Book Review: Communicating For a Change – Andy Stanley

May 27, 2013 — 4 Comments


I didn’t fully realize I wanted to be an auditory communicator until I started my podcast in June of 2010. The next fifty-four weeks were some of the most fun I have ever had with a hobby. I poured out my heart in those fifty-four episodes. Men and women from all over the US and Canada joined me each week (sometimes live) as we engaged the subject of small business. I was sad when it all had to come to an end in July of 2011.

After the closure of my show, I stayed hungry for my return to communicating to groups. My dreams came true a year later when I was asked to take over the men’s Sunday School class at my church. I have been teaching for over a year now, and I have grown immensely because of it.

I don’t want to be an average communicator. I want to be an amazing communicator. I want my audience to be engaged, and I want my audience to be motivated to change. I have sat through hundreds of sermons in my life that have failed to accomplish either of these goals. I refuse to waste people’s time in this way. If someone is going to take the time to show up and listen to me speak, I want them to come away remembering and motivated.

Several years ago I found Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church. Andy’s communication style is of great interest to me. I have heard over two hundred of his sermons and can remember at least one major point from most of them. This is unique to me because I have spent my entire life in church and can’t say that about too many other ministers I have sat under. I can’t argue with the results. Many of the truths I have learned from Andy my wife and I have integrated into our family. We really have experienced life change because of his ministry.

I don’t want to be an exact replica of Andy Stanley, but I do believe he does have a fantastic strategy for effective communication. After reading Communicating For a Change I am convinced many teachers are missing the point of a quality message.

In this book Andy lays out his entire strategy for preparing every message. It can be summed up in one statement: “Make one single point.” Andy believes every sermon should be focused around one idea, or thought, that the speaker should make sure everyone will remember once they leave the auditorium. He believes that most speakers try to make too many points in any one sermon. If you happen to be a teacher/pastor reading this right now, and this is a new idea to you, you may think this is a ridiculous concept. Consider this thought before walking away from this book: “How many times have you left a church service and forgot the point of the message by the time you went to bed that night? My guess is that everyone reading this can think of multiple occasions where they couldn’t remember the previous Sunday’s message by midweek. That is not the kind of communicator anyone wants to become.

Secondary to the “Pick A Point” strategy is how Andy outlines his sermons. Unlike many communicators, Andy doesn’t work from point-by-point outlines. Instead, he has developed an outline system based on the communicator’s relationship with the audience rather than just data to be transferred. He calls it, “ME-WE-GOD-YOU-ME.” These five categories can also be described as, “Orientation-Identification-Illumination-Application-Inspiration.”

Here is an example he gives in the book:

“Let’s assume your topic is marriage. There are dozens of things you could say about marriage, but you have narrowed it down to one thing: Submission is the best decision. The idea being that our first response should be to put the needs and desires of our spouse ahead of our own. With that in mind, here’s how the MWGYW outline might look.

ME – Sometimes I find myself wondering how to respond to situations in my marriage.

WE – I imagine you have found yourself in situations where you weren’t sure what to do either.

GOD – The Bible teaches that we are to submit to one another; put the desires and needs of our spouse ahead of our own needs and desires.

YOU – Next time you aren’t sure what to say or do, ask yourself this question, “How can I put the needs and desires of my spouse ahead of my own in this moment?”

Conclusion: In marriage, submission is generally the best decision.

WE – Imagine what would happen in our community if all of us began to model that kind of mutual submission before our friends and neighbors.

Hopefully that helps give you a glimpse of how Andy organizes his messages in his head. Once Andy introduces the idea of “ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE” he dedicates a nice amount of time to each of these outline categories to help the reader understand them at a deeper level.

I’m not a lead pastor, and I have no plans to ever be one. What I do have a desire to do is minister to men through my Sunday school class and any other opportunity given me.

My greatest desire is to deliver memorable and applicable material that encourages life change. I understand that ultimately it is God’s job to move in the heart of the hearer, and Andy Stanley makes this point as well. I am still not released from from the responsibility of delivering a message worthy of the time any audience has been gracious enough to hand over to me.

If you have a desire to communicate for life change you can’t go wrong here.

James Dibben

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4 responses to Book Review: Communicating For a Change – Andy Stanley

  1. Great review. Sounds like a book I should add to my pile to read as it is the kind of information that can be used in any situation where one is communicating to a group. I don’t like wasted time either, especially in work meetings but really anywhere. Or I guess I should say, I don’t like someone wasting *my* time. If I want to waste my time that is one thing, having someone else waste it is another thing altogether.

    • It’s a very quick read. Only 167 pages or so. The first half is actually a short story where many of his points are introduced. The second half is full of communicating tips and thoughts. Much of what he teaches is quite different than traditional preaching and outlining.

  2. I am so happy that you enjoy auditory communication so much. Though, you need a cooler name for it. I can relate to the need to be a better communicator. In the corporate world I work in too many people give weak presentations which I fight to stay awake for. Thank goodness for smart phones and Facebook.

    • I hope I can learn to be a better communicator.

      I’m taking “Interpersonal Professional Communication” this semester. After the first week I feel steered into a boring presentation.

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