Comedian turned preacher Andy Kind shares his best pieces of advice

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Having recently run a series of Preaching workshops over Zoom, I’ve been amazed at how much they’re scratching an itch with so many preachers from various denominations and with varying levels of experience.

I do not consider myself an example of, or model for, impeccable preaching. I’m simply attempting to pipeline some of the skills and motifs I’ve learned from 20 years in comedy through into the kingdom.

So, here’s nine humbly-offered-but-also-infallible tips for more effective preaching. Hopefully at least one will help!

1. Communication is about connection, not transmission

What little preaching training exists out there tends to be focussed around content, coming as it does from the Academy.

This can lead to many sermons being, essentially, recited essays. But your audience is not an exam adjudicator giving credit for impressive exegesis or proof-texting. Preaching is a visual art - they are watching, not just listening. So use the space available and don’t be static. Use your eyes and let them gaze through that window to the soul.

Use your God-given emotions to magnetise theirs.

2. Pathos over Logos

A dear friend of mine has an elderly relative with dementia. He tells me that when he visits her, often she won’t remember his name or what they last talked about - but she will always know that she feels safe with him. It’s a similar story with audiences. By the time they tuck into their roast potatoes later, most folk will already have forgotten your core content - but they will never forget how you made them feel. So stir the heart and not just the mind. People want their wounds healed, not simply to be handed a list of DIY health and safety tips.

3. Meet them in the grave

With the increasing atomisation of our culture, it’s difficult to cater to and answer all the issues individual watcher-listeners might raise. But you can pretty much guarantee that, in some corner of their lives, they are in real pain. So meet them there.

Be vulnerable, share your own struggles - but preach from your scars rather than your wounds. Wounds scare people whereas, we know from the case of Doubting Thomas, scars convert people. So don’t leave them in the grave, but point them out towards resurrection hope. Let the narrative arc of your preach follow the same trajectory of the Easter timeline.

4. Don’t give Amazonians an air fryer

Preaching is a 20-minute mission trip onto foreign soil. What effective overseas missionaries don’t do is arrive somewhere and declare that ‘You’ve all been getting it wrong and now you need to do things our way.’ That’s not being a missionary - that’s empire.

Missionaries learn the language, use the currency, imbed themselves into the culture. What we think people should agree with, be appalled by or see as sacred is completely irrelevant. Preaching is a service industry, so start with there they are, not where you are.

5. Preach from your identity

Imposter syndrome is a paralysing virus for lots of us. In Ezekiel 2, God tells Ezekiel that ”whether they listen or refuse to listen, they will know they’ve had a prophet amongst them.” In Luke 10, when the disciples return all giddy at the demons submitting, Jesus instructs them not to rejoice at spirits obeying them, but simply at the fact that “your names are written in heaven.”

We are not results-driven. You could mess up every preach for the rest of your life and the Lord will still welcome you home with, ”Well done, good and faithful servant.” Be secure in what God says about you - everything else is white noise. You are allowed to be there.

6. Incarnate, don’t memorise

An audience doesn’t want to know that you’re simply passing on received wisdom, but that you actually know what you’re talking about. The best preachers don’t just deliver a message; they are the message - the witness of God’s goodness.

There has to be a reason why you’re the one in the room qualified to talk on that subject, and this is why linking the passage to your passions and personal journey can be so effective. Demonstrating the truth of the scripture through your own experience is like the Ronseal effect - it proves that it does what it says on the tin.

7. Jesus, not custom, is king

So much preaching technique is hand-me-down wisdom rather than anything scriptural. Many of us were perhaps taught to preach by people who were taught to preach by people who might not have been terribly gifted at preaching. I like to cite Spurgeon as much as the next person, but Charles H. wasn’t trying to reach the TikTok generation.

We stand on the shoulders of the past, yes, but we’re trying to reach a different audience. That doesn’t demand a mindless progressivism for the sake of it, but it does require pioneering forays into uncharted territory. In wanting to succeed, ask for permission to fail. However…

8. ABS. Always Be Storming

This is a phrase I’ve heard many times on the comedy circuit.

So many new comedians flounder when they get silence where they were expecting a big laugh. The skill is to expect nothing from a crowd, and act as though you were expecting their response, whatever that may be. If you expect nothing, your confidence won’t be shaken if you get just that - but even little whispers of ‘Amen’ can offer a huge morale boost.

9. Finally, remember that it’s OK to have a good time listening to the Good News

In the 4th century, Augustine said that preaching should do three things, one of which was ‘delectare’ - to rivet and delight.

I don’t know many preachers who feel permissioned to delight with their preaching. The oft-used cautionary note rings out: ‘Preaching is not about entertaining people on their way to hell.’ Without wanting to be ungracious, I’ve never heard this said by anyone who was gifted at entertaining.

What you do want is to have people’s attention so that the truth of the message can land. So make them laugh, impress them, delight them. Entertainment is not the destination, but it might be seen as preaching’s way of calling an Uber rather than trudging home.