A few years ago, I calculated that I had preached about 2,000 times in my life. I’ve also listened to hundreds of sermons from dozens of different preachers. Recently, my family and I started attending Buckhead Church, where Andy Stanley is the Senior Pastor. In my opinion, Andy is one of the top three speakers on the planet. Twenty minutes into his sermon, I’m hanging on for more, not hoping he is done. Here’s six reasons why I believe that happens:
- He understands the people. I get the sense that Andy truly understands the people sitting in rows. I’ve heard him reference “Your first marriage” many times. Last week, one of his application question was about paying child support. This kind of understanding, and the real life examples he works into his messages build credibility.
- He is a master of the content. Andy doesn’t use notes, and if you pay attention, you’ll see him reference a slide on the screen just before it appears. That’s because he’s prepared. He knows his material and he’s not reading it from a sheet of paper. In my experience, the more a preacher relies on notes, the less he engages the congregation.
- He will get you to agree with him in the first five minutes. I’ve listened to thousands of sermons from dozens of preachers in my life, and I’ve never heard anyone creation tension like Andy Stanley. In the first five minutes of a message, you’ll find yourself agreeing with something. He might say, “You’ve thought this…” and you’ll agree in your heart. Even if you disagree with the truth, you’ll agree with the emotion. This is incredible, because if you can get someone to agree with you about something early on, you’ll be far more likely to get them to agree to take an action step in the end.
- He speaks to a broader audience. If you were to watch a video of Andy Speaking, you probably won’t know when and where he was when speaking. That’s because he’s not just preaching to the people in the room, he’s preaching to people in other rooms. He knows that his audience is larger than the people looking at him. You may think, “I don’t have the need to do that because we don’t have other campus and this message isn’t on the internet,” but the process of speaking “evergreen” will make you a better speaker.
- He tackles tough topics with grace. A few weeks ago, I heard Andy talk about the tough subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. He handled the topic with grace, but also spoke the truth. He was courteous, and recognized that everyone wouldn’t agree with his message, but that didn’t keep him away from explaining what the Bible said on the subject. I don’t think people feel beat up, but they know they need to make changes.
- He speaks with vision. I don’t have any insider information, but it seems like Andy ends nearly every message with a vision section. He often uses the word “Imagine” and paints a picture for people of what life would be like if they applied the principle. He causes you to think about the future, whether he’s talking about marriage, faith or finances. I usually leave feeling a sense of hope.
Those are just six of the things that make Andy Stanley one of the best preachers of our time. Of course, I don’t believe you should try and preach like Andy Stanley, or anyone else for that matter. Every speaker must work hard to find his or her own unique voice. But I believe this six transferrable principles will help you.