I feel very blessed – no, extremely blessed – to be a part of North Point Ministries where I consistently meet with and get feedback from guys like Andy Stanely and Lane Jones. Of course, there is a lot of pressure knowing every time you preach, Andy and Lane are going to listen and critique you. But that is nothing compared to the pressure I feel knowing that an audience of unchurched people who might be giving God and the church one more chance is listening, as well. That’s pressure – and it’s healthy. Every preacher should feel that healthy pressure. It makes me work hard and take my role as communicator very seriously.
One thing I’ve learned from Andy and Lane is the power of tension in a message. Maybe it’s better to say I’ve learned the necessity of including tension in a message. Too often preachers believe that people will listen and follow because they are talking. That is equivalent to believing people will watch your television program just because you put it on TV or your video simply because you posted it on YouTube. But just because you’re talking doesn’t mean people are listening. Just watch a teenager.
Tension is what causes people to WANT to listen. In fact, as Andy has taught me, “If there is no tension, no one will pay attention.” Therefore, tension is a powerful tool in the toolbox of preaching. At the highest level, there are two kinds of tension:
1. Felt Needs:
There are some tensions that are felt needs by most people in any audience. For example, it does not take much time or effort to convince married couples that a healthy marriage is better than divorce. That’s a felt need. Same with raising children. Christian or not, everybody wants to be a good parent. That’s an easy to leverage felt need. Peace. Peace is an easy felt need to identify. On some level, it seems that finding peace is at the core of most Christian messages.
When we are preaching to a felt need, we only need to acknowledge and confirm the need. Many times the Scripture we are teaching has a felt need built in. If so, leverage it. If not, confirm the need before moving into the passage and application point.
2. Unfelt Needs:
This one is harder. Whereas a felt need is to be confirmed, an unfelt need must be unearthed. An unfelt need is something lying below the surface of our heart or mind, but is a need nonetheless. If your message is going to address or apply a solution to an unfelt need, you better believe bubbling it up to the surface before presenting the truth is necessary. Unfelt needs are things such as wisdom, joy (not happiness), or perception.
To decipher between the felt and unfelt need, I simply evaluate the truth I hope to share and how I plan to suggest it be applied. If the truth and application are not easy to understand or just do not seem useful on the surface, there’s a good change I’m dealing with an unfelt need.
Either way, the tension of your message might be the most critical element of your message, simply because without any tension, most people will not listen. And if nobody is listening, it doesn’t matter how helpful your content is!
How have you leveraged a felt or unfelt tension to create interest in your messages?