There is nothing I love more than my God.
There is no book I love more than the Bible.
I have spent twelve years of my life preaching them. Once a person begins to understand that it isn’t just any book, but God speaking to them, they will begin to see it differently and read with more enthusiasm. This Book of books can read you! God knows us better than any man which is why the Bible is and continues to be a “hands down bestseller”. What makes the Bible so special? God loves us. He wrote to us over many years with such an attentive and intimate knowledge of his creation. Many who have poured over the scared text have been blessed and had such a joyful enlightenment to its message. He wrote to tell us Good News!
Those who declare its contents week after week have learned the art of interpreting its message. They have spent years studying how to study it. Many have become skilled in ancient languages, ancient cultures and surveyed systematically its rich doctrinal truths. Then they become employed to preach. Every Sunday they share discourses of hours of preparation to audiences that want to hear and want to be encouraged, exhorted and enticed to a better, more obedient life.
So why do so many sermons miss the mark?
Why does listening become a dull exercise and fail to speak to the heart?
The main reason isn’t because the text wasn’t exegeted well (though that does seem to be a problem for some). It isn’t because God’s truth has some how expired or run its course and needs to updated. The reason is because the preacher (no matter what his intent) didn’t listen and get to know his audience. He spoke to them and not about them. He knows his text well and his people little, if at all.
The best sermons are ones that not only unveil the truths of the Bible but ones that carefully and sincerely unveil the truth about us. The preachers that are the most moving and the most exciting to hear are the ones who study their hearers. They listen. They know you. From the time they begin to speak everyone knows that they are not just listening to an “expert” or one who knows the text, but one who knows them and knows them well. They are a “peer of grace”. Usually the sermon begins exposing a problem everyone can “Amen” at the onset. It continues by addressing what the fears, desires or what other various issues and circumstances are that lies behind this problem and its reoccurrence. By the time the answer is ready to be delivered, there is near salivating from the hearers due to a common hunger being drawn out.
So why or how does that affect business?
In every way! Businesses are so busy offering services and improving on their products that they have forgotten the buyer. Do they even want what you are selling? Do they even care? Are you spending a fortune offering them something they don’t even need or can get in some other way? If you are convinced that they do need it (as most would be), how can you relate afresh to the consumer?
Marketing and advertising is supposed to bridge that gap. Unfortunately most advertising is concentrated on offers and methods more than they are about understanding their readers and meeting them at the point of need. A wise course of action and I would argue an absolute necessary one is to find out what those needs are and address them vividly. Those who study theology know that God not only gave us a Book but his Spirit. It is the Spirit’s job to take the beautiful truth of Christ and make it applicable to us; to address us and make it real. I certainly would never want to put the role of advertising on the same level as what God does relating truth to a soul, but the principle is the same. Someone has to bridge the gap between the offerer, the thing offered and the recipient.
Preachers and business leaders both should know the bad news that we can’t motivate people to buy, take action or change. But they should know the good news that people already are motivated. They do wanna change and take action. The job of the executive or yes, even the preacher is to find out what that motivation is. Harry Browne in his excellent book “The Secret of Success” states
“Don’t confuse products with motivations. No one ever buys a product. He buys what the product will accomplish. He buys because there’s something he wants for his life. Your job is to find out what that something is.”
Many reading this might get quickly offended if reading as both a business person and Christian – “Are you equating a preacher with a salesman?”, they might reply. No one likes the term “salesman”, but if by salesman they mean someone who makes an appeal via persuasion to move people to action then the answer is yes! No business should ever lie or distort the truth to make a sell. If however, they have something other people need then it is incumbent on them to know what’s keeping people from taking it, using it or putting it into daily use.
Between you and the target audience is a gap called desire. Find out what that is by experience, research or over a cup of coffee and a listening ear (and as a believer I would add prayer at the top of that list) and you will find that gap vanish. The problem isn’t with what you have to offer. The problem is they don’t see the answer to the age old question…
“What’s this got to do with me?”