Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Andy Stanley's "Communicating for a Change" Part 1 of 2

While full service retail Christian book stores are getting rarer by the day, central Kansas is fortunate to have one of the best in probably a three state region--Body & Soul in McPherson, Kansas.

Last week when I was there I bought "Communicating for a Change," by Andy Stanley, son of the famous Atlanta preacher Charles Stanley, and pastor of North Point Church in suburban Atlanta. While Andy is Charles' son, he's definitely his own person--especially when it comes to preaching. He's completely different than his Dad.

Andy's method goes against the grain of many evangelical preachers who preach three or four point messages. Stanley contends that while this kind of preaching is useful in relaying biblical information, it's ineffective in transforming lives. (And isn't that the goal of preaching?) Instead, Stanley lays out a compelling case for preaching one point messages.

The first section of the book is an extended parable of a frustrated Pastor Ray who is surprised to learn from a truck driver the principals of life changing communication. From a book description at Amazon:

"Pastor Ray...discovers that the secrets to successful speaking are parallel to the lessons a trucker learns on the road. By knowing your destination before you leave (identifying the one basic premise of your message), using your blinkers (making transitions obvious), and implementing five other practical points, you'll drive your message home every time!"

The genius of the book is Stanley's method of outlining sermons. Instead of the traditional outlining of "I. A. 1. 2." that is text-centered and text-focused with an infinite amount of principals/applications, Stanley offers up a "Me, We, God, You, We" model that is text-centered and audience-focused and has only one principal for application. Some free examples of Stanley's preaching are available here.

"Preaching for a Change" resonated with me for two reasons. First, one of the greatest responsibilities of a preacher is to show WHY an audience should give a hoot and listen. Please pastor, answer the question, "Why MUST I hear this? What is my NEED?" Far too often, I've heard messages where the preacher recognizes my existence with a silly joke, but then jumps into the text assuming that I'm interested in his topic. (I guess showing up in church was good enough?) Stanley's model makes the speaker develop the need--the tension or the problem the listener needs resolved. In other words, the preacher's "burden" that compels him to proclaim God's message (it has to be more than "It's Sunday, I have to say something.")

Second, this book struck a cord with me because I'm convinced that the pastor's primary purpose when opening the Bible on Sunday morning is more preaching than it is teaching. Teaching aims at the head. But preaching goes for the heart--its aim is to persuade. Most people know intellectually what they should do. What they need is the Holy Spirit's burden to act on it.

In my next post I'll demonstrate Stanley's model. I tried it this past Sunday in my Labor Day weekend message on work.

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