I read a book by Mark Driscoll a few years back in which he talked about this aspect of speaking saying that he became a student of the comedian Chris Rock (this may also explain why some of Driscoll's comments are so edgy that they continually land him in hot water). As far as Driscoll is concerned good comedians have a lot to teach us about timing, delivery, and connecting with an audience and are thus worth serious consideration. While learning from comedians is helpful I would also recommend becoming a student of the style of other preachers and teachers who inspire you as well. Think about who it is that connects with you and take notes about why they connect with you. You don't even have to agree with a persons theology to learn from their style. In fact I would recommend listening to people you don't agree with theologically who are good communicators. This aspect of teaching is about learning to connect better with your audience and there are plenty of amazing teachers out there from a variety of theological backgrounds that you can learn from.
In closing, here is a list of some communicators that inspire me for various reasons from various different fields. I don't necessarily endorse their beliefs but learn a lot from the way they communicate:
- Mark Driscoll - I love his way of connecting with a crowd. He's edgy and brash and sometimes that works phenomenally.
- Rob Bell - My favorite nonlinear communicator. This dude speaks like an artist. And his messages hit you with the same kind of power as art, much more subtly and subversively than typical messages.
- Tim Keller - Keller has built a successful church in one of the hardest places to build a church - New York City. Keller's style is conversation but chock full of well thought out theology.
- Greg Boyd - Pastor from Woodland Hill Church in Minneapolis, Greg Boyd is a great example of being passionate about what you preach. One does not usually associate passionate speaking with theologians but that's what you get with Greg Boyd - a brilliant theologian who is also a very passionate communicator.
- Stephen Colbert - great inspiration on wit.
- John Stewart - Stewart has mastered the art of engaging with people (even those with which he disagrees) and saying so much without saying a lot. He is brilliant in the way he communicates (much of this probably has to do with the team that works with him writing behind the scenes).
- Jimmy Fallon - This guy is just amazing at what he does.
- Ira Glass (This American Life Podcast) - Host of This American Life podcast Ira Glass is the moderator that makes me want to hear stories.
- Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (Radiolab Podcast) - This duo really works well in hosting the Radiolab Podcast.
- Martin Luther King - One of the greatest communicators ever. King remains a fine example of connecting not only with those within the fold but the outside world as well. He was a genius at connecting with the hearts of people in a way that was truly inspiring. While he certainly offended some his style of communication invited many more in which is not easy to do with such volatile issues as with which he dealt.
What about you? Who inspires you to speak? Who have you learned from?