This evening I wrote a blog piece about the threatened burning of the Qur’an in
So, a late change in direction! I am reading Tony Blair’s autobiography A Journey (one third read so far) in which he recalls a night in the early 1980s when he first heard Tony Benn speaking in public, addressing a constituency meeting in Margate.
What he describes is not all that I believe preaching to be, nor that preaching is only of one style – and this is it. But sometimes we lose sight of the fact that as ministers there is a certain something called stagecraft. There are skills to learn, to observe and appreciate, about how to lead from the front, how to conduct oneself. There was value in the sermon class of old that critiqued not just the state of your sermon but also the state of your shoes!
I love to watch and learn from skilled people in any walk of life, and anyone who works with a crowd of people potentially has something to say to preachers and worship leaders – the impeccable timing of a comedian at the microphone, the body-stance of a politician at the podium, the dress-code of the TV presenter and so on. So, consider a wonderful description of a gifted orator:
“What impressed me most was not so much the content…but the power of it, the ability to use words to move people, not simply to persuade but to propel...
First there was his utter confidence. From the outset the audience were relaxed and able to listen, because they knew the speaker was in control. When he began he looked around at them, there was no squeakiness, no uncertainty, no negative energy. It wasn’t the absence of nerves. It was the presence of self-belief. He held them, easily and naturally.
Second, he used humour. If someone can make you laugh, you are already in their power. The tension between speaker and audience, there until they get the measure of one another, evaporates.
Third, there was a thread that ran throughout the speech. There was an argument. Sometimes there was digression and the thread was momentarily obscured, but always he returned and the thread was visible once more.
Fourth, the argument was built, not plonked down. Although introduced broadly at the beginning, it was not glimpsed fully until layer upon layer of supporting words built it up and finally the argument was brought forth. Suddenly all the words were connected, the purpose was made plain and the argument was out there, and you thought only the wilfully obdurate could not see its force and agree with it.”