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March 7, 2017

Trifeca of the Talk

By Adam Mabry

Back in my youth group days we were fond of calling sermons “talks.” I’m not quite sure why, except for that feature of youthfulness which simply delights in perceived originality. Whatever the reasons for the change of label, the “talk” was the highlight of the gathering for me. I’ve always loved words and greatly admired those who can effectively use them to create that magical moment of the meeting of the minds — when speaker and audience are understanding something of God’s mind together.

I’m too old for youth group, but my passion for communication has only grown. To add preparation to that passion, I decided to enroll in seminary, and upon doing so was instructed to read a book that forever shaped the way I approach communication. Mortimer J. Adler’s, How to Speak, How to Listen, is not exactly a page turner. But, it helped me think through my own preaching and teaching more than almost any other book. So, here’s what I’ve distilled from him — what I call, “the Trifecta of the Talk.”


“Logos” is the Greek word for “word.” But here we mean something more. Great communication can’t just have, as our president likes to say, “the best words.” What I mean here is that the actual hard data you’re downloading in your delivery better be great. If you’re preaching John, you need to know what you’re talking about. So often preachers will hear something they like, attempt to repeat it without verification, and misshapen ideas accidentally find their way into shapable minds. Preacher, make sure you’re a great student of the Scriptures first. Then, string those ideas together in a clear, concise, and communicative manner.


We’ve all had the pastor or teacher who taught truly interesting concepts but managed to do so in such a mind-numbingly boring way that we simply didn’t care. If we’re going to deliver great sermons we’ve got to be passionate about our subject matter. This is why borrowing sermons often doesn’t work — they didn’t arise from fires of our own passion, so they won’t fuel anyone else’s. Preacher, great teaching is loving your subject matter in front of others. Love it, and they might too.


Preaching great ideas is about more than sharing data. It’s about making disciples. And we can’t do that if we aren’t disciples ourselves. If the text hasn’t shaped us, then no amount of interesting information or paint-stripping passion will matter. Eventually, we’ll be found out as the messengers of a message that we don’t really believe. The inauthenticity of our communication will be the beginning of the end, and our preaching and teaching won’t matter to anyone because, apparently, it never really mattered to us. Preacher, put the commentary down and pray over the text you’re preparing. Let it shape you so you can shape them.

Maybe you’re reading this and realize you’ve got some upgrades to make. That’s okay, because writing this has reminded me that I do, too. But as we approach the privilege of communicating to God’s people with this trifecta in tow, we may just find our true, passionate, and authentic communication setting someone in our midst ablaze to go and do likewise. That would probably make Jesus happy. And, it’d probably make Adler happy, too.


Adam Mabry

Adam Mabry (@adammabry) serves as the Lead Pastor of Aletheia Church in Boston, MA. He lives in Boston with his wife, Hope, and their four kids. Fueled by a passion for the truth and grace of the gospel to change lives, He has spent his life up to this point planting churches and working with church planters. He speaks extensively on church planting and coaches various planters around the world within the Every Nation family of churches. His books, thoughts, and other resources are available at adammabry.tv.


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