving us strategies for improving our listening skills (Barker and Watson, pp. 109 ff).  Of course they provide details, but allow me, if you will, to highlight their four main points.

First, know when to be silent and when to speak.  Counselors have used a very simple technique, particularly with couples who are having a difficult time communicating.  They give the one partner an object, such as a ball.  S/he then has the right to speak.  When s/he has made the point s/he gives the object to the other person and that person speaks.  The first partner is now obligated to keep quiet and work at listening. When the second partner has had his or her say then the object goes back to the other. And so it goes. Simple, but effective training tool to develop the skill of when to speak and when to be silent.

Second, “put a lid on it.”  Keep emotions under control.  This is certainly a useful strategy in formal or business relationships.  I would say, though, that when people know how to communicate well (which involves good listening), then emotions become a natural part of the dialogical dance.  For example, loving, Christ-like relationships are supposed to have the ability to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12).  Otherwise, the authors have an excellent point, and they suggest the following “tips to stop emotions from taking over:”

1.    Be aware in advance of people and topics that trigger emotions.
2.    Analyze why you react to some words and ideas emotionally.
3.    Resist the temptation to get defensive.
4.    Empathize and remember that the speaker may have different meanings for words than you do.
5.    Withhold judgments until the speaker is finished.

Third, show interest.  It takes a basic level of humility and care to develop this.   They say we can show interest by remembering what was said in previous conversations; remembering their names; using eye contact effectively; and making it easy for others to talk.  What they mean by that is consciously doing what often happens naturally when a good rapport has been established:  nod your head, keep eye contact, lean forward, do not interrupt, and casually mimic the other person’s body language (don’t overdo this or make it obnoxiously obvious).

Finally, the authors suggest using paraphrasing and reflecting skills.  This means repeating back to the other person what you hear them saying so as to gain a healthy level of understanding.

So what’s the point of all this dribble?  Listen!  Selfish pigs (and people too) don’t listen.  Prideful ones have no room for others, and so they will live in their own little world oblivious to the reality of other worlds where people genuinely engage one another in a way that is healthy, helpful, caring and of mutual benefit. They are deaf to the music of mutual concern, benefit and affection.  Listen! Because of the great rewards good listening can reap for you, for others and for society.  Listen – because of the potential for developing and enhancing relationships.  But most importantly, for those who name the name of Jesus, listen! Listen – because he has spoken and is speaking, and calls us to hear.  Listen, because we are called to have loving sympathy, even empathy for others.  Listen, because he first listened.  Listen, so that you can dance the dance.

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How to Connect with People

(How a leader or pastor can connect with people)

In a previous article I discussed the value and the methods for successful communication, including how to listen.  However, you can be a skilled and polished communicator and a relatively good listener, yet never really connect with people.  Good leaders connect with people. Great leaders do so effectively.

Leaders influence others. Good leaders influence others for the good of the individual and/or community. “Connection is …absolutely critical if you want to influence people in a positive way. When you navigate for others, you come alongside them and travel their road for a while, helping them handle some of the obstacles and difficulties in their lives. But when you connect with them, you are asking them to come alongside you and travel your road for your and their mutual benefit.”[1]

As leaders, whether in the church or outside the church, we must connect.  It requires listening and good verbal skills, but it also requires sympathy or empathy, respect, sharing similar interests, experiences and values, and having a sincere interest in helping people grow and succeed. In other words, you are other-focused, but also believe that the direction you are leading others in is for your and their best.

So, what are some ways to effectively connect with people?

1.  See people as having value. After all, they are made in the image of God.

a.   Selfish people rarely make a connection. Proud people at times will connect with others, but it is shallow and short-lived. Humble, other-focused people genuinely relate and make significant  connection with others.

b. Recognize and respect differences in people’s personalities.

c.  Treat them with kindness and courtesy. Remember Christ’s “golden rule.”

d.   Give them a sense that they are really important. They may not be important to you, but they matter to God!

“Making one feel important is more powerful as a motivator than money, promotion, working conditions, or almost anything else.”[2]

An Illustration:

While taking advanced classes in another state over a period of three years I had the opportunity to visit the same church – a total of twelve times!  Each time I was only greeted by one or two people who took the initiative to extend themselves. All the other times I was  introduced by the person who brought me to church, and each time I was treated as if Iwere a stranger who was not worth getting to know.  Needless to say, there was no connection between us..

2.   Take the initiative to know or help them.

“There are many cases of salesmen who have nothing to offer a prospect except friendship out-selling salesmen with everything to offer – except friendship!”   – Charles B. Ruth[3]

a.      Greet them warmly.

b.      Meet them sincerely

Seek to get to know them by considering how you might be their friend. One tool to use is the acrostic “friend”. Use questions to get to know a little more about them that might include:

Family –   Something about the person and his family.

Single? Is he married? Come from a large family? Family live with him? Etc.

Recreation – What hobbies does he enjoy? What kinds of things does he like to do for fun?

Interests –   What kinds of interests does he have: reading, philosophy, social cause?

Education –  Where did he attend elementary or high school? Has s/he continued education beyond that? Is s/he pursuing courses or seminars to enhance his or her growth?

Needs –  Recently move into the area? Looking for a new church? Financially challenged?  Is there anything that I or we can reasonably do to help?

Even the greatest sales people know how to find a need and are able to fill it.  As Christians we have the greatest answer to the deepest and most serious need of all!

Dinner or dessert

How would you like to get together for lunch? We’d like to have you over for dessert, would you be interested?

3.  Find common interests or share common experiences.

4.  Communicate from the heart.

Don’t center the introduction or conversation on your own life. Allow them to get to know you, but  seek to find out about their lives.  Listen with attentiveness and empathy. Be honest and authentic.

5.   Spend time with him or her in order to connect at a deeper level.

6.   Sustain an on-going connection through genuine care[4]:

a.   Encourage – give the person hope for the future.

b.   Appreciate –  show gratitude for their contributions

c.   Affirm –   admiring his or her personal strengths, gifts or talents.

d.   Recognize –  expressing to others their accomplishments.

e.   Confront –   Address his or her failures or sins with gentleness, truth and love so that s/he may repent and change.

William A Cohen wrote:

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. You may have thought this concept has application only in religion or the practice of ethical conduct. The truth is it also has a great deal to do with good leadership. Why? Because people do not willingly follow leaders who are unconcerned with how they are treated.

Mary Kay Ash called this her ‘Golden Rule System of Management.” She not only practiced it herself, but recommended it to everyone who leads.

During World War II, the U.S. Army gathered together sixty-one of the greatest authorities in the field of psychology to prepare and publish a special study. They came from some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Harvard, Yale, Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, and many others were represented. When they were done, their research was published under the title Psychology for the Fighting Man.

One of their studies was especially unique. For the first time in the history of armies, enlisted soldiers were interviewed about what they thought about good leadership. Want to know what these thousands of soldiers thought made good leaders? The number one factor by frequency of response was ‘competence.’ The good officer was expected to know his stuff.

That answer was pretty much expected. What was not expected had to do with the next fourteen most frequently cited factors. The second, fourth, sixth and seventh most frequent responses all had to do with treatment. These were:

  • interest in the welfare of the soldier (second)
  • patience and ability to make things clear (fourth)
  • doesn’t boss you around without reason (sixth)
  • tells you when you did a good job (seventh)[5]

Once you are connected with the individual or group of people then you are able to truly lead them.

“Leadership is cultivating in people today a future willingness on their part to follow you into something new for the sake of something great.”[6]

[1] John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan. Becoming a Person of Influence; Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers; p. 165.

[2] William A. Cohen. The Art of a Leader; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall; p. 30.

[3] Maxwell and Dornan. P. 2

[4] Bobb Biehl. Increasing Your Leadership Confidence; Sisters, OR: Questar Publishers; pp. 160-161.

[5] William A. Cohen. The Art of a Leader; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall; p. 35-36.

[6] Ibid. p. 17


(c) D. Thomas Owsley – All rights reserved

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