By Geoff Posegate
Church leaders do well to pay attention to anything offered for public consumption by Andy Stanley, founding and lead pastor of North Point Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. Andy simply is one of the most effective and visionary communicators of this era. I had the opportunity to hear Andy speak at a CATALYST conference in 2006. I still remember the point of the message, the image he used to convey the message, and the action I took based on the message. (I barely remember what I myself said in worship last Sunday!)
For those of us with the responsibility of proclamation, we must have Communicating for a Change in our toolbox. In, this book, in his typical allegorical story format, Stanley raises the importance of effectiveness in communicating Christ. Many of us, especially pastors and church leaders at or near my age (60) have been schooled in proclamation that stressed correctness. We strive for thorough exegesis, biblical accuracy, right theology, etc. There’s nothing wrong and everything right about these emphases. However, Stanley would argue that correctness does not equate automatically to effectiveness. A great thought that is not presented in a way that another person is able to grasp it and act on it simply dies as a lonely great thought. With this in mind, Andy Stanley and Lane Jones present a clear and workable roadmap to actual impact in preaching.
The authors argue that the sermon preparation process should not start without the goal made clear - a single, one phrase, memorable or “sticky” sentence that says it. Stanley stresses seven imperatives to sermon preparation: determine your goal, pick a point, create a map, internalize the message, engage your audience, find your voice, and start all over. In a way, the “engage your audience” step summarizes the entire process. Too often we who are proclaimers create the message and expect the audience to come to us. We want them to pick up on our images, our nuances, the way the scripture hit our understanding alone, etc. Andy Stanley is one who believes in knowing the mission field, and the “engage your audience” approach is a subset of that. We are told to find the images, stories, events, etc. that will speak the message to the heart of those whom you want to impact.
My greatest take-away from Communicating for a Change is the four question set that Stanley urges every preacher to ask of every message:
What do you want people to know?
Why do you want people to know it?
What do you want them to do?
Why do you want them to do it?
This alone has completely revolutionized my sermon preparation. I once heard a seminary professor say the following: “Preaching is done for one of two reasons: for display or for response.”
Obviously, preaching that is missional and obedience to Matthew 28:19 must be the latter. Communicating for a Change is a great resource to facilitate that.