"Improv that makes you feel something” was how my friend Sarah described what my friend Kristen and I do with Easily Amused Improv on Wednesday night. It was a testament to our unique, story based, improv that seeks to communicate a story honestly, not only through our words, but through our emotions and our presence on stage.
As pastors and preachers, the words we share in a message are important. It’s important that we craft sermons that communicate the Gospel honestly and faithfully. But like improv, a sermon is more than the words. The words are carried by a messenger…you. Your presence matters immensely. When you pay attention to your presence as a preacher as much as the words you use, you begin preaching sermons people can feel.
The best way to make your messages hard to ignore is to amplify them by your presence.
When I work with improvisers on presence I help them to do two things:
1. be centered
2. embody the story
Be centered - Stop wandering. Too many preachers do it. It's distracting and diminishes the message your want to share. At times it looks like pacing and it makes you look nervous. You don’t look prepared or confident. Instead, center yourself. Stand up straight behind the pulpit. If you preach in front of the congregation, plant your feet somewhere and put your arms down to your sides before you begin. Take a deep breath. If, during your sermon, you need to move, do so with intention as part of sermon and not by accident. When you are centered as a preacher, you display confidence and intention, and when you do, people will listen.
Embody the story - Stories can be told in two different ways, as a reporter or as a storyteller. Reporters tell stories from an objective point of view. They are outside the story telling others what happened. When pastors preach in this way the sermon sounds like a glorified commentary on the Scripture and/or a reporter reporting on what the text says for our lives.
Storytellers take things one step further. They just don’t tell a story, they live the story. They enter the world of the story and communicate the emotions within it allowing the audience to enter the world with them.
Preachers can do the same by embodying not just the stories within it, but also the sermon itself. Let the sermon emerge from the core of who you are. Don’t just tell us what you think, let us see your heart. The next time you tell a story, embody it. Let us feel the story with you. Even if it’s a story that’s not yours, enter the world of the story and show us what happened.
Make your messages hard to ignore. Amplify them with your presence.