Excellent communication is a highly desired talent in the American church. Most pastors seek to be great communicators, yet unfortunately, many pulpits are void of compelling and effective communication.
Some seek to teach complex concepts and be thoroughly understood. Others simply try hard to entertain their listeners. But the most effective communicators seek to influence their listeners to action. Transmitting information is not difficult. But communicating for life change takes a lot more work.
Transformation and action should be the goal of all Christian communication. But it takes intentionality, hard work and focus. Here are three important elements to motivate people to action.
Tell a compelling story
Stories were the videos of New Testament times. Instead of going to YouTube, people in Jesus’ day would go to the city square and listen to people tell stories.
Jesus was a master storyteller. When we wanted to capture people’s attention, he’d tell a story. “There was once a man who had two sons…”When he wanted to teach a lesson, he’d use an analogy. “The kingdom of Heaven is like…”When he wanted to drive home a point, he’d give an object lesson. “Look at the flowers of the field…”
Jesus used stories to engage his listeners. And you should too. Compelling, well-delivered stories will draw people in, make them more receptive to your message, and help them remember the point you’re trying to make.
The next step in motivating people to action is to attach emotion.
Advertisers have known this for years. Crying babies and sad puppies tug at people’s hearts and motivate them to respond. If a listener is emotionally involved, they will respond.
In the parable of the lost son (Luke 15), Jesus included emotions. He skillfully used sadness, fear, pity, hope, surprise and joy to develop the story and draw in his listeners. Then Jesus continued and told of bitterness, envy, sibling rivalry, jealousy, and benevolent love to capture the hearts of his listeners and make his point.
But a word of caution. There is a fine line between influence and manipulation, and sometimes that line can get blurred. Influencing people towards God’s purposes is a good thing, and something Christian leaders are called to do. When the use of emotion becomes a tool to use people or pressure them to engage in something other than God-honoring purposes, that's when it can be dangerous.
Give an action step
Once you’ve inspired people and they’re ready to respond, the final essential is to give a clear, simple, action step. It does no good to persuade people to act and then not tell them how to do it. So the action step must be clear and simple.
Clarity eliminates ambiguity and lets everyone know exactly how to respond. That’s the goal. To get people to act.
Simplicity makes it easy. So make sure the desired action is one-step and immediately accessible.
As Christian leaders, we primarily deal with people and ideas. It’s not enough to tell people what to do. If you want people to respond to your message, tell a compelling story. Attach emotion. And give people a clear, simple, action step. Using these steps will produce the kind of response you’re seeking, for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.
Mark Lenz / Mark J. Lenz is a faith-based business owner and church consultant helping churches create organizational health and bringing clarity and focus to ministry and mission.