Listener Levels

MeasuringTapePreaching involves explanation.  That is, when we preach, we need to offer some explanation of the passage’s meaning.  But it needs to be more than that.  We need to offer explanation of the passage’s meaning at a level appropriate to those who are listening.

Imagine a scale of zero to one hundred representing the level of complexity.  A class of three-year olds might need an explanation in the zero to five range, and would not do well with a doctoral seminar in the 80’s and 90’s.  This range difference may seem obvious.  However, it seems that sometimes we forget the range within a normal church service.

In a normal church service, there will be a range that must be considered for effective preaching.  If we don’t consider to whom we are preaching, then we will probably settle into a range.  Some of us may be naturally 30-40 explainers, while others of us may be 60-70 explainers.  Which is the right range?  Whichever range is before us.

We need to assume that there may be unsaved listeners present.  Then the range of explanation needed by the believers may be 10-40 or 30-70.

A little exercise for us.  Why not take a couple of minutes and pray for wisdom in evaluating the following:

1. Which range will I naturally settle into if I don’t consider my listeners?

2. What is the approximate explanation range of my usual congregation?

3. Where do the first two answers differ?  That is to say, do I need to put some prayer and work into offering more accessible explanation, or into offering some richer meat?

One thought on “Listener Levels

  1. Good thoughts. It is definitely crucial to know your audience. When I preach, I always try to preach to the person who has never been in church or even opened a Bible. Then, if I need to give a deeper explanation of the text, I make sure to explain any terminology or historical background in the simplest way possible. In my context I cannot even assume someone knows who I am talking about if I reference Abraham.

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