Stop Preaching and Start Communicating goes well with the theme of the John Maxwell interview in this same issue, because it also addresses the reality that it is not enough to talk—we must find a way to speak so people listen.
Tony Gentilucci is theologically trained—including a D.Min. in preaching with Haddon Robinson, who wrote the foreword to this book—but his major work has been in television and radio. Recognizing the powerful influence of broadcast media in our culture—the average person watches more than 1,700 hours of television a year compared to perhaps 200 hours of preaching heard by a faithful church member—Gentilucci explores why television is such an effective communications medium and how preachers can learn from it.
One suggestion he offers is to determine who your target audience is. TV producers have a target demographic they shoot to reach; they are glad to have others listen, as well; but they program for that target audience. As Bill Cosby observed, “I don’t know the key to success, but I know the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Gentilucci encourages pastors to ask this targeting question of themselves: “Who are you as a church? Who are you appealing to? How are you perceived, not only by the people who attend your church but, more importantly, by the people on the outside?”
He offers the example of Andy Stanley as one who “gets” the question. Stanley told him:
“In terms of the audience who I’m speaking to, it’s the 35-year-old guy who’s married and has some young kids and is in business; that’s the guy. Because if I can talk to the guy, whether it’s the principle of the message or the application of the message, I’m going to get the whole family. The reason I’m targeting the guy is because the person that’s most resistant to getting up on Sunday morning is that 35-to-40-year-old guy. He’s got a measure of success. He’s got options on Sunday. He’s not against God. He’s not even against Jesus, but we’re taking a block of his time. And his time is precious because he works hard. He may be out of town a lot, and now he’s thinking, ‘You want me to get up and get dressed and go somewhere? It better be good.’…It’s a time issue. It’s a priority issue. It’s an ‘I got options’ issue. So I feel like if I can talk to that guy, he’ll get his wife there, and the women in turn will get their children there.’
The author offers a variety of recommendations for getting to know your audience, as well as ways to determine how your audience will be evaluating you as a church and as a communicator.
Another helpful insight Gentilucci offers is the way TV programs have changed in recent years. No longer do programs start with theme music, cast list and such. In today’s programs “the action begins immediately…If you miss the introduction, you’ll miss the murder they’re trying to solve or the situation they’re trying to deal with. It’s only after the introduction to the plot that the theme music plays and the credits are shown. The same elements are still there, but the order has been reversed…Why? The answer is simple: to get your attention as quickly as possible so you won’t click your remote and go off to watch some other program.”
Gentilucci notes that the formula is:
ATTENTION, INTEREST, NEED
That formula also will work for preaching, he says. The key to getting their attention is to “aim at their interest.” He says, “What we need determines what we’re interested in. And what we’re interested in determines what we give our attention to. Attention, interst and need are three essential elements for every good introduction.”
Gentilucci addresses a variety of other issues, including use of language, speaking conversationally, storyboarding the sermon and much more. This is a book packed with practical ideas that can help us become more effective communicators.