Anyone who has heard me preach knows that I usually don’t stand still. Sometimes I get comments on my constant movement. Some people like it, others not.
I have two reasons for moving, the first isn’t really under my control while the second is a chosen strategy.
In the first place, I am not very good at being still. Since childhood I’ve been a fidgeter. If I can’t move one part of my body, I’ll move another. This may be connected to my normally short attention span, though I’m not sure. When I’m preaching (or teaching, or doing much of anything) movement is normal.
Secondly, however, I chose movement as a strategy. When I communicate with an audience of more than, say, 5-8, I want every individual to feel like I am communicating directly to them. An important aspect of this is moving my attention around and looking each person in the face during the process. Obviously, I can’t literally do this once I get more than 20-30 people in the audience, but movement allows me to get much closer than if I just stood in one place – especially if that one place is rooted in the pulpit.
Once upon a time we could depend on people coming to church feeling a duty to listen to the preacher. That time is long past. Sure, some will come and feel such a duty, but for many listening to a preacher (drone on and on) is viewed as a chore. For this reason, I take it as my duty to earn my hearers’ attention every time I speak. I work hard to gain and keep their attention, and movement is one way I do this.
Why worry about attention? I take the preaching of the gospel – the good news that Jesus is God incarnate, come into the world to proclaim the kingdom of God, crucified for the sins of the world (including my own!), raised from the dead, and now Lord of all – very seriously. I don’t want anyone to miss out just because my way of presenting the gospel is boring or fails to grab their attention.
Part of me knows I can’t reach everyone, not even everyone who makes the effort to show up Sunday morning. But as long as they make that much effort (or someone else makes that much effort to haul them in), I’m going to do what I can to connect with them. They – and the gospel of Jesus – are too important to do otherwise.