Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cut-through

It's what Christian speakers* need to have.

The ability to say something that slices through all the I've-heard-it-before defences that I've built up over the years. The ability to wake me up and make me listen.

Because I'm lazy and sinful and naturally I don't want to listen.

Cut Through Killers...
- words, if they remain only words.
- religious words
- cliche words
- adjectives. especially superlatives.
Telling me that prayer is the most important thing doesn't make me want to pray. I'm still asleep.

Killer Cut Throughs... 
- fresh ideas
- sharp and thorough biblical understanding
- varied sentence length (short to medium) with extra short sentences for emphasis
- metaphors

There was a lovely cut-through moment at the conference I was at today. Carmelina was telling us how God likes to hear our prayers. She was using that revelation image of the prayers of the saints rising like incense to God. I was asleep but I woke up and heard what she was saying when she talked about the smell of bread cooking. I love that smell. (I hate the smell of incense.) Maybe my prayers please God like the smell of bread pleases me. Could God actually like to hear me pray? Maybe I'm not just a nattering annoyance to him... Maybe I should pray more...

Words are a tool, not the end point. Like paint to a painter. If, when a painter finishes her work, all you see is paint, she has not done a good job. The paint must become something else in the painter's hand. If words aren't used to evoke an image, an idea, a feeling... to communicate, then what's the point?

In the words of Miss Eliza Dolittle: Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words...


* and song writers. And Sunday School teachers.

4 comments:

  1. Completely on the money, Simone. I think any preacher has to assume that the majority of their congregation has heard it all before, and that both creates opportunities (you can rely on some pre-knowledge) and the difficulties you spell out.

    Once the basic preaching skills are learned, then I think a preacher needs to focus on this area - working out how to cut through the barriers created by having heard it many times before. And to do so without the strategies becoming 'lookatme' moments or homages to one's own cleverness/skill/knowledge et al.

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  2. I was listening to a sermon on my MP3 player yesterday while doing the supermarket shopping. It took 15 minutes for somebody to introduce him, for the speaker to "briefly" introduce his topic and pray before beginning. 15 minutes in, the talk began. By that point I was really over it (and almost halfway through Safeway)! And I've previously appreciated sermons from this speaker very much. Don't waste people's time, speakers. If you've only got 15 minutes worth of decent material, only talk for 15 minutes or find someone else who has something to say.

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  3. By the way, I find working really, really hard on the exegesis and helping people to see things in the passage that they assumed couldn't be there is the best 'cut through'.

    (I considered deleting 'best' and replacing it with something not as strong, but couldn't work out what I actually thought was true._

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