Without the attention of the listeners, our preaching is going into thin air. God may recognize faithfulness, but He can’t be delighted by ineffective preaching when He is so concerned to get the attention of the listeners. So there are lots of ways to pursue attention. Yesterday we considered some of the important and helpful approaches. Today I’d like to offer some approaches of which we should be wary. There may be occasion for some of these in some manner, but typically let’s treat these as suspicious short-cuts.
1. Shock and Uh? If you want to get the attention of the listeners, say something outrageous, perhaps even offensive. They may be shocked, look up and say, “uh?” You’ll have their attention. But you may also have their backs up, their radar going into overdrive and their distaste for you as a person profoundly stirred. Some preachers seem to take no small delight in “breaking the rules” (whatever that means) by being inappropriate in the pulpit. It gets attention, and it will get feedback (and that which comes to your face may be positive: sometimes out of politeness, sometimes delight from an immature listener excited to see an apparently immature person in a position of influence.) But this short-cut also undermines your preaching on multiple levels.
2. SHOUT! Vocal variation is a good thing. But shouting does come across as a bit desperate in most situations. There are moments where shouting may be thoroughly appropriate. But when shouting doesn’t fit the content, but is simply a means of waking up the old sleeping gent in row four or the distracted youths at the back, then it probably doesn’t achieve enough to warrant the negative reactions some will feel when shouted at without warning.
3. Sensational Content. I’ve already referred to the sensational shocking stuff of tabloid preaching above. But sometimes people seem to try to combine doctoral level original thought with shoddy journalism to come up with something nobody has ever said before about a passage. Don’t.
4. Silly Gimmicks. I remember watching in perplexed confusion as a preacher decided to throw packets of ketchup around the platform. It did rouse me from my semi-slumber, but the benefit was greatly outweighed by the perplexity generated by a gimmicky move gone flat.
5. Demanded Attention. Insisting in an authoritarian tone that people should listen does come across as totally desperate. Win their attention, don’t change the rules of life and demand that they listen. Asking people not to distract others may be appropriate. Telling them they are obligated to listen to you isn’t.
Anything you’ve seen and would add?
One thought on “Attention Seeking Behaviour”
One thing that I saw a lot in my time in the States, especially the south, that I would add here:
Don’t demand an “Amen”. There is nothing wrong with people crying out an “amen” when God hits them with a truth, but to ask for it (sometimes repeatedly!) seems more like desperation. If what you say doesn’t get the response you want, look at what you said and how you said it, don’t assume the audience is just too lazy or dumb to give it.