What 10 Hours of Joel Osteen’s Preaching Taught Me

We have friends in North Carolina and every year we make the 804 mile/1293 kilometer journey  from Brooklin, Ontario (near Toronto) to Charlotte to see them. We usually go in the summer but this past year we decided to go down for American Thanksgiving. Our vehicle is a senior citizen and I thought we were better off to rent because the the idea of breaking down on some U.S. highway was not appealing to me. The car we rented came with satellite radio and ‘low and behold’ as I was going through the channels I came across Joel Osteen Radio; Joel all day, everyday, 24 hours a day.What Listening To 10 Hours of Joel Osteen's Preaching Taught Me

We got in the car at 12:30 a.m. and for 7 hours I listened to Joel preach. Then on the way back home I listened to another 3 hours before my family began to awaken to the morning light and threatened a coup:) Here are 3 things that I learned while driving on U.S. Interstates. (This assessment is on Joel’s speaking style, not his content.)

1. Storytelling Is Very Important

Illustrations are often referred to as windows and Joel opens a lot of windows in his messages. No point is made without an illustration/story. In a world where the latest “Stars Wars” story is reaching a billion dollars in revenue, we need to take stories seriously. Not convinced about illustrations? Eric McKiddie gives  “3 Reasons Your Church Needs Sermon Illustrations”   that may change your mind. Joel is very good at using stories from everyday life, which are the ones that relate to people the most:

  • “I was driving the other day and…”
  • “Victoria and I….”
  • “I remember when my daddy and I…”,
  • “Momma always used to tell me…”
  • (He also has a running gag with the congregation where he often uses his brother as the butt of his jokes.)

While he may not live like the rest of us Joel’s stories make him totally relatable to the average listener.

He also does something quite often that I need to learn. Joel is able to weave a single story through his whole message. This does not mean that he does not use other stories or illustrations in the sermon but continually he comes back to his first story. This is highly effective in holding a message together. Want to learn more about weaving a  story? Brandon Kelley has a great article for you to check out Engage – Weave A Single Story Throughout Your Sermon. Developing this skill will take time but the rewards of taking your preaching to another level will be worth it.

2. He Uses Internal Dialogue

In listening to Joel you know that he has anticipated some of the resistance and “Yes, but…” that people will be voicing in their heads during his message. He addresses doubts several times in each message.  “Well, Joel that will never happen to me. I never get good breaks. I never gets wins.” His response, “You have your tent in the wrong neighbourhood. Pack up and move to the land of the supernatural. Nothing will happen if you don’t believe.” If  you are interested in going deeper of taking this idea to a deeper level check out “Raising Objections To To Your Own Sermon”

“You cannot just assume that when you talk about Jesus’ walking on water that people believe it was even possible.”

3. The Big Idea

In my “Intro to Preaching” Class in Seminary our professor was adamant about repeating the  “Big Idea”    of our message at least 5 times to bring it home. My professor would have been proud of Joel at least in this aspect of his message. Repetition is one of “6 Preaching Methods Jesus Used And You Should Too” according to Thom Rainer. In a world of distraction bringing our audience back to our “Big Idea” is a must. When we are tired of saying it they are just beginning to hear it.

“I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching, not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as crystal.”

People have asked by why I would listen to anyone preach for 10 hours. Well it’s because I am a student of how people communicate and I want to learn to communicate better. If I had stumbled across Chuck Swindoll Radio or Bishop Jakes Radio I would have done the same thing. Of course, there are some preachers I would pass by and choose “The 70’s on 7” instead.

Is listening to other preachers and communicators a part of your regular routine? If not, why not? Do you like the idea but don’t know where to start? It’s very simple, pick a preacher/speaker you feel you can learn from and as you listen fill out this Sermon-Evaluation form from the Rocket Company. You will be on your way to learning from others and also seeing your messages a whole new light.

Related Post:

“What Downton Abbey Taught Me About Preaching”

Written by Peter Walters

Peter has been married to his wonderful wife Sarah for 29 years and they have two children.


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