I admit that the title of this post sounds arrogant, but that's not my intent. I've simply learned a lot about communicating by trying to preach around the world, and I think I probably communicate better today because of mission trips. Here's what I've learned that I hope might help you, too.
1. Learn to understand your audience better. I'm surprised by how much time we spend preparing to speak in other places—for example, learning their religious history and their community customs—while we spend little time learning about our own listeners at home. For some reason, we assume we already understand people who look like us and sound like us.
2. Learn the value of stories. Particularly for oral cultures (but at some level in all cultures), stories grab the attention of listeners. They remember points via stories, not via the point itself.
3. Learn to communicate without electronic aids. In some places of the world, Powerpoint is not an option. You have to learn to communicate with just your spoken words—and that's good for all of us.
4. Learn to ignore distractions. I could write another blog that lists some of the distractions I've seen in worship services around the world. If you've not been in that situation, some might surprise you.
5. Learn that illustrations don't always connect with your audience. Many of us work hard to avoid illustrations that would be irrelevant in another culture (for example, speaking about an amusement park to a people who've never heard of such a thing), but we don't think that way in our own church. Sports illustrations, for example, might connect with a lot of your congregation, but a diet of only those illustrations is likely to miss a portion of your listeners.
6. Learn to communicate a lot in half the time. That's what you have to do when you're working with a translator. The process forces you to speak with minimum words while still making your point.
7. Learn to make the gospel clear. We focus on that goal when we've crossed an ocean to tell people about Jesus, but often think too little about it in our own setting.
If you've traveled on mission trips, what have you learned about preaching?
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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