I’m on the interstate, solidly in the middle of heavy traffic, trying to hold my own at a comfortable 65 or 70 or slightly more. Suddenly, from out of nowhere–maybe he dropped down out of the sky!–a motorcycle is all over me, appearing suddenly on my back bumper or just to my left elbow, then swerving around in front. The noise is horrendous and completely unexpected. He zooms past like he was jet-propelled and disappears into the distance.
I am unnerved.
Honestly, I need to exit immediately and find a rest area where I can kill the engine, get out and walk around, and get my wits back.
That was frightening.
The cyclist has no idea what he did. Or maybe he did.
Common sense says the fellow under that helmet drives a car from time to time and surely has had the experience of having a daredevil on a Harley materialize out of nowhere and scare the blazes out of him. Or maybe not.
If he had, he’d never do that to anyone else.
At this point I have a private conversation with the unknown cyclist. No, I do not curse him (really). In fact, I’m far more likely to send up a prayer that the Lord will “protect that fool and protect everyone he comes into contact with; he’s an accident looking to happen.”
Then, I wish I could tell him one huge thing….
The faster you go, the more invisible you become.
An 18-wheeler plowing down the interstate at 90 mph is at least visible. But on a motorcycle you are slightly larger than a bicycle and at that rate of speed, you are all over a driver before he knows you are there. And what that means is…
….You are vulnerable to his pulling out in front of you as he changes lanes. We can hear him telling the cop as they scrape your body off the asphalt, “I’m as sorry as I can be, officer. But I didn’t see the guy.”
You were almost invisible.
Now, that’s lesson enough for anyone right there without any moralizing and sermonizing on it. It’s a lesson in safety on the highways we should all take into account: The faster we drive, the less likely other drivers will see us. Thus we endanger ourselves, our passengers and others on the highway.
But is there a lesson here for pastors?
In the same way motorists lose the ability to think and will react instinctively, good or bad, when the motorcycle appears on their bumper with a noise like (ahem) rolling thunder, the preacher who attacks his people with fast talk and loudness, with rapid-fire delivery and overpowering theatrics, is taking away their ability to think rationally about what he’s saying. Any response he gets will be automatic, reactive, instinctive.
And probably short-lived.
Such preachers should not be surprised if people don’t follow through on decisions made under such duress.
You have to wonder about some preaching styles and techniques. Or put another way, you have to wonder about some preachers.
The staccato delivery some entire denominations practice from their pulpits is a wonder to me.
It’s not in the Bible.
The preachers are clearly learning it from one another.
As though generations of Jacob’s descendants imitated his limp (Genesis 32:31-32) or the followers of Moses’ patterned their speech after his lisp (Exodus 4:10).
Come on, guys. Stop this foolishness.
Nowhere in Scripture do we see Jesus shifting into oratorical overdrive and putting on a show for the people. Instead, he talked to them, explained things, and taught them. I will go so far as to say there is not one word in the New Testament that indicates the Lord Jesus employed oratory. He spoke to them. Talked. Reasoned.
A few quick suggestions on how a frenetic preacher can slow down his sermon delivery…
1. Tell a story.
2. Stop and pray.
3. Ask a question.
4. Enlist his wife and kids’ help.
5. Listen to other preachers. David Jeremiah, for one.
6. Sing a song. Or have someone else sing one. Or lead the congregation.
7. Ask the Lord to help you aim at lasting fruit from your preaching and not live or die by the verbal approval of your people. (So, quit asking the congregation for an ‘amen.’ If they give one spontaneously, fine. But try not to prime the pump and generate it for your own satisfaction. Show some respect.)
8. Study the gospels and learn to preach like Jesus. (What a revolutionary thought.)
“Slow down and live, friend.” After all, speed kills.