I’m not referring specifically to the speed of delivery here. Some of us need to slow down sometimes, others could really do with speeding up slightly, and we all need to be sensitive to the particular listeners before us.
I am referring to the pace of information being offered. It is easy, especially after studying for many hours, to overload the listeners’ bandwidth. Listeners need time to process information. Images take time to form. Stories take time to tell. Take the necessary time.
As well as taking the necessary time, be aware of the aural equivalent of optical illusions. There are things we do that may not speed up the pace the words are emerging, but will give the impression that the information is rushing out:
1. Mini illustrations, quotes and anecdotes. It is easy to jump through illustrations really quickly. It may work, or it may overwhelm the bandwidth.
2. Piling up Biblical illustrations. It is so easy to jump in and out of a biblical book, then another, and another. All the while you are seeking to underline the point of the main passage, but listeners can easily feel overwhelmed with unfamiliar contexts and content (even if they know the contexts, it still takes mental effort to process a passing illustration).
3. Key explanations unrestated. It is easy to make a vital connection. I was just listening to a sermon where a key, critical, vital connection was made in the space of a handful of words. “Here xyz means jkl.” It was a link that required some backing up and explanation. It slipped by and the next five minutes I was struggling to listen because I didn’t get the four-word sentence (I understood the sentence, but couldn’t see how he got there from that verse).
4. Transitions. While it is possible to drive quickly down the straight road, we need to slow down through corners. Transitioning between one point and the next is a critical moment in the message, but it is so easy to fly through the bends.
5. Multiple purposes. If you are trying to achieve too many things, the message will feel choppy and disconnected. When listeners can’t follow the flow that comes from unity of purpose, they will feel like the message is firing in multiple directions and therefore struggle to take it all in (in fact, they won’t, they’ll reprocess for unity and probably make the main thing the most compelling illustration or story used!)
Let’s beware of things we may do that give the sense of being too fast. Allow listeners enough time in the passage you’re preaching to let it soak down into their lives and saturate their hearts.