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July 22, 2011

The New Normal of Preaching

Although I plan my messages out in advance, there is more that leaders must consider when teaching. We all know that it is important to know what you are teaching, but it is becoming even more important to know how they are learning! Each generation has their own modality by which they best absorb new information.

I have three children. One of them likes phone calls. The other likes e-mail, and the youngest demands that I text her. I called her one-day, thinking how nice a dad I was for thinking of her. She answered in exasperated tones: “Dad, DON’T call me! What if I were in a movie? Text me, Dad. Text me!”

We need to start at a new starting point. It is no longer “what” I want to teach. It is “how” they best learn! Here are a few tips:

1. Use more word pictures.

Young people have grown up with computers, television, computer games, and other illustrated ways that they interact. Word pictures help your listeners mentally track with you.

2. Let them interact with you.

Interaction is important to the new learners. Your listeners want to “talk back” to the communicator. Laughter is one way. Another is reading aloud. One thing I do is to let them finish a sentence for me. “God is not against us! He is really…” (The answer, if you can’t figure it out, is “for us!”)

3. Use personal illustrations to underscore a truth.

Listeners want to know if you have experienced what you are talking about. They want to know if you have felt the pain or the struggle. They want transparency and authenticity. New teachers teach not only out of their knowledge but also out of their scars.

4. Simplify without becoming remedial.

One person said that communicators take complicated subjects and make them simple. Teachers, on the other hand, take simple subjects and make them complicated. The world needs communicators who will help them understand the simplicity of God’s love and ways.

5. Take the time to explain things theologically.

People will no longer settle for pat answers. Loyalty to a denomination or to a body of pre-approved knowledge no longer exists. They are curious and want to know why. Why is homosexuality something that is unacceptable in the Bible? Why is living together frowned upon? What is wrong with drinking alcohol? How can Christian leaders be so hypocritical and not think anything about it?

Alvin Toffler said: “Those who are the literate of the future will not be those who can read and write. It will be those who can learn, un-learn, and re-learn.”

There are many habits we must unlearn and then re-learn new ways of delivering the timeless message of Jesus Christ. It’s not about technology. It’s about gearing our delivery to the ways they learn best. I remember an adage from my old Youth for Christ days: “Anchored to the Rock; geared to the times.”

It still rings true today.

Wayne Cordeiro is the founding pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii with over 14,500 in weekend attendance.

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