Listener Levels: 7 Ways to Add Steak to the Diet

MeasuringTapeWhat if your biblical explanation is typically at a level lower than many of your listeners?  What are some suggestions for adding steak to the diet of listeners that are needing it?

1. Pray – Nobody cares about your listeners as much as God, so ask for His coaching.

2. Get feedback – It would be better to know what people think than assume they are needing weightier content.  For instance, just because there are seminary professors in your congregation doesn’t mean they want to be “stretched” by your preaching.  Good, solid, biblical and faithful preaching that is clear and applicable may be the highlight of their week!

3. Watch and evaluate some great explainers – Watch a preacher who is especially effective at biblical exposition.  What is it about their preaching that makes it effective?  (You may find they are simpler than you at first imagined . . . our tendency is to think more info, higher vocab and greater complexity is the key to steaky preaching – not so.)

4. Make connections carefully – It doesn’t take any skill to string biblical proof-texts together.  There is no licensing for tour guides in the “concordance safari” industry.  It does take great biblical awareness to be able to make the links that are appropriate to a message.  For instance, learn to look back in the canon and see what is feeding in to the passage (Kaiser’s “Informing Theology”).  Learn to value other writing by the same author slightly higher than other writings.  This is not as simple as a set of rules, it is an art form.

5. Devour your Bible as if God is worth knowing – To be able to help people make sense of biblical texts, there is no substitute for personal biblical saturation.  I’d rather be fed by someone who really knows their Bible than someone who has crammed higher level commentary content in the last days of preparation.  (This is not to deny the value of good commentary conversations.)

6. Well-cooked steak is seldom complex – I remember hearing radio ads for a steakhouse in Portland.  I was in seminary so could never afford to go there, but it did sound good.  What did I expect of a $75 steak?  Not lots of extra ingredients and spice overload combined with complex cooking processes.  I expected better quality content prepared simply.  Same with preaching.  When we think about preaching more steaky messages, we tend to crank up the jargon and lose sight of our message purpose.  Don’t.  Take the time to have better content, but don’t complicate, in fact, simplify sermon structure, etc.

7. The best “theology” is not on the cutting edge of speculation, it is pushing into the big and core questions – Don’t think that steaky biblical explanation comes from speculative originality, whether that be in sensational eschatology, or obscure theological novelty (save that for your PhD).  The best steaky biblical explanation comes from showing how the biblical text drives us back to the core questions: who is God and what is He like?  What does it mean to be human and made in His image?  What is sin and how deep is the problem?  What is grace and how does God solve the problem of sin in salvation and Christian growth?  God, man, sin, grace and growth.  Simple stuff, but if you can let the Bible probe these issues, your steak will be truly life changing.

3 thoughts on “Listener Levels: 7 Ways to Add Steak to the Diet

  1. Great comments – I’m learning some of this, especially regarding getting feedback – what’s the best way to do this? But also the great explainers: the more I listen to great explainers the more I want to be able to do it like them.

    • Hi Ben – it is better to get some constructive feedback than none, but there are better ways to go about it. Quick thoughts – ask a cross section of people (i.e. not all men in their 20’s), and ask for specific feedback (what was the main idea? How clear was the message and why/why not? How did the delivery help or hinder the message? In what ways was I engaging, or could I be more engaging? Please comment on my handling of the Bible, was I accurate in how I handled it?) Don’t overwhelm people with questions, perhaps one or two. Sometimes ask ahead of time, sometimes after. I’m sure others may have good thoughts to add here . . .

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