One of the biggest challenges in sermon delivery is being yourself. Preaching is not about performing. It is not about taking on a new persona. A pulpit voice should be a thing of the past. People don’t trust performances.
Are you you? Three thoughts to ponder:
1. Being Natural Is Not Natural – When we walk up to the pulpit we step into an unnatural environment. People sitting in rows and looking up at us is not normal. Consequently, our presentation will be anything but natural if we just “go with the flow” and try to be ourselves. It takes work for movement, gesture, expression, voice, etc., to come across as natural and authentic. Remember, if people feel it is frozen, forced or fake, they will subconsciously not trust the preacher.
2. Breaking the Froze-Zone – The default reaction is to freeze. I have heard many people say something like this, “when I ran through it earlier it was so natural and free-flowing, but then I went to preach it and I froze.” That is normal. Our voices become restricted to a narrow zone of pitch with a constant level of volume and a clipped (often too rapid) pace. Our gestures become limited in variety and extent. Our expressions become as fixed as a wedding photo shoot, typically without the smile. Our movements become rigid and awkward. This is natural. Thus we need to work to break out of that fro-zone in order to come across without conveying nervousness and tension.
3. Don’t Be Too Much – Some people are more successful than others at breaking the frozen effect. They can end up going too far. While it is true that gestures need to be larger to look natural in front of a larger group of listeners, it is possible to go over the top. This can be physical excess, or vocal excess, or even content excess (beware of feeding off nervous energy and turning into a bad comedian). Dare I say it, some personalities are naturally over the top and putting them in a pulpit can make for an uncomfortable situation. If there is a chance that this applies to you, pray and then ask some trusted advisers. Not easy, but better to know than to unknowingly make others suffer.