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5 Dangerous Assumptions in Preaching

Assumption #4: “People never have trouble following my train of thought.”

No one wants to be regarded as “Christopher Columbus” in speaking. When Columbus started out, he did not know where he was going. When he got there, he didn’t know where he was. And when he came back, he didn’t know where he had been! More may regard you as a Christopher Columbus than you might think.

One reason many feel this way but do not mention it is because they’re accustomed to listening to confusing speakers, so they tend to think their confusion is normal. It’s also why, when they hear one that’s easy to follow, they talk about him for days. He or she stood out.

When people see you as difficult to follow, it’s largely because of two reasons. One is that your thoughts seem disjointed. As I was helping a man prepare a message, I asked him to explain one of his connections between one sentence and another, because I didn’t see it. His response was, “I’m not sure.” I assured him that if it was confusing in his mind, it would be confusing in the mind of the audience.

Preachers can also be difficult to follow when they lose people in their transitions. They move on, but they don’t take the audience with them. I’ve found that it takes three sentences to make a transition: “Having made his first point, Paul the Apostle has a second thing to explain. There’s a second point he wants to make. The second point he makes is…..” In doing so, I’m saying, “Hey, I’m moving on—pay attention! We’re leaving where we’ve been.”

To avoid this misconception, once again, talk to someone who will be honest with you. But once more, be specific with your questions: “Did you have any trouble following me?” doesn’t do it. Instead, ask questions such as, “What was my main thought? How did you see me developing my message? Was there any point in the message where I lost you?” You may discover that you are more difficult to follow than you think. But if you accept this fact with a broken spirit, you become a better preacher by improving in an area where you’re weaker than you thought.

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Dr. R. Larry Moyer is a veteran evangelist and a frequent speaker in evangelistic outreaches, training seminars, churches and universities around the world. Born with an inherited speech defect, Larry vowed to God as a teenager that if He would allow him to gain control of his speech he would always use his voice to declare the gospel. In 1973, Larry founded EvanTell, where he now serves as President and CEO. He has written several books on evangelism and frequently contributes articles to ministry publications.