Grabbing people’s attention with stories and passion
By Randy Bloom, US East Regional Director
Jesus used storytelling in powerful ways. We call many of these stories parables. He illustrated that one of the most effective ways to prepare inspirational sermons is to include stories in them. Jesus’ stories challenged people. At one level, many of his stories are entertaining. Entertaining for the purpose of getting attention, making a point and leading to action—action that was indicative of transformation.
The Age of Reason I referred to in “Foundation of Inspiring Sermons” is over. We are now in what people refer to as the Age of Relationship, and as Paul Williams says (in Church Planting from the Ground Up), people are more interested in hearing the stories of faith than hearing the rules of faith. Stories facilitate and flow from relationships. This is what people want (they always have even if they couldn’t express it). So, include stories in your sermons. Tell stories that are relevant.
Some of the most effective stories to tell are about yourself. People want and need speakers who are authentic, transparent, vulnerable and, well—human. It helps if they know you are sharing the same journey they are on, so be open about your weaknesses (be appropriately open, don’t divulge super-sensitive information). In doing so, you make yourself accessible to people, and it helps God’s word to be more accessible to them. Their hearts and minds will be more open to what God is saying to them through his word and your sermon.
Use illustrations and props to emphasize certain lessons. But use illustrations that are current. Use illustrations from decades ago sparingly. Younger groups won’t follow. The opposite is true as well.
Preach with passion
Some of us are probably more than a bit uncomfortable (maybe scared) of expressing passion, especially in public. In many church cultures—and I include my 50+ year GCI home—people are a bit afraid of expressing passion. We seem to have the mindset that we dare not show too much emotion. We dare not get excited. We dare not express ourselves with too much bodily motion. To me this is sad. I read too many examples in the Bible (there are those stories again) of people being highly expressive with their love for God and the message he has for his people. I hope we can all learn to be more demonstrative of our love for Jesus and his message of hope.
What attracts you to certain preachers? I would guess you are attracted to their passion and how they can make a point using a powerful story. When people are excited to hear how you share the Word, using the word, they are more inclined to invite others to come. Let me quote Paul Williams again, sharing an observation he made from years of experience: “People come to church because a friend invited them or they responded to a great advertising piece. They come back because they identified with the minister and the message.”
This may seem to put a lot of pressure on us, and reality is our friend. But Jesus is our best friend and we can rely on him and the Holy Spirit to help us preach with passion, using stories to help others understand God’s love for them, how he never leaves or forsakes us, how he loves us just as we are, and how his amazing love for us will never leave us the way we were when we first started responding to his call.
May God bless our preaching as we lead our congregations to grow healthier in Christ—and as we seek to develop worship services that are inspiring and give people hope.
PS Some recommended resources include:
- Passion in the Pulpit, by Jerry Vines
- Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson
- Biblical Sermons by Haddon Robinson
- Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller
- Christ-Centered Preaching by Brian Chapell