While some may disagree, I have always considered good preaching to be more like a conversation than a lecture. Both the speaker and the listeners must be active and engaged in order for there to be successful ministry. Through the years, I have not been the most engaging speaker on the planet, but I have had times when I connected well while speaking to a gathering of worshippers.
Here are some things that I consider positive signs of a group that is engaged in the message:
Eye contact: While a speaker must look around the room at various people, those who are listening to a speaker should stay visually focused on her. Wandering eyes translates as disengaged.
Body language: Good posture, squared shoulders, and a pleasant facial expression goes a long way. Speakers who see listeners yawn, have their heads in their hands, or otherwise looking bored get the message – you are bored. Even crossed arms with a furrowed brow can send a message to a preacher that you are less than thrilled with what is being said. Watch your body language. If you think that this is unimportant to your pastor, you are wrong. He is watching closely the signals you are sending. If you want to make his day, sit on the edge of your seat and take notes.
An amen now and then won’t kill you: While I never like hype for hype’s sake, an occasional “I agree” goes a long was while presenting God’s Word. This is especially true when dealing with sensitive topics. It is true that most people are uncomfortable with silence. We need to learn how to do quiet well. But there are times when a well-timed “yes” will break the tension in the room and allow a preacher to proceed with the issue at hand. To me, this is the equivalent of providing positive verbal feedback during any conversation. How tough would it be to talk to a friend and never get any feedback? That’s what preaching feels like when crickets are the only ones making noise.
Laugh at jokes, nod in agreement, answer questions, respond and react: Generally, this has to do with being a good conversationalist. I doubt any of us would walk out mid-sentence, doze off, or refuse to engage with a friend who is conversing with us. We should give our preachers the same courtesy.
The next time you are hearing a preacher, consider it a one-on-one conversation. While you can’t talk as much as he does, you still have a very important role to play in the talk.
And ask yourself this question: “What if everybody did what I am doing?” What kind of a church service would that be?
Help a preacher out!