Why must we vocally project when we preach?

A common conversation I find myself having with many of the men in our church testing their preaching gifts is the issue of projection in preaching.  Different men with different gifts have varying levels of intensity when preaching.  Intensity is not to what I am referring.  Whether you are a loud, passionate, energetic preacher, or a thoughtful, warm, conversational one, vocal projection is necessary in every case.  Here are 3 reasons why…

1)  Volume.  Some preachers think there is not a need to project if they are adequately amplified with a microphone.  In fact, some hear their voice artificially amplified and will even project less thinking they need to compensate.  The fact is, a sound system can only do so much in bringing a preacher’s voice to proper amplification.  Projection is that necessary tool to find that balanced level. 

2)  Clarity.  When I mention projecting to many of our men new to preaching, they think it is strictly a volume matter, but it is just as much a matter of clarity in what is being said. The most common example is when a preacher is speaking and his projection trails off at the last phrase, which affects both clarity and volume.  I remind young preachers if my 37 year old ears cannot hear or understand what you just said in the last half of your final sentence, you can be certain the 85 year old widow with hearing aids did not either.

3)  Tempo.  This is referring to the speed in which a preacher speaks.  In the same way a mumbler has trouble with clarity, a fast talker muddies the words together and makes it hard to understand.  Proper projection can help create a solid rhythm and tempo of speech that can make a preacher who is prone to fast talking, slow down.

A few practical suggestions to develop healthy projection:

– Go in the room where you typically preach, have someone sit in the back of the room while you practice your sermon or read a long passage of Scripture without any microphone or sound amplification.  If they can hear and understand what you are articulating, you probably have found a good balanced of projection for your unique voice.

– The next opportunity you have to preach, have the sermon recorded and listen to your sermon at a normal audio level.  If at any point you cannot hear what you said or understand what was said, then odds are your congregation did not either.  Make a note of those times where you mumbled or trailed off in speech and could not clearly hear what was said and you will probably find a pattern that can be worked on for the next time you preach.

We have all heard the stories of men like Spurgeon who preached to over 10,000 people in massive buildings without any amplification, or Whitefield preaching in the open air to thousands.  Although many testify of the depth and power of the natural voices of these great preachers of old, those preaching venues are still impossible to pull off without one thing..projection.  Consider how well your project when you preach.  It can make a huge difference in not just how you communicate, but the vocal clarity and understandability of what you communicate.

 

Posted in Preaching
13 comments on “Why must we vocally project when we preach?
  1. Marc Mullins says:

    Very timely words, I was just talking over preaching styles with one of our pastors and was looking for practical reasons why preaching certain ways over others are preferred as I look for feedback from my opportunities to teach, read Scripture etc.

    Brian- I thank God for your blogging ministry, it is always a source of pastoral wisdom and one of a kind.

  2. Tim Challies says:

    Thanks for this, Brian. That’s really helpful. My pastor’s key phrase when it comes to projection is “fill the ballast.” That means you catch a big, deep breath and then speak from lower in your throat/chest than higher.

    There is a helpful book from DayOne on this topic: http://www.dayone.co.uk/product/179/look-after-your-voice

    • Jay Beerley says:

      I just started reading this the other day. I was working through loss of voice from a cold. It’s a great resource.

  3. Chris Poteet says:

    I had been meaning to ask you about this. I wondered if, during your preaching practicums, you had guys preach from the pulpit without any amplification. When I did a practicum at the church I was at before coming to Louisville, we were required to preach without it. The pastor from that church had quotes from Spurgeon and Whitefield (who you of course mention), about the necessity of having the gift of projection in order to validate your calling as a preacher. My pastor at the time thought that testing for that gift was a tangible way to see if a man was called to do it.

    • Charles Anderson says:

      the gift of projection? Spurgeon and whitefield preached/spoke on the gift of projection?

      • briancroft says:

        I would say they certainly had good projection, according to reports who heard them, but there was much more to their effective preaching, obviously than just that.

    • Dave Dunbar says:

      These are indeed good and helpful comments. However, we cannot discern a man’s calling based on his vocal chords, clarity of speech, or oratory ability. Why? Because that simply isn’t in the Bible. In fact, God specializes in using weak, despised (etc) things to shame the powerful.

      Yes, we can be thankful for the Whitefields and Spurgeons. We can wish we had recordings of Chrysostom (“the golden mouth”). We can and should work on the things Brian mentioned. But let us not determine a man’s calling by his ability to speak.

      We must (must) remember, that it is the power of the words of the text, not the power of the preacher, that changes lives. I’m certain that God has used many godly men of weak voice for His glory and the good of the elect.

  4. paul dare says:

    Thanks, Brian! I do struggle with feeling most of this stuff comes out the theatre. I’m sure I just have a weak conscience here, but what do we say when people think these principles all sound very much like tips for practicing for a big performance at the local community theatre? How do we distinguish between the two and guard against relying too much on the principles of the world when it comes to public speaking?

  5. I remember hearing Stuart Olyott speaking on the Public Reading of Scripture. His key theme was that our theology of scripture determines how we read it publicly. Or to put it more forcefully, how we read scripture in public says what our theology of scripture really is. If we believe it is a message we will read it like one – ie not flat dull and monotonous. If we believe it is for everyone, we will read it so that everyone present can hear it, etc. I could go on – I think there were ten points.

    I think the same applies to preaching. Our theology of preaching/scripture should govern how we preach and project. That will guard us from theatrics.

    If the sermon is an end in itself then we can deliver it in a flat monotone, but if we are messenger sent from God then we will communicate like messengers with a message. If we believe we are sent only to believers we will feel free to preach in a dull way that only the most committed will follow, or get the CD/MP3 and playback at full volume. If however we feel that we are sent to all men everywhere we will preach with heart, soul and volume so that all people present will hear and be engaged.

    And just because the theatre people do it doesnt make it all wrong – they are one of the few professions who still reach an audience un-mic’ed, or know how to use their voice.

  6. Love the way you laid this out. As a former Broadcast Journalist and one who ministers the gospel as well, this is HUGE on my list. I particularly like the practical application you give regarding recording the next “preaching session”
    I also do media training at churches across the country and find myself having to explain all the time, there is a reason we need to speak in to the mic clearly and with projection, especially if the message is being recorded.
    Great job!

  7. JAMES ASUMAH says:

    It is my desire to preach the Gospel to the satisfaction of my audience through which they will feel the impact of the Holy Ghost.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Why must we vocally project when we preach?"
  1. […] This is a very helpful post from the always-helpful Brian Croft. […]

  2. […] we’re in the region of the voice, Brian Croft gives three reasons why, “Whether you are a loud, passionate, energetic preacher, or a […]

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