Can You Hear Me Now?
Your approach matters. *
Remember when, as a child, you wanted something? Over time you learned by trial and error which parent to ask, when to ask, how to ask, and how much to ask for.
As an adult, isn’t it much the same? Whether you are talking to your child, your spouse, your boss or your neighbor, you still have to consider how best to approach them with a delicate subject. Being right isn’t enough. The approach often makes all the difference. Choose the wrong approach, and you create unnecessary resistance. Choose the right approach, and your audience will be more receptive to the message.
“Your approach is as important as the message itself.” This point was hammered repeatedly last week during a one-day preaching conference I attended in Nashville. The “Preach Better Sermons” conference was focused on helping ministers better connect with and engage our audiences.
Of course, content matters. God working through the message of the gospel is the power that transforms lives (Romans 1:16-17). But as his representatives, we have an obligation to consider also our approach to those we are trying to reach for Christ.
Notice the interplay between Paul’s goal of reaching as many people as possible (“win”), with his willingness to adjust his approach (“became”):
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22, emphasis mine)
We were challenged at the conference with a number of tough questions:
“Does your current approach support your goal of preaching, or work against it?”
“Would you be willing to change, or even abandon, your approach in order to win all possible?”
“Who is helping you become a better preacher?”
Yikes! That’s a lot to think about. But I have come to realize that the message I heard last week isn’t as much about preaching as it is about living. After all, we’re all ministers, aren’t we? So, even as I wrestle with the implications of the conference as a public speaker, allow me to reframe the questions for your consideration:
“Does your current approach support your goal of living (for Christ), or work against it?”
“Would you be willing to change, or even abandon, your approach, in order to win all possible?”
“Who is the person helping you become a better minister?”
You see, approach really does matter. That’s why Christians must be concerned with living in such a way that “no one will malign the word of God,” but “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (Titus 2:5, 10)
What’s stopping you from making the necessary adjustments to capture the attention of those around you? There’s only one answer. It’s the third word in the question:
*Andy Stanley shared this principle (and illustration) at the conference, taken from his latest book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.