Practical Tips for Snagging Your Listeners' Undivided Attention

If your seats are empty, consider these tips.
If your seats are empty, consider these tips. (Pexels)

This is part 2 of a two-part series.

As somebody who has been preaching and teaching the gospel since 1978, I have seen the "good, the bad and the ugly" when it comes to presenting the gospel of Christ (both in others and myself). After I had been saved for only about six months, I started preaching on the New York City subways, then on the Staten Island ferry to thousands of people several nights per week. Hence, I learned how to communicate and preach the gospel by real life interaction with people. I have never formally studied homiletics (the science of preaching) but learned from observing my pastor (Ben Crandall, who was an outstanding preacher and teacher) and from experience. I also read books on homiletics and the art of communication. 

The following are the rest of the 15 principles for powerful preaching. To read the first eight principles, click here.

9. Gain the victory in private before you present it in public.

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I learned from several leaders I respected that the key to having power in the pulpit is adequate preparation. This does not only involve sermon preparation but heart preparation. In addition, having a robust prayer life enables me to receive insight from the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the Scriptures to me. For example, every time I am going to preach or teach I spend an adequate amount of time waiting on God in deep travail and intercession until I know that I have a breakthrough for the meeting in the spirit. When that happens, I have assurance in my heart of the success of the service and the sermon before I set foot in the pulpit. Also, I read and rehearse the text over and over again and remain focused on the message for many hours prior to my presentation.

10. Preach out of experience more than abstract ideals.

I have also discovered that the most powerful messages I preach are the ones I have walked out already before God and man. The messages I preach merely out of head-knowledge will have the least effect on the hearers. This is because we can only really impart to others what we have already allowed God to impart to us.

11. Read the text aloud for proper pronunciation and inflection.

Often, I have been embarrassed for preachers (and embarrassed myself a few times) when they read a passage and mispronounced key words. Effective communicators read relevant passages as well as their sermon aloud in private to make sure they can present their message with a spirit of excellence. It is also important to make sure your body language lines up with the message. There are times when preachers are not aware of weird facial expressions they make and or bodily motions that can cause the audience to be distracted. For example, there are times when a preacher has an angry scowl, which can be a turn off to new people who do not understand their heart.

12. Make believe there are no chapters and verses to understand the context.

In my opinion, understanding the context of a passage is often more important than knowing the nuance of the original languages of Scripture. This is because, Hebrew and Greek words often have many shades of meaning and a preacher can twist a text to mean anything they desire because of root meaning options. A method of Bible reading that has greatly aided me in hermeneutics (science of biblical interpretation) is to make believe there are no chapters and verses. Chapters and verses were not inspired but were placed in Scripture hundreds of years ago by the translators and publishers of Bibles to help people memorize and locate Scripture. Chapters and verses often isolate Scripture and remove it from the context of the chapter and beyond. When I read Scripture, I intentionally ignore chapters and verses, which helps me to read it the way it was originally written, as one flowing letter. This method of reading the Bible has revolutionized and broadened the horizon of what I receive in my Bible reading and preaching.

13. Keep eye contact and be natural.

Although I write out most of my new sermons, I read it over and over again the day before I preach, and then again several times right before I get up to preach. My goal is to be so immersed in the message that I will preach without the use of notes as much as possible so I can always keep eye contact with my audience. Also, reading notes looks unnatural to the audience because they intuitively expect preachers to communicate only from their heart and experience. Furthermore, maintaining eye contact with my audience enables me to more easily sense key points in the message the people are receiving as well as be open to spontaneous downloads from the Lord that can prophetically impart His heart to the people.

14. Avoid discursive preaching.

When I first started to preach, I was told that I preached 15 messages in one sermon. That is to say, I continually chased rabbits and discussed numerous biblical themes without staying on point; this discursive form of communication makes it very difficult for the audience to walk away with anything practical. One helpful thing to do is to study the sermons in the book of Acts, which demonstrate how to utilize many forms of preaching without losing focus. Also, some of the most effective preachers in the world today use one-point sermons that present one theme many different ways to ensure the congregation understands the thesis of the message.

15. Utilize a preaching community for honest feedback after each message.

We have had a preaching community in our church, which for years gave honest feedback to the presenter after each sermon. In my life, I have several people who give me honest feedback, including my spouse and close friends. This honesty has greatly aided my effectiveness and enabled me to avoid continually making mistakes that will limit my capacity as a communicator.

Finally, may all of us commissioned by God to communicate the Word, do so, understanding the grave task of revealing His will by preaching (see Titus 1:3).

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders ( He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter, go to

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