Connection in preaching means that it is not about the preacher. It is about the congregation.
Self-centered preachers rarely connect. Preaching then, requires us to take a stance of humility and deference to the needs of the congregation. Why? If they do not engage and believe your message, then nothing in their lives or in the life of the church will change.
Look at the congregation as the hero. You are the mentor. They are the ones that you are leading to implement the message the Holy Spirit has given you to preach. Whether it’s an issue of spiritual formation or dealing with sin or embracing a missional lifestyle, for a change to occur, what you preach must be put into practice by those who hear and understand the message. In putting the message into practice, the congregation provides evidence for the effectiveness of our preaching.
Mentors and coaches play a unique role. They give wisdom, spark ideas, and encourage. But they cannot make the person (or congregation) do anything. And they certainly cannot live life for them. Mentors lay the responsibility for action at the feet of those they mentor. Those being mentored must put the challenge into action.
Congregations can’t be told what to do, they need to be lead into the doing. They need to see, hear, and feel the message. The message needs to make sense and it needs to be meaningful to them in some way.
Since emotions are the primary driver of behavior, a visceral and emotional connection needs to be made. And then the person or church needs a way to implement the behavior. Mentors suggest and/or provide those opportunities.
A mentor models, invigorates, empowers, and releases. Repeatedly.
When you stand to preach next, consider yourself Yoda. Think of the congregation as a group of padawan learners. You are mentoring them into a force, where they hear the message of God for their lives and march out to live that message in a world needing Jesus.
To think that way, you will seek their best, not yours. You will start where they are, not where you are. You will engage them personally, relationally, and socially. And you will lead them, not tell them. You will love them, not use them. You will weep for them, not denigrate them.
Though we preach with the tongues of angels, and do not have love, we’re a loud noise that irritates, not motivates.