I think there is one fear that preachers may have, but may be unwilling to face. It’s also true of struggling school teachers, or any public speaker. It is the fear that the listeners may have already left the room, even though their bodies are still sat there.
The signs are obvious – fidgeting, vacant stares, shuffling, unusual levels of coughing or yawning, raised eyebrows, longing looks toward the clock on the wall or the watch on the wrist. It may be that some people will wish they were somewhere else no matter what you do. But what if the number grows from the few relatively unreachables to cross the line into an unacceptable range?
Some speakers may, I suspect, have a deep awareness of this reality every time they preach. But it must be hard to see it for what it is. Much safer to speak of spiritual warfare, or to critique the congregation, or to have a pithy grabber about Jeremiah and other unloved prophets, or to pretend the problem is not there at all. But if it is, it is.
Perhaps some preachers would have the courage to take the faith step of calling it what it is. If you are not engaging the listeners, be honest about that in your prayers. I don’t recall who said it is a sin to bore people with the Bible, but I’m inclined to agree.
What if you’re not consistently boring, but dip your toe in now and then like most of us? Then perhaps it is worth thinking about what it takes to engage a gathering of listeners. It is important to be faithful to the text, but it is something other than that. It is important to be clear in your content and delivery, but it is more than that. It is important to be relevant in your message, but it is more than that. It is the human to human communication characteristic of being engaging.
Possible ingredients to add to faithful, clear and relevant content, in no particular order: energy, smile, humour, confidence, gentleness, humility, authority, sensitivity, warmth, eye contact, vocal variation, naturalness, authenticity, laughter, affection, poise, and you can probably add to the list . . .