When I was in high school our football coach wanted to deliver a powerful message, so he took out a hammer and hit a locker as hard as he could. It got our attention.
Sometimes in our preaching cycles we're going to come to a message where we have a point we want to deliver, deliver it hard, and leave a powerful impact. Yesterday I shared something that I knew would leave the room speechless, and the audible gasp from everyone there sucked the air out of the room. I wanted it to be hard, I wanted it to be a gut-wrenching feeling that lingered.
When you're preparing and you know you're going to drop a hammer, here's some points to consider:
1. Do it sparingly - The effect of the hammer is in its rarity. If you're constantly dropping hammers it's like a parent who always yells at their kid. The message is lost. It just becomes noise. So if every week you're dropping hammers, eventually you're going to run out of juice. If you want those moments to have the impact you want, be careful in how you use it.
2. Tell the truth - Whenever we have a powerful story to share or we want to relay an experience, tell the truth. It better have really happened. Unfortunately in the effort to deliver a point some pastors take the lazy approach and either exaggerate or fabricate a story for effect. There's a better word for that: lying. And shame on you if you take the easy road and deliver cheap points at the expense of your credibility.
3. Don't force the issue - When my kids were much younger they had the toy where you hammer shapes through the hole. And the frustration came when they'd try to hammer the wrong shape. Guys, you can't force the hammer drop. If you do, it'll lose whatever impact you want it to have. It has to be the right time, the right text, the right setting, and the right environment. So if you're wanting to drop a hammer about a lack of giving, don't do it right after your community has been rocked by layoffs at the large employer. In the same way, don't drop a hammer if it doesn't fit the text you're preaching from.
4. Avoid the martyr complex - The first time I ever tried doing this I wanted the church I was serving at as a youth pastor to know some things happening behind the scenes, in essence there were people engaging in sedition against the pastor and using me as a pawn in that. I still think I did the right thing, but I made myself into the martyr, and it was the wrong approach. When we make ourselves the martyr in our hammer drops, we're putting the bullseye on us. Instead, put the bullseye the problematic idea you want to address.
5. Buckle up - Whenever we lead prophetically and speak boldly into an issue that must be addressed, it's going to have fallout. The prophets in the Old Testament spoke boldly on behalf of God, but their message wasn't always received well. So if you're going to address issues of racism in the church or of apathy towards evangelism or towards embracing plural elders or whatever it might be... buckle up. Because leaders face no opposition and no pushback when they do nothing. But God hasn't called you to nothing. He's called you to lead.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.