I was watching NBC’s The Voice last week when I was struck by how often the coaches tell aspiring singers to show more emotion. In a recent episode, Voice coach Alicia Keys asked team member Christian Cuevas where his sound comes from. Christian’s response to her question, “Thinking about my dad. He passed away about a year ago." In the episodes that follow, Keys encourages Christian to tap into the ‘emotion’ and ‘vulnerability’ of his story.
Voice Coach Alicia Keys is not alone in her advice. All of the coaches are quick to give advice by saying things like “let them see what this song means to you” or “you need to connect emotionally with the audience.” Sometimes the advice is technical, with singers being encouraged to hold on to a note a little longer or use more inflection. Other times better body language is needed to help the audience get the full impact of a song. Regardless of the means, the end goals are to get the attention of the audience, give them a new perspective or deeper understanding, and to make a lasting impression.
As I was thinking about some of these transcendent qualities of a good performance, I wondered if any of this could (or should) translate to preaching. While preaching is not performing (nor should it be), I wonder if there are some common objectives. For example, aren’t pastors trying to help the church reach a deeper understanding of scripture? Don’t they strive to keep people’s (often short) attention? Isn’t the hope that the message will stick beyond Sunday?
On the flip side, can too much emotion distract from delivery?
I’d love to hear from pastors and sermon-listeners alike.
Pastors, what role (if any) does emotion and/or body language play in your sermons?
To those in the pews/chairs, what have you appreciated (or not appreciated) about the use of emotion in sermons?