No one is waiting to hear from you

It won’t take very long on this blog to realise I’m a fan of Seth Godin‘s thinking and writing (a writer on leadership and marketing of rare insight).

A couple of months ago he blogged on “Get your memo read” – a piece stemming from a disastrously ignorable memo left outside his hotel door (which he critiques and rewrites) – and suggests 5 approaches to writing “to be heard” that I’ll come to another day.

But what struck me immediately is how precisely true to the act of preaching his opening words are about how difficult it is to write a memo that might actually get read:

  1. No one is waiting to hear from you.
  2. You need to have the clarity to know who it’s for, what it’s for and precisely what you want them to do.
  3. You have to have the guts to leave out everything that isn’t part of (2)

Take those in turn and you couldn’t want for a better primer in preparing to preach…

No one is waiting to hear from you” – sounds harsh, but it’s probably true that few will have spent the week counting the hours ’til your sermon. You can’t assume they’re hanging on your every word. You have to give people, right up front, a reason to listen. “Why would anyone want to spend the next 20 minutes listening to this?”.

Clarity… sounds easy (and obvious). It’s not. It takes peeling away layer upon layer of ideas, interesting (to you) side alleys and dead ends to get to that one sentence that says “who it’s for, what it’s for and …what you want them to do” because of your sermon. What’s God actually got you there for?

And guts is harder still – especially if you don’t preach regularly. Leaving out something that is funny, or memorable or (even harder) “clever” is painfully difficult (sometimes impossibly painful) – like clearing out a box of treasured (but useless and never-to-be-looked-at childhood art projects). But if you can answer the ‘clarity’ question, then it becomes possible to jettison everything else that gets in the way.

No one is waiting to hear from you. But God is waiting for you to speak – and (if you’re speaking wisely) He wants you to be heard.

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