Monday, August 4, 2008

"You Talk Too Much About Yourself"?

image Yesterday I taught about racism in the community of faith from Acts 10.  That is not a typical sermon for me, and I had one older woman say that she had never heard a sermon on that her entire life of attending church.  That's too bad.

Last night we had our semi-monthly elders meeting.  One of the elders commented that the only disappointment he had with the sermon was that I didn't talk much about how racism affected me, or my experiences with God teaching me in that area. 

And although I agreed with him, I pointed out that while I had prepared some material on that than I actually used, time constraints (at least perceived) made me leave that part out. 

In that past couple of weeks, my attention has been again drawn to the balance in using yourself as an illustration.  I was raised right at the end of the the era where it was seen as inappropriate and self-centered to use yourself or your family as illustrations.  I heard a speaker in that past week (on tape, I think) make the statement, "If you will pardon a personal illustration of...(the point he was making)."  I know that that wording was heard often in my early years. 

But I have gotten away from that.  I have grown to think that people are looking for authenticity in the pulpit and they want to know that the preacher struggles with similar issues as they do.  (Not lay out your gut & expose every sin every week, but appropriate transparency that recognizes the dynamics of the part that respect for the leader plays in leadership).  As we preach to people today, my observation is that people don't care about propositional truth unless they can see how it is lived out.  That is not the same as REJECTING propositional truth, but insisting that it must be "liveable."  I can buy that, and actually find that refreshing. 

And then this past week I read an article by Dr. Larry Moyer President & CEO of EvanTell, Inc.  The article was entitled "Three Things Your People Hate to Tell you About Your Preaching." 

They are:

  1. You talk too long
  2. You talk too much about yourself
  3. Your messages are too dry.

Numbers 1 & 3, I can buy into.  But I struggle with #2.  He says:

A certain amount of information about your family can be helpful, especially when you show struggles you've had as a family. Audiences need to know that your family isn't perfect either.  Transparency helps, but too much of it comes across as self-centered.  Instead of asking me to come into your world, it's important that you step into mine.

When you purposefully and anonymously share conversations about people who don't live behind the same walls you do, two things strike me: one is that you are 'other-centered,' not self-centered.  A second thing is that you enjoy people, even those who are not part of your immediate family. You come across as a speaker who cares.  So if I want to ask you a question about a struggled I'm going through, your appear to have the interest and time to talk. You've struck me as an "other" centered person.

What do you think?  I suspect that it is simply a matter of balance, but Moyer doesn't seem to put it that way.  What experiences/observations have you had?  Is it strictly a generational thing? (Moyer looks in his picture my age or older).  Or is there a genuine communication principle at work here?

1 comment:

Milton Stanley said...

I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Moyer. I'm naturally one of those preachers who likes to talk about myself and my family (and to hear preachers who do the same), but I am becoming more and more convinced that congregations don't want all that much information from preachers in the pulpit.

There are several reasons, I think, that Christians don't want preachers talking much about themselves or their families. On the one hand, it's all too easy to hold up one's self or family as examples of virtue. I once had a seminary professor with an overachieving extended family who kept doing that very thing, and his never-ending procession of stories about the various academic, athletic, and evangelistic superstars in his family soon became quite tiresome.

On the other hand, many Christians don't want preachers talking about our weaknesses, either. There seem to be two main reasons for this. Some Christians want to think their lives are just fine, thank you, and don't appreciate those who look like they have their lives together suggesting that those who look like they have their lives together may in reality have problems under the surface. In short, the first reason is denial. Another group of Christians know their lives are a mess but take vicarious consolation in believing that their leaders have everything together. In short, the second reason is denial.

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