As a preacher, I am always looking for ways to improve my speaking. I study other communicators, for example, if a comedian gets me hooked, I analyze why he was successful and I love to read books on communication.
During my seminary years, I was always in the basement of the library breaking my neck reading the Dewey Decimal numbers while trying to find books on preaching. One I came across that really helped me was “Learning To Preach Like Jesus” by Ralph and Gregg Lewis. It’s a great book breaking down the many aspects of Jesus’ preaching. I wanted to share a few of the many elements they explored showing the methods Jesus used to hold an audience.
1) Comparison and/or Contrast
Jesus’ message was attractive and crowds followed him on a regular basis. One of His mainstays for speaking was the use of comparison and contrast.
Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)
2) Common Experience
Any good comedian knows how to quickly bring a diverse audience together by using common experience. Whether it’s dealing with unruly kids or trying to hit an even $20 at the gas pump. Common experience levels the playing field and puts everyone on the same page. Jesus did this quite often.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1)
“Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4)
There are times when I wish the Bible was more like an encyclopedia and we could just look up the answer to our issues and see it there in black and white and be done with it. 🙂 However, God chose to reveal His Word to us mostly by narrative and Jesus was a master at storytelling.
In response, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (Matt. 13:34)
Here are a few of the many parables Jesus told:
- Lost sheep. Lost coin. Lost son.
- Unmerciful servant.
- Sower of seeds in four types of soil.
- Rich man and Lazarus.
- Workers in the vineyard.
If you are a parent or have ever been around a younger child you know who many questions they can ask in a day. “What time is supper? Where are we going? Why is the sky blue? Why is that vein popping out of your forehead?” And that’s all before breakfast!!
Asking questions is a great way to engage an audience and Jesus did it all the time.
- “And why do you worry about clothes?(Matthew 6:28)
- “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12:25)
- Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? (Matthew 13:16)
- “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
How do we make this practical?
I have a huge Bible that over the years I have marked by using the Inductive Bible Study Method. If you don’t have a marked up Bible then you need to get one with large margins and dive in. 🙂 Why not give a key code to the above methods and mark them as you read through the Gospels? It will force you to read slower and show you how Jesus used these methods to give his message a greater impact. Learning from a master is the best education we can ever receive.