This week I was discussing with my old friend Bishop Kenneth Ulmer about the best preaching style during a live stream message. By “style” we’re not talking about expository versus topical or motivational versus scholarly. We were referring to the physical style of preaching and what works best on camera for a live stream – especially when 100% of your congregation is watching online.
In that context, the two styles most frequently discussed are the classic full on preaching style most pastors do on a typical Sunday versus a lower key conversational style that many younger preachers are known for today.
Most pastors can get pretty worked up and passionate about their message, while others maintain a conversational approach. The problem is that the debate shouldn’t be about which is better, but which reflects a pastor’s personal preaching style and the expectations of the congregation.
There are numerous pastors – Andy Stanley for example – who are very good at the conversational approach. Andy isn’t a loud or forceful preacher, but he still makes a powerful connection with his congregation online. And the truth is, Andy – and pastors like him – were “conversational” even before the lockdown. Andy knows his strengths and is sticking with it.
On the other hand, Pastor Eric Petree at Citygate Church in Ohio leads a diverse, pentecostal church. Eric is a strong preacher and can get very passionate when he’s in the pulpit, and even now online, he preaches pretty much the same way. And while doing that, has actually expanded his live stream worship and music time, and has experienced growth across the board every week of the shutdown.
There isn’t a perfect preaching style that works best online. But having said that, I do think many pastors should consider dialing it back a bit – because you can’t walk around on the stage and get too theatrical online. When 100% of the congregation is on the other end of a camera, we have to adapt everything to that reality.
But the bottom line is that for me, it’s not a debate about preaching style, it’s about FOCUS. Focusing on your own unique personal preaching style, your unique congregation, delivering what they expect, but within the context of making it work on camera.
I’ve said before that during this shutdown, we’re off the map. And when we’re in uncharted territory, rather than trying to be someone you’re not, let’s focus on who you are. Experiment. Try new things. See what works. But never let that overshadow your own unique gifts, and an intimate knowledge of the expectations of your own congregation.