Don’t Presume They Know

Effective preaching requires good understanding of both the passage and the people.  Purposeful audience analysis helps the preacher know how to tailor the study of stages 1-4 into a message in stages 5-8.  Obviously the preacher will try to aim for relevance and pitch the messaeg at the right level.  It is this level that can easily trip us up.

At one extreme it is possible to hyper-patronize listeners by spelling out every element of the message as if they understand nothing.  At the other extreme it is possible to bamboozle listeners and go completely over their heads with technical vocabulary and assumed awareness of information needed for the message to make sense.  While these are two extremes, it is worth noting that the danger in one direction is greater than in the other.

As long as the attitude of the preacher is not overtly patronizing, people will listen to basic material, even if they think it is for the sake of others who may be present.  However, people struggle to stay focused when things are going above their heads.  Be careful not to assume people know everything necessary to understand what you are saying.  Don’t assume they know when the story fits in Bible history, or what that theological term means, or what had happened previously in the life of that character.

You don’t have to speak like you are talking to a group of children, instead try to make the message seem “easy” just as a competent sportsman or woman makes their sport look easy.  A great tennis player, ball player, or whatever, doesn’t make it look intricate and complex.  Perhaps we can follow suit in the pulpit.  Our aim is not to bamboozle or impress, our aim is to communicate and equip.

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