My mentor, Dr. Haddon Robinson once gave me a wise piece of advice: “Don’t speak to the church leaders. They don’t represent where the people are. Speak to the average Joe in the pew.” The below four disciplines have helped me to do that.
Spending Time With People
I am constantly interacting with “average Joe’s” as I travel. I even prefer to stay in a home of a church member instead of a hotel. That home usually is a good representation of the people in the church. They help me understand the needs and a common ground with that specific community.
Speaking To The Level Of A 12-Year-Old
I develop my messages in such a way that 12-year-olds could understand them. Note that I did not say that I develop my messages to the needs of a 12-year-old but to the understanding of a 12-year-old. When I speak to that age level, everyone understands me. We are a highly educated and intelligent society. Even still, that doesn’t change the fact that people love ideas that are expressed clearly and simply.
Using Relevant Illustrations
When you speak truth, people hear it. When you illustrate truth, people see it. Everyone loves stories. In Scripture, Matthew described Jesus by saying, “Then He spoke many things to them in parables” (Matthew 13:3). Church leaders may be more accustomed to sitting and listening to truth without illustrations. Once again though, leaders don’t represent the norm. It’s difficult to hold the average person’s attention without illustrations.
When you are a teachable person, you welcome someone’s response to questions such as the following: “What did you feel was the main idea of my message?” “Did you follow my flow of thought?” “Did you understand how my illustration fit the point I was making?” “Did I lose your attention?” “Was there any point you felt I could have applied the message better?” I do caution you, however, to make sure that the feedback comes from the right person. The ones to ask are usually not your church leaders.
Speak to the audience, but remember that they are not made up of church leaders.