Here is just about the highest accolade I can give to Will Mancini, church consultant, author, and founder of Auxano: my wife Julie ALWAYS says she wants to meet him in person because after he brought his brand of coaching to Good Shepherd, I began to sleep so much better at night. By my count, that’s a full decade of good slumber!
Will’s signature gift to THE church in general and OUR church in particular is clarity. He lives it, breathes it, bleeds it, and most fortunately for me, teaches it.
So when he recently agreed to be a guest on the Simplify The Message podcast, I was understandably excited.
I knew that more than anything else, Will would shed light on the connections between simplicity in preaching and clarity in leadership. How does what a preacher says on Sunday direct where that same church will go not only in the coming week but five years down the road?
We recorded the podcast before the COVID-19 shutdown pushed sermons into the virtual world, but the wisdom and observations he shares are very relevant to preaching today. In the online preaching world, clarity is even more critical, especially when messages will bear repeated viewing and listening.
You can listen to the podcast right here, or skim the highlights below.
Clarity in Preaching
At the beginning of the podcast, I ask Will to share his thoughts on the following question:
How Does Clarity in Church Mission Reinforce Clarity in Preaching?
Will responds with the concept of focusing on ‘The Big Idea’ first. He shares the example of sharing scripture without the bigger picture. Anyone can take a line of scripture and use it to distort the message if they don’t give proper context, and the same can happen in sermons and preaching. It’s why it is so much more rewarding to breach THE BIBLE rather than simply BIBLE VERSES.
“What if every sermon actually has a bigger context? And that bigger context is the reason the church exists?”
At a high level, every sermon needs to support the big picture mission. Every message is a flower that is planted to become an entire field.
Next, we flipped the script, and discuss the question:
How does Clarity in Preaching Reinforce Clarity in Church Mission?
Will shares his philosophy of the preaching ministry; he calls it an “Organizational Homily.” He defines an organizational homily as being crystal clear about fundamentals that over time are durable. In other words, the sermon “in the background” supports every weekly message with a transcendent message. That’s why the phrase living relationship with Jesus Christ appears in virtually every sermon I preach and certainly in every worship service we host.
When weekly messages reinforce the vision, the dots become connected for the listeners, and there’s a shift where organizational unity and the uniqueness of each listener come together under the same mission. Will refers to this method as ‘the refrain’ – the repetition of the “big picture vision” every week.
Will goes on to describe the power of messages that reinforce the organizational homily over and over again, the listeners hear that message and begin to identify with it as being part of something bigger than themselves.
The Refrain, The Bottom Line, The One Point Message
“The power of clarity begins and ends with singularity.”
We talk about the pressure that preachers and church leaders feel to have a lot of things going on as a measure of a healthy church. Although it’s very common to feel that pressure and to go in that direction, especially in preaching and delivering sermons. Will and I agree that our experience shows us the opposite – if we focus on ONE single refrain, bottom line, or pointed point in our message, the clearer it is to the audience. From this past Sunday: Answering prayer isn’t God’s duty. It’s his delight.
Tools: From Teaching to Training
Will and I begin to discuss how tools can help preachers and leaders with discipleship; we don’t have to rely on sermons or messaging alone. Tools guide the application of the message outside of the church walls – in the home, in the workplace, and in the culture. As we talk about tools that we’ve used in the past, we examine tools in the 21st century and the height of the digital age. Attention spans are growing shorter and the culture is cluttered with competing messages on Christ and what it means to be a disciple. Will shares that he sees the digital world as a place of opportunity, rather than a place of distraction or difficulty. Our recent released Book Of Hope is exactly the kind of “hands on” tool Good Shepherd provides for the people of the church … and it’s the kind of idea I doubt I would have had apart from Will’s persistent prodding.
There are so many nuggets of wisdom packed into this podcast, I hope that you’ll take the time to listen to someday soon. If you’d like to learn more about Will’s vision for church growth, visit him at Auxano.com. His most recent book, Younique, was released in January 2020. The Auxano website is filled with free resources, books, training, and certifications.