Every Sunday, thousands of church leaders stand up on their church’s platform and begin to speak. Like Jesus who took the scroll of Isaiah, read a passage, and then offered words of explanation, these leaders start with the scriptures and offer their (hopefully) God-given insights in the hopes of sharing something that will actually change a life.
I’ve been teaching Proclamation of the Word at Phillips Seminary (Tulsa, OK) for the Center for Ministry and Lay Training since 2017. From the very beginning, we’ve talked about how to preach an effective sermon as opposed to what I call a pointless sermon. The difference between the two is pretty simple. An effective sermon invites the listeners to do something that can potentially change their lives; whereas, a pointless sermon invites the listeners to either (1) ponder something or another – I refer to that as “Gee Whiz Knowledge”; or (2) invites the listener to do something that’s vanilla or generic (like, “Be More Forgiving”). Effective sermons have a solid So What? factor and students get a very low grade if they don’t nail this one down.
Another thing we talk about in the class is how important a good sermon title is. Done right, the sermon title becomes the pillar of your weekly marketing campaign that invites guests to consider stopping by for a listen. That said, a great sermon title does two things: (1) It piques the interest of a potential guest; and (2) It suggests whether the topic will be relevant to the guest. A clever title is certainly catchy and interesting, but when it comes to inviting someone who wouldn’t otherwise visit, the title needs to convey a sense of answered need. For instance, What the Bible Really Says About Alcohol is controversial enough to turn a head or two, and there’s no question what the sermon will be addressing. Someone seeing the title on the marquee will have no doubt about the topic and whether or not the sermon will be relevant to them.A great sermon title does two things: (1) It piques the interest of a potential guest; and (2) It suggests whether the topic will be relevant to the guest. Click To Tweet
For a moment, though, picture this scenario. You’re at a local café where you’ve been nursing a cup of coffee while working through next Sunday’s message. You’re in the midst of a series called “Leadership According to God” and this week your title is Leaders Do Whatever It Takes withas the key verse. You’ve even got your preliminary “So What?” list of things you’ll be asking your listeners to do in response to the message, including “Ask for genuine feedback from a coworker about your leadership blindspots.” As you’re taking notes, you realize that one of your never-churched acquaintances has sidled up to your table and has been reading over your shoulder. You look up and Kelly asks, “So, if I decided to come hear your lecture this week, what kind of outcomes should I expect? What will I go away with? Specifically, how will my life be different?”
You’ve likely not given that much thought. Oh sure, in broad strokes you might stumble through something about salvation or peace or purpose, but that’s not what Kelly asked. “Specifically, how will my life be different” because I’ve heard your lecture? And responding by saying, “You’ll be about 27 minutes older” isn’t quite what Kelly’s after.
When it comes to marketing, outcomes are really important. In a recent class on Social Media I was reminded that no one really wants a drill bit. A drill bit is tool that’s affixed to a handset and spins round-and-round. But a customer isn’t really interested in a drill and a bit – what they want is a hole. A drill is just a tool that makes a hole, and hopefully makes it easy to get a hole. That hole is a good example of an outcome.
Effective advertising promises you an outcome. Use the right deodorant and you’ll get that cute companion because you’ll smell nice. Drive a Jeep and you’ll be able to get to the other side of the stream to that secluded camping site. Drink Red Bull and you’ll get more accomplished in less time.
So, what would you tell Kelly? How, specifically, will your hearer’s lives be different as a result of hearing that particular sermon?
You may be wondering why it matters. What “outcomes” will you experience if you bother to do the mental gymnastics necessary to discern the expected outcomes for your sermon? And I’ve got a single outcome answer for you: You’ll have discovered the single-most powerful marketing tool you can use to attract both members and guests to come and listen to you. That’s not an overstatement. A good outcome is the single-most powerful tool in your marketing tool belt.Discover the single-most powerful marketing tool you can use to attract both members and guests to come and listen to you preach. Click To Tweet
So, let’s give Kelly an answer. Of course, the answer is going to depend on where you go with this particular message, so the outcomes I list below may not be the ones you’ll come up with. On the other hand, they’ll serve as examples to get you started.
Example Outcomes for Leaders Do Whatever It Takes:
- You will increase your Leadership Emotional IQ
- You followers will be more loyal
- Your reputation will become legendary
- Your failures will become the foundation for your success
- You will raise your “leadership lid” (John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership)
- You will win over the hearts of your employer, your coworkers, and your clients
Yes, some of those are pretty bold claims, and yet Jesus made some pretty bold claims about the outcomes of what his followers would experience if they chose to follow and obey his teachings. “All these things will be added to you” and “a full and abundant life” and “never perish but have eternal life.” (Oh yeah, and things like being hated, arrested, put to death, and so on … Jesus didn’t promise only rainbows and puppies!)
Once you have a brief list of outcomes, or even one really great one, then it’s up to you on how you use it for getting the word out. Below is an example Facebook Cover that gives you an example.
If you’re looking for a way to pique someone’s interest, think “Outcomes.” There’s no more powerful “get the word out” tool available.