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?