There are quite a number of factors that may affect audience retention, especially for preachers of the gospel. Let me list a few of them:
– SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS
It’s no longer news that Satan doesn’t want people to hear the gospel, so he does all he can to resist the spread, including blinding the mind of people. Let’s see how scriptures put it:
2 Corinthians 4:
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
So first it tells us that there’s a possibility that the gospel can be hid from people who are lost. Which means no matter how much you preach to them, they won’t see the light because it has been hidden. I’d also like you to know that the “lost” in that scripture does not only mean the unsaved, it could also mean believers who have given in to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. From experience, it’s even easier to preach to an unsaved person than to preach to a believer who is lusting after the flesh.
Verse 4 continues by telling us that the way the gospel was hid to them is that the god of this world blinded their mind. Which literally means that Satan distracts them with enticing things that will not allow them to see the light of the gospel. Blindness doesn’t necessarily mean that the eye is damaged, it could also mean that a blindfold was put on or an object was placed to block you from seeing something else. Blinding the mind could be a distraction that the devil introduces each time the word is being received.
So 2 Thessalonians 3:1 gives us a solution to this. It says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you”. This means that if the gospel you preached touched the heart of anybody, then it’s because God’s word had a free course and was glorified. The distractions that the devil planned was ineffective. The word successfully went through without any struggle with distractions from the recipient.
So before you preach, pray that the word of God will have a free course and be glorified as you preach. If you do this, you’d be amazed at the outcome.
– PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
Some preachers don’t practice what they preach. And because they don’t practice, the people they preach to may consider their message as fables. Imagine a pastor that preaches on holiness yet commits all kinds of atrocities. A pastor who preaches prosperity that doesn’t give will hardly have prosperous members. Let’s see what scriptures say about this:
46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
Did you see that? You teach people what to do, yet you don’t do what you taught them, that’s foolishness. You’d be deceiving yourself if you think that your members will practice something you’re not ready to practice. James 1:22 says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”. That’s right! You’d be deceiving yourself!
You must have heard that a laborer shall be the first partaker. Well, a laborer must also be the first example. So when you preach a message, the first thing your listeners will look at is you. Do you practice what you’re preaching?
Some preachers don’t know how to reserve words while preaching. They preach as though they are flawless, as though it was them and God that created the earth. They exempt themselves from every preaching as though they’re not human. Some of them believe that they are above mistake. Well, that’s pride, and according to James 4:6, God resists the proud.
Don’t preach with pride as Phillipians 2:3 admonishes; rather, preach with lowliness of mind, and in fact esteem your listeners better than yourself. People will listen to you when they know you’d respect them in your communication.
Statements like “some of you” shouldn’t be used except where necessary. Use statements like “some of us” when discussing subjects that touches the entire body of Christ. Don’t be too quick to exempt yourself from your messages. Your inclusiveness makes it easier to receive. Share your mistakes and the steps you’ve taken or the steps you’re willing to take to fix them. Don’t be ashamed to tell your audience if a sermon you’re preaching also convicts you.
One of the reasons why people love Apostle Joshua Selman is because of the humility he displays while teaching. You’d feel so respected yet inspired. That’s how the gospel should be preached, not with pride and arrogance. The moment I learnt this, I had to adopt it in my writings. And believe me, it has become easier for people to receive my writings. The debates are lesser, and that’s because those who would have started a debate didn’t get a chance to, they read an article that was written with humbleness of heart.
As preachers, we are servants to those we preach to. 2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake”. If you understanding this, your communication will definitely change.
People are tired of receiving knowledge or information that they can’t apply. The world is demanding results from man every passing day, and the more it does, the more applicable knowledge is needed.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. This means that God’s word is designed to correct situations and circumstances. If your sermon isn’t doing that, then why should I listen to you?
One of the prayers I prayed to God at the early stage of my teaching ministry was that I didn’t want to teach anything that could not be applied. And honestly, God has been faithful. Just yesterday, a woman called me to express her excitement since she started following my articles. She pointed me to an article she read in August and how that it worked when she practiced it. She continued by saying everything she had been reading from me works.
Personally, a large percentage of the progress I’ve experienced came from practicing the things I taught. I don’t only preach, I also practice what I preach. The fact that they work tells me that they’d work for anybody who practices it.
Of recent, I’ve been receiving validations of my teachings. Right after teaching, someone will tell me that he or she has been going through that situation and that they didn’t even know. That’s powerful!
So that’s it! Ofcourse there are other factors, but the four I’ve mentioned are the major ones. Others may be something you can know through personal observation.
I hope this has brought enlightenment to someone.
Remain ever blessed, in Jesus precious name!