Talk About What You Know

I have a question for you. How do you preach on gender dysphoria?

If you don’t know what gender dysphoria is, then your answer is, "I don’t know," but maybe you're dealing with some pretty big, complex issues in our world right now like race or politics. I'm writing this about a month before the 2016 presidential election, so if you're reading this after the election, I'm assuming that it turned out okay and the world didn’t fall apart!

Expert Witnesses

How do we speak well as preachers on subjects that are not in our wheelhouse? These are important subjects, but they're complicated, and require a level of knowledge and expertise in order to be helpful. 

I remember a story in the life of our church where I'm preaching - I can't even remember the text; I can't remember the exact point I was making, but I was making some medical illustration - and I didn't know what I was talking about. It was stuff that I probably Googled or looked up on Wikipedia or something like that.

Now one thing you should know is that we have a nursing school in Athens, and we have nurses and nursing students in our church. So I'm rattling on with all of my knowledge gleaned from Wikipedia and I can distinctly remember two of our nurses sitting in different parts of the crowd, both shaking their heads, "No. No, what you're saying is not true."

Sound familiar?

You Don't Have To Be The Expert

Please only talk about what you know. 

Years ago, the minister in most communities was more educated and better read than practically anyone else. They were the experts on most subjects. When people had questions, they had answers. 

They were helpful because they knew what they were talking about. 

In the world we live in now, it's impossible for a church leader to have great answers on every question that we face in our churches and our cities. And because we want to help people, we feel the pressure to address real questions that confuse, perplex and frustrate our people.

But far too many church leaders end up talking about stuff they don't know. 

So what do we do?

  1. Learn from the experts. There are people in your church who know more than you do. When you're dealing with complex issues such as race, politics or sexuality, find those people who know more than you and learn from them. Let their expertise inform you so you can address those issues with better understanding and greater authority.

  2. Let the experts teach. What if you didn't have to be the mouthpiece for your church on racial injustice, addiction, or adoption. It's possible that you have people in your church who can open up a Bible, teach expositionally and exegetically, and be able to illustrate and help people apply what the Scriptures teach in an area that you simply aren't well-versed in. Or - and this might be the best starting point - is to take 5-10 minutes during a message to interview one person or a panel of people who can speak into that particular subject. 

Do The Next Right Thing

Look at your preaching schedule for the next 2-3 months. Is there a subject that you need to address that you're uncomfortable talking about because you don't know enough to be helpful?

Is there someone in your church or city who knows that subject well? Buy them lunch or coffee and ask questions. Get permission to use what they share with you. Make sure they have an opportunity to see how you're going to present that information before you deliver it in a sermon.

Depending on your theology and philosophy of preaching, consider asking that person to help you by sharing their information during the sermon. That can happen in a live or pre-recorded interview and if you have multiple people who could speak into the issue, consider taking a few minutes for a panel discussion. 

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