Tuesday, April 26, 2011

E is for Engagement

A friend reading my preaching 'e's challenged me to do one more, on Engagement.

I quite agree. Engagement might be the most important 'e' preaching word of them all.

I have a message to give. The congregation is open to receiving the message. But will they receive the message? When, perhaps, some are tired, others are distracted (e.g. by an accompanying child, by some anxiety), and others are entranced by something around them - a buzzing fly, a sun-filled stained glass window - what will engage attention so that the message delivered is, more or less, the message received?

I do not think there is a preferred method. Some preachers use humour effectively to retain attention and to reinforce the message. Others tell appropriate illustrative stories, the best of these placing them judiciously into the flow of the sermon. Within the story tellers are those who engage best through autobiography, others through biography (i.e. the stories of other people), and others through other kinds of stories drawn from history, nature and sport (how the war was won, how ants co-operate, how to develop a winning frame of mind). It will help if the Bible is mentioned! Often the text for the day is engaging in its own right - a dramatic episode from Israel's history, a might miracle of Jesus, a parable with a sting in its tail.

Let me stop there for now. In doing so I exemplify one further aspect of engagement: speaking for less rather than more time. The most engaging material has a time limit on it. Go beyond that limit and engagement will cease.

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