Yesterday we began the series by flagging that your preaching is probably more influenced by your national culture than you tend to realize (click here if you haven’t read part 1 already, it will help to make sense of this post.)
Here are some aspects of our preaching that may be more reflective of our culture than we realize:
1. Self. How much of ourselves do we inject into the talk, and how do we speak about ourselves? How comfortable do we feel telling stories about ourselves to support what we are saying? Do we assume our listeners want to hear about us because we are the one speaking, or are we further down the continuum that assumes our role is to point them to the subject at hand rather than to the person stood before them?
2. Authority. Do we tend to take the stance of the celebrity expert, or the authoritarian scholar, or use the indirect authority of gentle encouragement? It is not just whether we speak with authority or not, but how that authority is wielded. This is about whether we are more direct or indirect, instructive or suggestive, bold or subtle.
3. Confidence. Related to authority is the issue of confidence. Do we tend to show confidence when we speak, and is our confidence (or lack of it) usually more focused on subject matter, or on ourselves? What can seem confident and humble in one culture can be heard as arrogant and aloof in another.
4. Humour. Even though every person’s sense of humour is highly personal, there are cultural cues in our use of humour too. What can have one crowd guffawing with laughter can easily leave someone from another culture wondering what all the fuss is about. Some cultures value personal wit, others leave all humour to the experts, some cultures thrive on scripted stories, but others will naturally find such staged moments tiresome. Self-deprecation will be another ingredient that shows at differing levels in different cultures.
5. Emotion/Passion. Some cultures generate more public speakers with flare and enthusiasm, others are much more reserved. While many will joke about their own cultural stereotypes, what shows in preaching is not always so obvious – in fact sometimes it can go in the opposite direction (I can think of some cultures known for being at one end of the continuum and yet generating many preachers who seem to reflect the opposite end of the scale!) How does enthusiasm show, and in what element of the message does that energy become manifest?
These are just five categories of cultural influence on our public speaking. What would you add to the list?
One thought on “Your Culture and Your Preaching – Part 2”
I would add body language. This varies tremendously in cultures. Too much movement ( maybe from nervous energy) can be distracting, but when an inspired message can be not only heard, but also seen to have ignited the whole man in a congruent way ( the thoughts, the emotions, the spirit are all working together to glorify God ) I think it helps learning and memory. Learning and memory are connected not only to the hardwire of the brain, but also to the heart. This does not mean preachers will be, or should be, walking about and gesticulating non stop. Body language is just as profound in stillness, when this is used in appropriate moments to convey meaning.
And body language will have been learnt from birth, (think of the lips to lips synch with babies and mums) so culture plays a huge role in it.
Yet we are all born again as new creations in Christ; how does this affect our defaults to cultural influence? Will the Italian swing his arms less? Will the Englishman open his wide more more often?
Should we be what culture expects of us , and is comfortable with, or because being new creations makes us citizens of heaven born again believers will become more like each other as they grow in Christ and less like the culture around them?
Yet Paul says he made himself all things to all people, finding common ground with everyone. So I guess that means a traveling preacher would be careful to avoid offending by matching his body language to the culture; provided sensuality or other ungodly actions are not assumed.