StaComm 07-05-049

Communicating for a Change



Andy Stanley and Lane Jones

Multnomah Publishers, 2006, 196 pp., ISBN 1-59052-514-0


Andy Stanley is senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta and Lane Jones is the campus director of Browns Bridge Community Church, a North Point Ministries campus.  This book includes what Andy Stanley has been teaching about preaching for twenty years.  The main point?  Organize everything to make one main point.


The first half of the book is a fable intended to illustrate how a pastor learns to preach well.  The second part details the seven-part process. 


"Every time I stand to communicate I want to take one simple truth and lodge it in the heart of the listener.  I want them to know that one thing and know what to do with it." 


"I've always thought of a sermon, or any talk for that matter, as a journey.  You start somewhere, you go somewhere, and ultimately you end up somewhere.  The question is, did you end up where you wanted to go?"  Did they discover a truth that will change their lives?  (38)


"You've got to narrow the focus of your message to one point.  Then everything else in the message supports, illustrates, and helps to make it memorable." (39)


Outlines can be like an encyclopedia - lots of good information but boring.  But a map leads people on a journey that engages them in a story. (45)


Use a "relational outline," one that builds around the relationships between you, the audience and God.  It goes like this: ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE.  (46)


ME.  Introduce myself to them and let them get comfortable with me.

WE.  Make an emotional connection through what WE are thinking and feeling. 

GOD.  Introduce the biblical truth into the discussion

YOU.  What are you going to do about it?  The challenge

WE.  Casting a common vision for what would happen if we did it.  (46-49)


"Until you can stand up and tell a story, you're not ready to preach." (53)


"You have to connect with your audience around a real need in their lives.  Something they feel."  Remind them of the tension they feel in their lives. (59)


"Every single person who sits politely and listens to you on Sunday is one decision away from moral, financial, and marital ruin."  "What are you going to say?"  "There is much at stake."  "The question you must answer is, to what extreme are willing to go to create a delivery system that will connect with the heart of your audience?" (88-9)


Imperative #1.  Determine your goal.  What are you trying to accomplish? (91)


"What is the win?"  "Our approach to communicating should be shaped by our goal in communicating." (93)


Three ways to teach:

a)     Teach the Bible to people.  Verse by verse exposition is an example.  Goal is to explain what the Bible means.  "This approach requires no creativity." (93)

b)     Teach people the Bible.  Impart biblical truth into the mind and heart of the hearer.  Use outlines and alliteration, etc., so they will remember.  Goal: Did they understand and remember?  Goal is information transfer.

c)     Teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible.  The goal is change. (95)


"Preaching for life change requires far less information and more application.  Less explanation and more inspiration." (96) 


"If we really want to take our cue from the apostle Paul we should address the specific issues confronting the people in our audience.  That's why I weave a message about sexual purity or money into just about every series we do.  It's why we program an entire series around the family life every spring.  Those are three issues that consume the time and attention of the average man and woman." (97) 


You must answer two questions: "So what?" and "Now what?"  "Our audience won't do much with what we've taught until we tell 'em what they ought to do." (97)


Imperative #2.  Pick a Point.  Communicate a single idea, a specific thing to be accomplished, a bottom line.  Plan with the end in mind. (101)  A point is an application, an insight, or a principle.  (103)


"What is the one thing I want my audience to know?

"What do I want them to do about it?  (104)


Build everything around the main point.  Dig until you find the main point.  Build everything around it.  Make it stick. 


The main point may come late in the game because "sermon preparation is a discovery process. Preparation involves discovering what the text says and what it doesn't say, what we with it would say, what we didn't expect it to say.  At the same time message preparation involves holding up the text to the scrutiny of experience.  Bridging the cultural divide of first and twenty-first century isn't always easy…but it is always necessary if we are going to communicate for change rather than information transfer." (106)


"Once you discover a text or narrative that addresses your great idea, let the Bible speak." (107)  "Let the text speak for itself.  When it agrees with your preconceived ideas, great.  When it doesn't, dig in and learn something.  And keep digging until you unearth the one thing." (108)


"If you don't take the time to reorient your message around the one thing, it will get lost amongst the other things." (110)


"The next step is to craft a single statement or phrase that makes it stick.  It needs to be as memorable as possible." (110) 


"The one thing isn't just information.  It is not just a carefully crafted phrase.  It is literally a burden.  It is a burden that weighs so heavily on the heart of the communicator that he or she must deliver it." (113)  "A burden brings passion to preaching.  It transforms lifeless theology into compelling truth." (114)


Imperative #3.  Create a map.  "What's the best route to your point?"  (119)

ME - A dilemma the speaker has faced or is facing.

WE - Common ground with the audience around a similar dilemma

GOD - Transition to the text to discover what God says about it.

YOU - Challenge your audience to act on what they heard

WE - What could happen in your community, church or world, if we all did.  (120)


Two extremes with the text: skip along the surface without really engaging the text or getting bogged down too deep.  (126)


YOU -  "My preference is to find one point of application that I can challenge everybody to embrace.  I rarely ask people to make a life-altering commitment to anything.  I don't think that is realistic." (127) 


Imperative #4.  Internalize the message.  "What's your story?"  (133)


"Before we stand…to deliver a message, we must own it."  You should be able to communicate the message as an authentic conversation.  "The message must in some way become a personal story you could tell as if drawing from personal experience." (135) 


"The secret is to reduce your entire message down to five or six pieces."  Remember the big pieces and you're a go.  (137)  "When you are committed to internalizing the entire message you will be highly motivated to reduce it to the bare but essential minimum.  And if you are only going to make a point, it is not hard to identify what to cut." (142)


"Stories are easy to remember and repeat.  So are good sermons.  Why?  Because good sermons are like a good movie or a good book.  They engage you at the beginning by creating some kind of tension.  They resolve that tension.  There is a climax.  And then there is a conclusion that ties up all the loose ends." (143)


Imperative #5.  Engage your audience.


"How you say what you say is as important as what you say.  Presentation determines your audience's attention span." (146)  "It's our preparation and presentation that will keep people engaged."  (147)


We don't need new content as much as we need fresh presentations. (148) 


First pose a question your audience wants answered or create a tension they need resolved or point to a mystery they have been unable to solve.  (153)


Three pairs of questions to ask about your introduction:

·        "What is the question I am answering?  What can I do to get my audience to want to know the answer to that question?

·        What is the tension this message will resolve?  What can I do to make my audience feel that tension?

·        What mystery does this message solve?  What can I do to make my audience want a solution?" (154)


Write out your transitions.  They help people stay with you.  Don't take the right angle turns too fast.  (158)


Rules for engaging people with the text: (159)

·        Turn to one passage and just one passage.  Pick one central text and teach it.

·        Don't read long sections without comment.  Lead people through the text.

·        Highlight and explain odd words or phrases.  But keep moving.

·        Voice your frustration or skepticism about the text.

·        [And several more]


Add something unexpected.  Plan something unusual.  You know how people respond when something unusual happens. (162-3) 


Be direct.  Let your audience know early where you are going. (164) 


Imperative #6  Find your voice. (169)

"My style can become a smoke screen for any number of bad communication habits."   "Be who you are.  But be the very best communicator you can possibly be." (170)


"Clarity trumps just about everything." (175) 


Imperative #7.  Start all over.  What's the next step?  (183)

"The first thing I do when I get stuck is pray." "I get on my knees and remind God that this was not my idea, it was His.  He let me volunteer.  I confess that every opportunity I have to pen His word in front of people comes from Him and that anything helpful I've ever said came from Him." (184)  "Then I ask God to show me if there is something He wants to say to prepare me for what He wants me to communicate to our congregation.  I surrender my ideas, my outline, and my topic.  Then I just stay in that quiet place until God quiets my heart.  It may be a few minutes.  I may be much longer." (185)


"I pray before, during, and after!  I'm just telling you what I do when I get stuck." (185)


"If I still lack clarity I go back to basics.  I pull out my trusted list of questions and start over." (186) 


"1  What do they need to know?          INFORMATION

2.  Why do they need to know it?         MOTIVATION

3.  What do they need to do?                      APPLICATION

4.  Why do they need to do it?             INSPIRATION

5.  How can I help them remember?    REITERATION"  (191)



I like the author's approach to preaching.  I'm convinced of his urgency to understand and preach the Scripture for life transformation.  The questions I would like to ask are whether preaching should encourage and assist people to read and apply the Scripture to their own lives and how the "one point" preaching on selected topics facilitates this process.  dlm



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