categories: personal, preaching
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June 10th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Trust The Story

Great communicators are generally great storytellers! Jesus may have been the greatest storyteller who ever lived.

My preaching mentor always reminded me, “People remember stories.”

Over the years, I have spent enormous amounts of time searching for stories and developing personal ones.

I will always use and value stories, but I am growing to trust more in The Story than in personal or second-hand stories.

As a preacher, you might put a little less faith in your cute, funny, or even powerful stories and more faith in the power of The Story found through God’s word!

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June 9th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

My Personal Preaching Journey

Prayerfully, every biblical communicator will grow in knowledge, understanding and effectiveness. This week I’ll share some of what God is teaching me about preaching.

Work Less, Pray More

It started one Monday morning when I was sitting at my desk, attempting to study, while fighting back the tears. Nothing was wrong. In fact, everything was great. My marriage was thriving. My kids were healthy. The church was strong.

But I was weak, empty, desperate, and afraid.

Those of you with the gift of teaching usually enjoy study time. Teaching is one of my lower gifts. For me, studying is grueling and exhausting work. The pressure I feel to deliver high quality messages at times feels overwhelming.

I kept thinking… I can’t keep this up. I don’t have anything left. I don’t feel funny. I don’t feel interesting. I don’t want to preach. I can’t do this for the rest of my life.

Though the tears and fear, I was still very aware that the weekend was coming quickly. And then another would come… and another… and another… and that scared me to death.

Unable to study, I simply prayed… and prayed… and prayed. I truly believe that God showed me that I was “overworking” the messages. By faith that week, I cut my preparation time in half and devoted more time to prayer.

That weekend, I preached a message that was not as creative, not as funny, and not as entertaining, but it was FULL of spiritual passion.

On my preaching journey, I am fully convinced that God wants me to pray more and work less.

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May 15th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Communication Technique: The Surprise

The more predictable you become as a communicator, the harder it is to grab and keep people’s attention.

By varying your delivery, style, and rhythms, you can better keep people engaged with God’s word.

Here are a few things we’ve done:

  • Started a message from another part of the auditorium.
  • Pretended to forget the topic and scripture appearing very scattered.
  • Left the building during the sermon and gone to video (Letterman style).
  • Officiated a fake wedding (with a big surprise at the end).
  • Grabbed people from the crowd to use in an illustration.
  • Rappelled onto stage to make a point.
  • Started a message from a coffin.

The communicator must be careful not to become “gimmicky” in the use of surprises. But a well-timed moment can leave a memorable spiritual impression.

What have you done or seen that was effective?

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May 14th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Communication Techniques: The Visual

Most studies show people forget most of what they hear within 72 hours. Their retention rate jumps dramatically when other senses are engaged.

When preparing a message, ask how I can show instead of just tell.

In this past year, I hear more comments about two moments in church:

  • One involved two boxes. One box had “me” written on it. One had “God” written on it. I simply showed how we often give things to God… then take them back. At the end of the illustration, I suggested that real faith is when we don’t just hand things to God, but give our lives totally to Him. Then I put the “me” box into the “God” box. This very simply visual was life changing for many people. (Click here to see the message.)
  • The second was a simple graph I borrowed from Seth Godin’s book The Dip. I used the picture to show how Habakkuk didn’t understand what God was doing, but continued to “embrace” him through the long dip. This visual gave people permission to struggle with God and yet believe. (Click here to see the message.)

Don’t let the simplicity of a visual illustration keep you from using it. Often, the simpler—the better.

Show… don’t just tell.

What have you seen that you’ll never forget? What visual illustration has worked well for you?

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May 13th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Communication Techniques: The Question

Great teachers and communicators know the power of a well-timed question.

Asking a direct question and giving your audience time to answer can open the door for a life changing moment.

You might invite the crowd to answer the question in their mind, write their answer on paper, or better yet, discuss their answer with three people around them.

  • When preaching on “Doubting Thomas, you might ask, “In your most honest moment, what is your biggest spiritual doubt? Be specific.”
  • When preaching on worry, you might ask, “What is the #1 thing you are still unwilling to trust to God?”
  • When you are preaching on evangelism, you might ask, “Who are the three people you’d most like to see meet Christ?”
  • When teaching on faith, you might ask, “In what area of your life do you live as if God doesn’t exist?”

By helping people acknowledge a specific response to a question, you might open them to hear a specific word on the subject from God.

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May 12th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Communication Techniques: The Pause

This week, we’ll talk about several underused communication techniques. We’ll start with:

The Pause

pause.jpgWhen preaching, occasionally you’ll realize you just delivered a very impactful thought. Most communicators continue with their message.

I suggest when you realize a bullet just hit the target… Pause… Be quiet… Be still… Wait… Wait some more… And give the Holy Spirit time to seal the thought in the minds of the listeners.

The more powerful the moment, the longer the pause.

Don’t be afraid of an awkwardly long pause. Let it linger. Allow people to become somewhat restless.

Stop speaking long enough to allow God to finish what you started.


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April 28th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Authentic and Transparent Communication

This week I’d like to discuss the value and necessity of authentic and transparent preaching.

Bring You

Every year, I personally mentor a handful of young speakers. Most of the speakers I work with don’t struggle with researching the text, preaching creatively, building meaningful outlines, or pointing people toward the gospel. Most of the communicators I see struggle to bring all of themselves to a message.

When you preach or teach, you must bring you. Without you in, around, and through the message, you will not impact today’s listener.

The younger audience today has a built in authentic-meter. You can preach with passion, humor, clever points, or heart-wrenching stories. But if the scriptures haven’t touched your life, the listener will know it—and ignore your well-crafted message.

People want to know:

  • How has the text affected you?
  • How have you failed in the area(s) the Scripture addresses?
  • What about the text makes you uncomfortable?
  • What do you feel about what scripture is saying? (I know our feelings don’t trump scriptural truth, but talking about how we feel about the text can help engage others to listen at a deeper level.)
  • How are you becoming different because of your study in God’s word?

Jump in!

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April 23rd, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

Thanking Those You’ll Never Meet

Years ago, I thought I’d never have a chance to meet so many of my ministry heroes. I decided to write a handful of notes to those who influenced me from a distance.

I’m guessing that some of the people may not have even seen the notes. It didn’t matter. To me, it was right to give honor and express gratitude.

Surprisingly, some responded back. One even mentioned the note to me years later when I met him in person. (That blew me away!)

  • Whose podcast do you listen to regularly? Email to say “thanks.”
  • Whose leadership message touched you deeply? Blog about it and say “thank you.”
  • Whose book ministered to you when you were down? Send her a note to tell her how her book impacted you.
  • Whose ministry inspired you to attempt something great? Call their assistant and leave a message of gratitude.

Don’t expect anything in return. Just say “thanks” because it is right to do so! Even though you may never meet a ministry hero, you can still find a way to say “thanks.”

Who has impacted you from a distance?

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