In the introduction to my sermon yesterday, I referred the HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” I knew that many in attendance were fans or had at least seen or heard of the show. Of course, you never hit the bull’s eye every time. There were some there who leaned over the person next to them asking, “What’s he talking about?”
It is so energizing to make a pop culture reference and watch as faces light up with familiarity. It is equally nauseating to see puzzled looks on faces who have no idea what you are referring to. It is humbling to either take the time to explain it, or discard what was a wonderfully powerful way to illustrate your point.
When you are speaking to an audience that ranges in age from two months to ninety-two years, with different experiences, tastes and interests, it is very hard to find that idea or image that everyone is familiar with. There are some who have never seen a Star Wars movie, don’t know anything about Jerry Seinfeld’s defective girlfriends, don’t read the newspaper, own flip phones, don’t Instagram, got a D in world history, only order wine by it’s color, and can’t name any of the Paw Patrol. I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m just saying you better remember that dynamic when you’re speaking.
So what’s a preacher to do? First of all, it helps to know your audience. When I preach, it is almost always to a congregation I know well. I know many of their interests, tastes, occupations, hobbies and families. I’ve been to their homes, talked over coffee, taught them in classes, and have a pretty good idea of what they are familiar with.
Second, you can’t just depend on one illustration or example. You need to throw out a bunch to catch the attention of pre-adolescents, young parents, millennial, baby-boomers and those of the greatest generation. It helps to hang out with and get to know people from all walks of life.
Finally, a lot of it is just trial and error. Thankfully, a swing and a miss one week can be redeemed the next, because Sunday and the next sermon comes around at least once every seven days. I got on base yesterday. We’ll see what happens next week.