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Friday, April 29, 2011

Singing, Acting and Preaching

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In my life I've been a singer, an actor and a preacher. The three disciplines have a lot in common. Sure, you're up on the stage in front of people for all three, but beyond that, there's still more that's common between them.

Singing requires practice, focus, emotion and control. Unless you're one of the rare people who can pick up a new song and sing it immediately, you need to spend time practicing so that it will come out sounding right. You also need to focus. If you're singing with a group or with instruments you need to sound good with everyone else, not just on your own. You need to blend with the other sounds, tune to the other pitches and focus on how it all works together. Great singers make us believe what they're singing by showing emotion. They draw us into the song with the way they perform and evoke emotions in us. Finally, singing takes control. You need to be able to change the volume, pitch or intensity instantly. You can't just cut loose and belt it all out, you need to keep your voice tightly controlled when singing loudly or softly.

Acting takes many of the same skills and preparation, but one thing that I learned from acting is that you need to make everything you do bigger than life. The stage is small and far away from the audience. For them to see what you're feeling you need to make the expressions on your face big. Bigger than you would in a personal conversation. It's uncomfortable and weird to stretch your face so large in a smile or a frown, but it communicates to the back row. Also good actors have great diction. They enunciate clearly, but not so much that it's awkward. They don't leave off letters or sounds that the audience needs to hear to know what's going on. A good actor doesn't need a microphone to be heard, clearly. It's not just shouting, but speaking with force and precision.

So all of this has been mixed into my preaching style. I practice my sermon several times before I give it. I don't just sit and read through the sermon, I stand up in the auditorium and preach it to the empty room. I do this at least twice before every sermon. My preaching needs to blend with the rest of what's happening on Sunday. I can't overpower or contradict the singing, praying or audience. I need to show my emotions as I preach. I may be familiar with the subject matter, but the audience isn't I need to show on my face how I reacted the first time I heard the message I'm preaching.

What has helped you to be better at the art of preaching?

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