Have you ever said something you wished you hadn’t? What about in front of thousands of people? Perhaps you don’t stand on any ‘physical platforms’… well, don’t disengage, this blog is still for you!
It wasn’t long ago that I presented these key points on Hillsong’s Culture for Preaching and Teaching to our Staff, even though many of them don’t speak on our platform on a weekend or even during the week. Yet, all of us do have opportunity in one form or another to speak into the lives of others and it’s always wise to examine the way we communicate, what we communicate and the impact it has on our audience. I’ve learned some valuable lessons over 30 years of preaching and teaching in public – many through my own error.
Culture, atmosphere and DNA in a church is not accidental. Just like culture, atmosphere and DNA of your home is not. You have to be deliberate about it - especially from the ‘platform’. Leadership in this area is about making intentional and focused choices, and taking a degree of measured risk.
So wherever you have the chance to input into others - take a look at these guidelines to building a strong platform teaching culture in your church or homegroup – many of them can also be applied to your family life or worklife. There are 30 points – one for each year of experience!
- IS POSITIVE.
Don’t preach to an individual – using the platform to get a personal message across to an individual is cowardly and blesses no one.
- IS IN LINE WITH OUR BELIEF.
Don’t contradict basic fundamentals and doctrine. Make sure you know what they are BEFORE you take the platform.
- HAS A SET TIME LIMIT.
Hillsong Church typically has a 35-minute time limit on messages. Be a good steward of people’s time. Be reliable. You can do a lot of waffling in 60 minutes! You are entrusted as a steward of the platform you are on – the moment you go over time, you are outside of your authority!
- MUST BE PROVEN IN THE BIBLE.
If you can’t prove it, don’t say it. The platform is not for your opinions, it is God’s Word that matters. Every Scripture reference must be in context and within the tenure of Scripture = credibility and respect.
- MANY HOURS OF MEDITATION, PREPARATION & FAMILIARISATION.
All 3 are important. 1) Think things through. 2) Get the structure as polished as you can – it must impact. 3) Be familiar with your message so you get it across clearly and effectively.
- CHECKED FOR OVERUSE OF “I”.
It is not about you. People will see through a self-focused message and it doesn’t build others.
- FOCUSED ON HELPING, NOT IMPRESSING.
Joyce Meyer once made a comment that really helped me with this, after I had asked her if she ever gets nervous? She said: “I never think about myself, I just think about helping people.” This attitude will keep your focus on course.
- REINFORCING – NEVER CONTRADICTING – OUR CULTURAL VALUES.
Wherever you are speaking, you must respect the cultural values of that platform. Encourage the congregation to engage with what is local and relevant.
- FROM A NEW TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE.
By all means use the Old Testament, but always through the lens of the New Covenant of grace - through the cross of Christ. Otherwise we are in danger of preaching law and condemnation rather than building people up.
- A REFLECTION OF THE LIFE YOU ARE LIVING, NOT JUST THE SERMON YOU ARE PREACHING.
Be authentic. The best messages come out of our own struggles and journeys. People sense authenticity as well as a lack of it. No matter how professional or eloquent you are as a speaker, you won’t build anything into people’s lives if you lack authenticity.
- A REFLECTION OF YOUR PERSONALITY, NOT AN IMITATION OF SOMEONE ELSE.
This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn but one of the most important. You’ll always be your best if you are being yourself – It’s not about being perfect or about a certain ‘style’. Be your best self and don’t use this freedom as an excuse to support rebellion or negativity.
- AFFECTS PEOPLE’S MONDAYS, NOT JUST SUNDAY.
In other words, your message needs to be applicable to people’s daily lives. The greatest compliment someone who is doing well in life can give me is to say, “All I’ve ever done is to take the principles that have been taught in church and put them into practice.” – I love hearing that sort of testimony!
- NOT STRAYING INTO THINGS YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.
Stay within your boundaries. Keep learning, but don’t preach outside your understanding. Stick to what you know but also continue to grow in what you know and in your knowledge of the Word. 1 Timothy 3 in The Message says of the leader, “He must know what he is talking about”. Preparation is a discipline.
- REFLECTING WHAT WE ARE FOR, NOT AGAINST.
Remember, our lives should reflect what we are for and not just what we are against. Preaching always against things leaves people feeling downcast.
- LEAVES PEOPLE FEELING BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES THAN WHEN THEY CAME IN.
I intentionally approach every service by trying to create an encouraging environment. The world doesn’t input positive messages into people very much - between the newspaper and the television, people are starving for messages of hope and encouragement!
- EASILY TRANSITIONED INTO AN ALTAR-CALL.
If people are being impacted and reached during your message, then the altar call moment will be a smoother and easier transition. (HOWEVER, you cannot let your confidence be measured by how many people get saved when you speak.)
Are people taking notes? Make sure people understand what you are saying, that there is substance to it, and that you are not boring. Be compelling and helpful to people.
- SEES HUMOUR AS A BONUS, NOT THE GOAL.
Humour is a tool, but it is not the goal. If you are not good at being funny, don’t try. Any use of humour should serve the message – but never build your message around a funny story or joke.
- PREACHED FROM NOTES YOU’D BE PROUD TO SHOW ME.
You should have some content in your notes: Key statements, scriptures, examples. Content - not neatness - is the goal. Your notes should reflect the hard work you’ve put in.
- EXALTS JESUS AND BRINGS GLORY TO GOD.
Be deliberate about this. “God” means many things to many people, so ensure you are presenting Jesus. People don’t need motivational speeches, they need the Word of God and AN EMPHASIS ON Jesus Christ.
- REFLECTS YOUR LEVEL OF AUTHORITY.
Speak within your sphere of authority, not outside of your credibility. Unless you have the right credibility or platform to confront and challenge people, then don’t. It is always better to encourage people.
- PROJECTS CONFIDENT HUMILITY.
Minimise “I”, “me” and “my”. Be confident, not weak or false. I know who I am and that God has entrusted me with the platform. I know I belong here, but at the same time, I recognise I didn’t earn the right and I am accountable to Him for how I handle it. It’s about bringing glory to God – keep the main thing the main thing.
- COMBINES FAITH WITH TRANSPARENCY.
It’s not about exposing and highlighting our strengths and weaknesses, but balancing these examples to enhance the message – our weakness or strength is not the message. It’s not about being ashamed of the blessing but people benefit more from understanding the journey and challenges that you had to overcome to get there. People relate to and learn more from your struggles – don’t present yourself as perfect. Conversely, don’t be negative and down all the time – people need to be encouraged in their faith; they want to listen to an overcomer.
- TELLING NOT JUST WHAT, BUT HOW.
It’s more challenging to tell people how to outwork the principles we teach. I remember early in my ministry a man came up to me after I preached on loving God with all your heat, soul and strength and he said, “I want to do that, but how do I do it?” It's easy to tell people what they should do but more challenging to tell them how.
- LEFT BEHIND ON MONDAY.
Don’t do post-mortems or beat yourself afterwards... AND be careful not to get too full of how great you think you were. Time moves on. Be good at walking away.
- FOCUSED AS MUCH ON DELIVERY AS CONTENT.
If you aren’t good at communicating your message, then no matter how good the content is, it will get lost on people. Say it in a way that best connects with the hearts of people.
- AWARE OF A GREATER AUDIENCE THAN THE ROOM.
The days are long gone when the possibility of being recorded in one form or another is absent - whether by individuals on phones or corporately on cameras or sound-systems. Even though you may be speaking to church family, you have to remember your message will more than likely go beyond the family – so nothing is entirely safe in that sense. Filter everything you say through this reality.
- LISTENED TO OR WATCHED BY YOU.
Ask for a copy of your message for review and don’t worry about appearing proud by asking – it’s a necessary part of growing as a speaker. Get used to how you sound and get past the ‘cringe-factor’. By observing and listening to yourself, you will notice habits and other distractions that you can fix. Learn to love the way you sound – if you don’t, no one else will.
- HELPING PEOPLE OVERCOME AND BELIEVE WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT THEM.
Without exception. Remind people about what God says about them – there’s a lot of opposition in the world and you have an opportunity to lift people up and speak life to them – maximise it
- ABLE TO STAND ALONE IN A NEWSPAPER.
Every message should include points that would stand alone in the newspaper. For example, years ago I wrote a book with a controversial title. I was young at the time and thought it was a great idea to use a controversial title. But as Hillsong's profile (and my own profile grew), I may as well have drawn a bullseye on my forehead. It became fodder for journalists wanting to criticise it's content. Let’s assume everything you say is quotable and can be published in a newspaper – how does it stand then? Think about how would you sound without your spirit and physical presence on it - quoted in black and white?
Always take responsibility for what you say and never assume anything. It is an enormous responsibility that we have when it comes to carrying the message of Jesus Christ to this world. Ignorance is never an excuse, so decide today that you are done with excuses. Apply wisdom and understanding to the message on your life and the platform you have been given - and the potential and influence on your life will continue to grow and extend well ‘above and beyond’.