The Educator Preacher: an Oxymoron? (3/09)

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By Mike Shields
Missionary Evangelist
Adjunct Professor - LAAST

“He couldn't preach so he’s a teacher.”

I hear this stuff all the time.  It’s generally accepted that an educator is by-and-large a boring speaker.  Conversely, good preachers (as the myth goes) probably will fail in the classroom.  The underlying message is that a denominational college or “Bible School” is the junk yard for failed preachers.  

This is my first article for ACLAME, and it seems like the best way to never again to be invited to submit material is to come right out and say something radical.  So here it goes. 

The bad rap educators get for being boring speakers is…ahem…kind of true. 

My effort today is to ask ourselves why the Educator Preacher is a perceived oxymoron. 

My effort tomorrow will be to wipe the eggs and tomatoes off my outfit when you thud me in our next educator’s forum. 

Okay, here are four reasons why I believe educators get the bad rap as boring speakers:

1)  Educators are in it for the long haul.

That’s right.  If you have a dump truck load of material to teach in a 3 credit class the mass of material must be parceled out in a logical progression.  That method is great for the classroom but sure can be a tedious dud listening to it in the pew. 

Educators who are invited to speak in a church or large group meeting have to hit the high points first.  Get that gold nugget in your little bag of tricks out there right way.  Don't hide it for the big surprise like we do in class session number 5.  You don't have five hours to speak; you have less than a half an hour.  Push that great point out there in the first five minutes.  People will appreciate it and you'll become a more engaging speaker right way.

2)  Educators want to get into my head.  I want them to get there through my heart.

I've heard some good teachings by educators in church settings.  The material is logical, well developed, and doctrinally sound.  But there have been times it's so boring it seems moths are floating out of the mouth of the speaker.  

When you are asked to preach, remember it isn't just a bigger group to teach.  Go out there and use your material to inspire.  Get to my head by speaking to my heart.  Be emotionally involved in your material.  In your speaking use illustrations about people and talk about real situations.  Don't launch into some hermeneutical discovery you outlined in some excel chart and embedded into a PowerPoint.  Your material needs to inspire my heart, not lull my weary brain into a semi-comatose state.

3)  Educators try to tell the truth, the whole truth…and nothing but the truth. 

Hey, throw me a bone, not a bomb!  Expounding on loads of truth is great for a 12-week class, but it's a bomb for congregational speaking.  You aren't there to delineate each point, get it fully explained, make sure everyone understands all the information, and finally issue a tidy little grade based on an intellectually appropriate class curve.  Expect a brain dead congregation if you go there.  

As an educator speaker you are there to move the greatest number of people into accepting your scriptural point and acting upon it.  Grab that point, understand clearly what you want the group or congregation to do about your information, and drive it home clearly.  Don't worry about whether or not you have “squeezed in” everything.  That’s what educators too often try to do when speaking in congregational settings.  Didactically and methodologically speaking… it goes over like a pregnant pole-vaulter.  (And has a similar landing.) 

Okay, you can throw another rotten egg at this evangelist.

4)  For Educators, breaking up is hard to do. 

One well known educator many of you know was asked to “speak” for our Minnesota Ministers Retreat one year.  Two hours and twenty minutes later, he decided to conclude!  Take it from a battle hardened evangelist: you have to know when to shut it down. 

A good speaker knows there are two major windows in any good sermon (or message).  You get four minutes in the beginning to frame your topic.  Then you get four minutes at the end to seal the deal.  Everything in between is designed to bring your audience to accept your hypothesis and inspired to act upon it.

Too often, educators are willing to extend a point or thought until they have moved passed the exit ramp.  Many times in my B. A. and Masters studies a teacher would get rolling on something, move with it till the bell rang and beyond, then say “Wow, time got away from us.  But we'll take up some of this other material in the next class”.

Look Profs…you don’t have a next time.  When you are invited to speak somewhere, you get one shot!  You won't be coming back to make up what was left out.  Decide what you want to say, say it, then close things down by saying it again in a way that challenges the audience to make a decision.

Get to it.  Then...get out.  Anything else will push the educator in you to take over.  You'll need a good alarm clock to wake up the snoring followers. 

Okay, thanks for the privilege of knowing all of you.  Hopefully by the time Jesus comes, you'll forgive me.  It would be nice to live inside Heaven’s Gate instead of out in the rural area where the four and twenty elders wander. 

In the meantime, would you quit throwing those tomatoes?