Pastors, We Don’t Expect a TED Talk, But We Need a God-and-You Talk

TED TalkPastors face a lot of pressure to perform. Some of it, admittedly, is self-imposed.

One of the main places this pressure is felt is in the demand to research, write and deliver a great sermon every week.

In fact, several times in the last few months, I’ve read blog posts that have suggested that every Sunday sermon should be like a TED Talk.

In today’s post, I’d like to do two things that may seem impossible to accomplish simultaneously.

  • Relieve some of the performance pressure
  • Challenge us all towards something better

But first, let me answer a question that many of you may be asking. 


What’s a TED Talk?

TED Talks are presentations made at TED conferences. They’re delivered by some very high-end experts to a roomful of high-level achievers.

A TED conference is so exclusive that you can’t even attend it until you submit an application for them to evaluate. If you’re deemed worthy to attend, you then have the privilege of paying the $7,500 registration fee. No, that’s not a typo. $7,500. And that’s just for the conference registration.

TED started 30 years ago as an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. But it has grown from that into a leading-edge clearinghouse for the latest ideas and innovations.

So how do I, a lowly Small Church pastor, know about such exclusive things? Because, after they’re delivered, TED Talks are uploaded to the internet where anyone can watch them for free.


We Don’t Expect a Weekly TED Talk

I’ve watched several TED Talks. They’re impressive. For $7,500, they’d better be.

TED speakers have six rules they must follow:

  1. Distill your life’s work or experience into a 3, 6, 9 or 18 minute talk
  2. Be authentic / vulnerable
  3. Convey one strong idea
  4. Tell a story that hasn’t been told before
  5. Tell and not sell
  6. Absolutely and positively stick to the time limit 

After watching and learning from several TED Talks and looking over that list, I agree that TED Talks are great, the rules make sense and everyone who speaks to an audience can learn something from them.

But how could anyone seriously ask pastors to pull off the equivalent of a TED Talk every Sunday? That’s 40-50 TED Talks every year on a different subject every week, for the same people who’ve heard each of the previous talks.

Sure, points 2, 3, 5 & 6 are something we should always strive for. But points 1 and 4? I think I could maybe put together one TED-level Talk. No, not one a week. Not one a year. One and done. Which is all most TED speakers are ever asked to do.

So here’s the let-the-pastor-off-the-hook part.

No pastor should be held, or should hold themselves to standards like that. They’re easy to ask for, but they’ll kill you if you try to fulfill them.

And they’re entirely unnecessary. No one needs a TED Talk from their pastor every week.

But here’s what we do need. Whether we’re a spiritual seeker, a new believer, a frustrated church member or a mature disciple, we want one thing from our pastor’s sermon above all else…


We Need a Heartfelt God-and-You Talk

When we come to your church, we don’t expect a $7,500 sermon. Given current offering stats, most people aren’t even expecting a $75 one.

We need to know you have a growing relationship with Jesus because you’re willing to share some of it with us every week.

We need you to

  • Tell us how you struggled with or learned from the bible this week
  • Share the rock-solid foundational truths that hold you strong when your life gets hard
  • Tell us when God and his Word break your heart or lift your spirit
  • Show us when the Lord shows you something you never saw before
  • Be real and vulnerable about your relationship with Jesus

We don’t expect mind-blowing hermeneutical and homiletical acrobatics. Most of us don’t even know what those words mean. Any pastor who’s sharing a new, heart-wrenching spiritual breakthrough or trauma every week should be talking to a therapist, not their congregation.

But what is pastoral leadership if not sharing your spiritual growth with your congregation?


Genuine Matters More that Spectacular

There are too many phony, shallow pastors in the world. We don’t need another celebrity speaker to dazzle us. We need a humble shepherd who’s willing to be vulnerable. We need the real deal.

No, we don’t expect every word from your lips to be original and unique. So yes, we’re OK with you sharing what you learned from someone else’s book or conference. But please don’t cut-and-paste someone else’s research, experience or story onto yours and pass it off as your own.

A genuine expression from where your heart has met or is struggling with the heart of God is more helpful than a finely crafted sermon that someone else wrote.

Your voice matters.

We can learn something that applies to our lives when we hear a genuine expression of your faith and your life through your voice.

We want to be led by that kind of person. We want to be pastored by that kind of pastor.


So what do you think? Have you struggled with unrealistic expectations about your preaching? How do you handle it?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 thoughts on “Pastors, We Don’t Expect a TED Talk, But We Need a God-and-You Talk”

  1. I’ve never had anyone suggest that my sermons ought to be more like a TED talk, but I have had suggestions that I ought to be more like Joel Osteen, Marilynn Hickey, and several other TV or radio speakers. I’ve also read my fill of articles suggesting that the church research and creative teams ought to be more involved in sermon planning and preparation. Since I know that at least part of the congregation is comparing the sermon to what they saw on TV, heard on the radio, or remember from the last guest speaker, it’s sometimes hard to remember that I am not called to entertain or please the ear, I am called to faithfully communicate God’s Word. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. If the Father breaks my heart and helps me love the people like the way they need to be loved…then whatever I say is going to convey that. My talks with Father God fuel my talks with others. Thanks for this…very encouraging!

  3. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teach, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I Cor. 2:13

  4. Great blog. I have found my husband hits the mark most with people when he’s open, transparent and really conveys what the Lord has been dealing with him on. One really cool thing that has kinda just “happened” is that our church has been encouraged to read through their Bibles in year. We offered two different plans. My husband and I are on the same one and several have chosen the same for themselves. It’s been really fun to go on this journey together. We talk about what we’ve read with each other and those in our congregation. One benefit also, is my husband’s sermon material is coming from his reading – which is cool, because we’ve all been reading the same passages. This last Sunday he preached on Balaam and his donkey. It was neat because he brought out things that the Lord was showing him and we were familiar with the passage so it gave us something extra as well.
    I’m surprised at how many people still love a preacher who screams and spits. They really do. We’ve had people leave because my husband is not a spitter. (Seriously) But I really can’t tolerate that kind of preaching as I find it really distracting….too many ‘hallelujah’s or amens’ and you’ve lost me…I start counting them…or wonder why the preacher just said, “And without Jesus people are going to hell, hallelujah!”
    What I REALLY like in a preacher is to open the Word and bring it to life – get me thinking and chewing on the Scripture. In fact, the more I turn pages in my Bible to follow along…the more I like it.

  5. Pingback: Pastor TED or Pastors and TED? | The Parson's Patch

    1. Agreed, Lawrence. Sometimes, when striving for excellence, we replace genuineness with professionalism. Our own voice with passion and clarity is the way to go.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *