The Brain And How You Preach (Better)

As pastors we communicate a lot of information.  Teaching is something we do, and if we aren't teaching about Jesus we are probably teaching about biblical leadership.

We teach, but sometimes it can feel like no one is listening.  

We dream of making a big difference for the kingdom in our communities, but wonder if there is life change in our sanctuaries.  

We dream of seeing lives changed. 

We dream of seeing families transformed.

We dream of seeing people step out of the darkness and into the light. 

We dream, but we wonder if any of the information we are communicating is ever getting past the head and to the heart of our audience. 

I'm grateful that the Holy Spirit is the one who does the life change work in people's lives.  Knowing that takes the pressure off, but it doesn't release us from working hard at bettering ourselves as communicators and engaging our culture and audience through how we communicate.

A few weeks ago I sat with my good friend and coach, Wayne Herring, talking about church, life, leadership and the courses I am creating to help pastors and church leaders (the speaking course is available right now).  As we talked, Wayne shared an incredible diagram of the human brain he had created. The diagram is a a tool Wayne created to help CEOs, Business Owners and Entrepreneurs understand how to speak to clients in a way that helps them make a decision, not just process information.   Wayne Herring ( is a coach for all kinds of highly successful business entrepreneurs, and somehow I snuck into that group!  Wayne also graciously allowed me to share his diagram with all of you (thanks Wayne)!


Download the full size image here.

On the Line Of Logic diagram the left side of the brain is designated as the Logic Side with the subtitle - How We Process Information.  When you talk about money, technical information, logistics and rational you are speaking to the logical side of the brain.  The logic side of the brain then starts processing the information provided.  This is great if you really want your subject to learn material and be able to understand how something works.  The problem is speaking to the left side of the brain doesn't help someone make a decision.  Speaking to the right side of the brain helps someone make a decision.  On Wayne's diagram the right side of the brain is called the Limbic Side with the subtitle - How We Make Decisions.  When you talk about goals, dreams, why, emotion and depth you are talking to the right side of the brain and you are helping your audience make a decision about the information provided.   Instead of defaulting to the left side of the brain when selling a product or recruiting an investor, business owners should help their clients make decisions by speaking to the right side of the brain.  

As Wayne and I talked about the diagram (honestly I have been processing it ever since) I felt it had strong implications to how we communicate in church. 

When we teach the technical parts of a passage we help our listeners process the rich and life giving information found in scripture.  

When we speak about the why of the passage, when we speak about the depth of the passage, when we speak about the emotion that goes into the passage, we engage the listener's right side of the brain, sinking right past it to the heart and we help our listener make a decision in response to the truth found in the passage.

It's good to process information about following Christ.  It's better to make a decision to follow Christ. 

It's good to process scripture.  It's better to make a decision in response to scripture.

Here are 5 simple and quick adjustments you can make while preaching to help your audience make a decision about the truth they hear in your message.

1.  Talk about the why.  Always.  Why this passage?  Why is this important?  Why does it matter?  Why now?  Why are you speaking about this?  Why did Jesus do that?  Why did Paul say that?  This is so simple to weave in and out of your sermon.  Keep your audience engaged.  Lead them to a decision.  Show them the "Why."

2.  Engage your audience emotionally.  Why are we so afraid of genuine emotion in the church. Fake or exaggerated emotion is just cheesy, don't be that guy or girl, but that doesn't mean you have to excommunicate emotion from your message.  Instead talk about what the characters in the story would have likely felt.  Talk about the emotion communicated in the passage.  Talk about the emotions your audience wrestles with and how this passage speaks to them.  Talk about your emotions in response to the passage.

3.  Lead with the goal of the passage and the goal of the talk.  What do you hope to communicate?  What is the one thing the author of the passage was communicating to the audience.  What do you want your audience to take away from the message?  What would you like to see them do in response to the message.   Set the goal and clearly communicate it.

4.  Speak to the dreams your audience has for their life.  If you don't know what your audience's dreams, desires, frustrations and fears are you better spend some time getting to know them. A lot of pastors think they understand their audience but can't . list their weekly desires, dreams, fears and frustrations.  This is a great exercise to do with your team:  List them out and then speak to them.

5.  Show the depth of meaning found in the passage you are teaching.  What does this mean for life?  For your audience? For our future?  Scripture is so deep.  Instead of rushing through your outline and covering a lot of ground, show the depth off.  Deep is good.  Go deep.

Hope this helps.

Your voice matters,