I keep waiting for Andy Stanley to write a flop. So far, he’s exceeded my expectations. Visioneering is probably one of the best books on vision out there, and this entry into the world of practical communication skills will be sure to help innumerable people. Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication is an essential book to learn how to think clearly about communicating. Preachers have such a deep responsibility to communicate the greatest truths of God to people. We must not both this by failing on our end. The apostle Paul knew this and asked:
“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Colossians 4:4)
This book is an attempt to aid biblical communicators. I would add it to every preacher’s reading list for this year – especially those who truly want to connect with current culture and younger generations. They may discover that implementing some of Stanley’s suggestions will not just enable them to communicate for change but that it will also refresh and renew their calling to communicate as well.
It’s an easy and compelling read. The first half of the book is essentially a modern parable that illustrates all the principles that Stanley will elaborate on in the second half.
The “Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication” are:
- Determine your goal.
- Pick a point.
- Create a map.
- Internalize the message.
- Engage your audience.
- Find your voice.
- Start all over.
Yawn: right? Wrong. While the bullet points listed above seem like tired, old maxims, Stanley’s comments bear digesting. So, just because I’ve shared them with you (heck, they’re on the inside of the book jacket too) doesn’t mean that you know what’s going on.
Again, if you want to communicate for change, you will probably have to change how you communicate. That’s what I found, and while I was encouraged by how closely my teaching style was affirmed in the book, I still found many areas that I really need to work on.
Consider the following three possibilities of how you preach as listed in the book. You’re either:
1. Teaching the Bible to people.
This is usually the goal of the preacher or teacher who methodically and systematically teaches verse by verse through books of the Bible. This is the perfect approach for the communicator whose goal is to simply explain what the Bible means.
2. Teaching people the Bible.
This goal was behind the “three points and an application” approach to preaching. The multipoint sermon or teaching outline is a great approach for the communicator whose goal is to teach people the Bible: Preachers who embrace this goal often use alliteration and multiple illustrations: the primary concern is: Did I cover the material?
3. Teaching people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible.
Spiritual maturity is gauged by application not contemplation: Preaching for life change requires far less information and more application. Less explanation and more inspiration.
All in all, the book was extremely helpful and has some great suggestions. However, I do not subscribe to his “one point” approach. He urges the teacher to leave the audience with one point and to work hard to identify a point that is memorable and of course, comes from the text.
However, what I’ve found in my years of preaching and teaching (and I’m no Andy Stanley, so take this with a grain of salt) is that my blatant attempts to narrow down what a passage is saying may often not be what the Lord really wants to say to His people. It’s not a bad approach, mind you. After all, a good communicator will prepare something. Who’s to say anything that we prepare is the right thing? Only prayer and sensitivity to the Spirit.
Yet, even with that caveat, I would urge every teacher/preacher/speaker to try organizing your messages in such a way occasionally and see how your congregation responds. Those who would stay with what they consider to be “tried and true” may later discover they were only dispensing information rather than communicating for change.