If you heard that there was one mistake that you were making week in and week out — and that one mistake was dramatically hindering the effectiveness of your preaching — would you want to know what that one mistake was?
Or if you heard that there’s something that you’ve been doing for years that was causing a large number of the people in your congregation to tune out and start daydreaming about the rest of their day or week during your message, would you want to know what that one mistake was?
If you do, then you just discovered what that one mistake is.
Over the past three decades, I’ve listened to hundreds of preachers, speakers and teachers. And the number one mistake that they almost all make — and this even includes pastors of large churches — is they don’t hook their congregation/audience in the first few minutes.
Why? Because like experts in any field, they believe they know what the people listening to them need to hear. Just think through your own process of deciding what to preach on.
If you’re like most preachers, you have one of three primary processes.
1. What do I feel like speaking on?
2. What book (of the Bible) or topic haven’t I spoken on recently?
3. What are other preachers speaking on (i.e. you reference other pastors’ podcasts or websites)?
What do you notice about all three of those approaches?
Not one of them starts with the people you’re going to be speaking to. Isn’t that interesting?
I’ve taught communication for years, and I’m guessing you have too. So I’m pretty sure you’d never tell anyone that communication is all about what you want to say.
Communication 101 is about you and me considering the person (or people) we’re going to be speaking to and, based on whom they are and what’s going on in their world, deciding what we should to say to them. In other words, we start with them, not us.
Starting out a message without creating a hook is really hubris, if you think about it.