This is a series on Coaching Distinctions that commonly arise in my work as a leadership coach to pastors, without regard to church size, geographic location, or denominational affiliation. These distinctions address human challenges and apply to all of us.audition 74

So it is with these Audition Delusions.

Simply stated, without rigorous discipline, you are not listening to your boss, your spouse, or the chairwoman of your elder board; rather, you are listening to your internal dialog about what they’re saying. 

Today, we consider the fourth aspect of the audition delusion: despite your exhaustive efforts to craft the perfect sermon, nobody is listening to you, anyway! 

In seminary, my professors referred to sermons in hushed, reverent tones as ‘works of art’ scrupulously and skillfully fashioned, word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase as Whitman’s poetry or Hemingway’s novels.

sculpting 74I’d toil over each illustration, plan my voice inflection, pace, when and where to appeal to the listener’s emotion or engage my own. Hour upon hour spent in devoted isolation, researching, writing, editing, shaping, crafting, honing, trimming—perfecting my opus. Their rule of thumb: an hour of preparation for every minute we’d preach.

Then, Sunday, as I’m expounding my oeuvre, everyone is listening intently … to themselves. They’re hearing their internal dialog about the sermon, or following a rabbit trail an illustration put them on, or considering where they’ll have lunch… and if we’ll finish in time for the second half of the Seahawks’ game.

See, without discussion—without some form of feedback loop—there’s no way to know what message they heard. This is why, whenever someone complements me on a sermon or talk invariably I respond: “Why?”

I want to know what they’re complementing. What, of all they heard, struck them? What difference do they believe it made?

Only then can we enter into the kind of dialog that Jesus used to equip his disciples. While much is made of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, most of the life-transforming work he did was dialogical in form. Jesus shared parables in public. dialog 74Then, privately, he’d explain the meaning. It is an audition delusion to think you’re changing lives by oratory alone.

It is engaging people up close, discussing their questions, probing their understanding, clarifying what’s preeminent, and working that out in practical ways that changes people deeply.

We get to make space for our hearers to push back on what challenging, clarify what’s confounding, and make sense of what’s confusing.

And as we intentionally let our people see us struggle, watch us wrestle with God, and live in God-honoring ways—now that can transform them forever.




Coaching distinctions #74.doc