Friday, January 22, 2010

Communicating For Change, by Andy Stanley & Lane Jones

This new year brought a reading assignment from my Free Methodist district group - Communicating for Change, by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. The book (2006) is concerned with the task of preaching, both its motivation and its method.
Revealed in its title is the motivation Stanley understands with preaching - that it's purpose is to bring about change, or lead to transformation, among those who hear preaching.
The front half of the book the authors convey their principles with a parable. In the parable they take up the question, what's the purpose of preaching? A response they've viewed as part of homiletical debate is: a) to teach the Bible to people, or b) to teach people the Bible. This response, part of what they generalize as the homiletical education, they, in the end, wipe away. Preaching, in their estimation, isn't primarily about teaching or knowledge transfer, but it's about conveying knowledge in a form and fashion that changes a person's life. And the ultimate change is embracing Jesus as Lord.

The motivating factor does not consume the majority of the story or detailed description. The major portion is on mechanics. Given a differently stated goal, they proceed to say the methods have to change. Out in the yard for sale are three point sermons, alliteration and acrostics. The main course proscribed is a one point sermon. At the end of the book Stanley says he generally preaches for 40 minutes on one point.

Along the way they keep returning to their theme, they are consistent with one point. they do offer some steps, not points, steps, to arrive at their goal:
  • Determine your goal
  • pick a point
  • create a map
  • internalize the message
  • engage your audience
  • find your voice
  • start all over

Also offered profusely is Stanley's method of outlining a sermon; Me-We-God-You-We. Begin, he says, by conveying a sense of who you are a person who is speaking and begin to create, or display the tension that exists in life, then note how that tension is universal, how We all face the question in some way or another. Next, discover what God has to say to the question, apply it to You, and close with how God's application creates, shapes, changes the world/community/family We live in.

Reading through Stanley's thoughts I've found myself saying, I can do better, I must do better. The one aspect most challenging to me was to "listen to yourself." He says that's where communicators really can improve. That's going to be one of my tasks going forward.

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