Stanley and Jones Preach Communication

Stanley_and_Lane_review_08312016Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. 2006. Communicating for a Change. Colorado Springs: Multinomah Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In my last year at Iowa State, out of obligation I took a speech class. At the time, it seemed like a wildly irrelevant class—why does an economist need to learn how to give a speech?  By the time I reached seminary, preaching was not only on my mind, I credited my preaching experience as an elder with helping me to understand my call as a pastor. In a world so desperate to know the love and salvation of Christ, where else can you get 20-40 minutes of people’s undivided attention—especially knowing that your own kids could be sitting in the front row?


In their book, Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley and Lane Jones focus on seven points needed to communicate effectively. In the first part of the book, they outline the seven points in a truck driving analogy. In the second part of the book, they drive down into the seven points in more detail.

Seven Points

The seven points are:

  1. Determine your goal—what do you hope to communicate? (33)
  1. Focus on a single point—if you provide too much information, your audience will not remember anything (39).
  1. Make a map that helps you travel from information to relationship (44). Stanley talks about ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE as the map or outline of how to structure a sermon.

This ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE map requires some unpacking.  The ME section explains who you are. The WE section moves from what I am thinking and feeling to what we are thinking and feeling. The GOD section introduces biblical truth into the discussion. The YOU section is about application—what are you going to do about this biblical truth? The final WE section casts a common vision (48-49).

  1. Internalize the message—“until you can deliver it with no notes, from memory, then it’s not your message” (52).
  1. Engage your audience emotionally—“You have to connect with your audience around a real need in their lives. Something they feel.” This involves reminding the audience of “tension that they already feel” (58-60). You look for memorable points and go slow on the transition points to keep people engaged (63-64).
  1. Find you voice. Stanley and Jones observe: “You are not talking to people. You are talking at people.” Your voice is the authentic you—present, vulnerable, the real you. The goal of finding your voice is to be able to take people on a journey, rather than give them a sermon (70-72).
  1. Find your traction. Delivering a sermon on time every week is hard if you get stuck in the preparation. Stanley and Jones suggest a checklist of questions: 1. What do they need to know? 2. Why do they need to know it? 3. What do they need to do? And 4. Why do they need to do it? (80)

In parsing the first point, Stanley and Jones observe that pastors have really three primary approaches in preaching:

  1. Teaching the Bible to people;
  2. Teaching people the Bible;
  3. Teach “people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible.” (94-95)

Expert multiple choice test takers always go for the longest answer—Stanley and Jones clearly favor the third approach. Their incentive is captured in this brief statement:

“How would you communicate this message if your eighteen-year old son had made up his mind to walk away from everything you have taught him, morally, ethically, and theologically, unless he had a compelling reason not to? What would you say this morning if you knew that was at stake?” (98-99)

Stanley and Jones’ point is compelling and one of the points of the book that I remember most vividly.


Andy Stanley[1] is the founder of North Point Ministries in the Atlanta area, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and he author of numerous books. Lane Jones[2] is also of North Point Ministries and a graduate of  Dallas Theological Seminary and a Christian author.


Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones is a book recommended to me by my pastor when I started entered seminary and began preaching for myself. The book is engaging, easy to read, and proved to be a great help in preaching.



[2] Getting to know Lane Jones (

Stanley and Jones Preach Communication

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Return to Leadership

Cover for Called Along the Way
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy
of double honor, especially those
who labor in preaching and teaching
(1 Tim 5:17)

Return to Leadership

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

My term as elder began in January 2003 when Centreville Presbyterian Church (CPC) ordained me and I was elected as clerk of session, a leadership position. As clerk, I worked closely with the pastor to set agendas for the session and congregational meetings, and kept the official notes on all meetings.

Pastor Rob encouraged the elders to deepen their faith and to become more involved in the life of the church. He encouraged us involved dedicating the first half-hour of our meetings to study and prayer. The first book that we used in this effort was Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership, which served to make the point that elders were more than merely the board of directors of the church. Session soon became my first small group.

Pastor Rob also encouraged us was to become more involved in the life of the church through preaching and teaching. In the spring, our associate pastor resigned and Pastor Rob asked that elders to offer personal testimonies on Sunday morning to give him some time off.
At first, I avoided the question, but after thinking about it, I told him:

I am uncomfortable giving a personal testimonial, but if you want, I will preach for you. I am used to teaching college students so it should be no problem to preach.

He agreed and shared a book, Communicating for a Change, with me by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones to help me get started. Over the next year, I preached four times on the call to faith and ministry, the problem of pain, the Book of Esther, and the covenants of law and grace.
The following year, I taught my first adult Sunday school class, a video series crafted around R.C. Sproul’s book: Reason to Believe. We had more than twenty adults who attended the class and, because of the success of the class, I was encouraged to teach Bible studies, starting with the Book of Romans in 2005. After that I taught Luke, Genesis, Hebrews, Philippians, and Matthew.

After a point in teaching, I got frustrated by the poor attendance on Sunday mornings. I thought: “Where are the elders? Where are the deacons?” When I looked around the room, I realized that only one or two in a class of a dozen were even church members. My class consisted primarily of family members, colleagues from work, and active, non-members who wandered in. These were people who, like myself, struggled to understand their faith and chided at the usual pat answers.


Sanders, J. Oswald. 1994. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer. Chicago: Moody Press.

Sproul, R.C. 1982. Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objectives to Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. 2006. Communicating for a Change. Colorado Springs: Multinomah Books.


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Sedniev Teaches Improv to Speakers

Andreii Sedniew.[1] 2013. Magic of Impromptu Speaking: Create a Speech that Will Be Remembered for Years in Under 30 Seconds. Santa Clara: Andreii Sedniev.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Confession time. Analysis paralysis is my default setting. I write out my sermons and generally over-prepare for presentations. As I tell my colleagues, I don’t do spontaneous. When I notice Andrii Sedniev’s book, Magic of Impromptu Speaking, I knew that I needed a copy.


In his book, Sedniev presents a how-to guide on extemporaneous (or improvisational) speaking. He writes:

“During the last 10 years, I collected tips, techniques, and strategies that can dramatically raise the level of any speaker in impromptu speaking. My goal was to create the most comprehensive system, which will make anyone a world class impromptu speaker within a very short time. The Magic of Impromptu Speaking system was based on the analysis of thousands of impromptu speaking contests, interviews, debates, and Q&A sessions.” (3)

The book is deceptively short (100 pages) and Sedniev writes in a breezy, conversational style organized into 28 chapters. Sedniev is a speaking coach from the Ukraine trained as an MBA.

What is Impromptu Speaking?

For Sedniev, an impromptu speech is a talk one to three minutes long (64; and no more than five minutes long) that one cannot prepare for in advance. A job interview question or a party invitation to speak are examples of impromptu speeches (7).

A key starting point in successful impromptu speaking for Sedniev comes from his training in karate: “Think about the impromptu speech as a game.” (10). Attitude matters because time is short. There is no time to think analytically about the talk. He describes impromptu speaking as drawing primarily on right brain (subconscious mind) not left brain (conscious mind) processing (16)—this is the magic part of his system. Therefore, Sedniev advises the speaker to hold two beliefs: “I will definitely answer the question and I will not always have a stellar answer” (17).

Basketball Mindset

Understanding the above paragraph is important in processing Sedniev’s method. Think of the basketball player’s mindset. If you are standing under the basket and your teammate throws the ball, there is not time to thinking about what to do—you reflexively take the shot. That reflex becomes automatic, but only after many hours of practice and training with your team. This is what Sedniev is saying when he talks about right brain thinking. Later in the book, Sedniev talks about the need to practice and mentions, for example, that he joined seven toastmaster’s clubs and offers visualization (a Zen Buddhist technique) as a technique to enhance speaking performance (75, 82).

In my own experience, for years I advised young professionals to practice taking job interviews, even when the job is not a perfect fit, so that when the dream job comes along you will understand the process and can interview well. Sedniev’s method provides a more focused way to get this practice without the stress and need to dress up.

Once you understand Sedniev’s basic approach, he provides advice on structuring your talk and handling the particular problems that come up in extemporaneous speaking.

Rules of Thumb

Several elements are critical in structuring an impromptu talk, which Sedniev outlines as rules of thumb in speaking:

  • Going back the right brain, reflexive response idea, he writes: “Once you hear a question, begin answering it based on the first idea that pops up in your head.” (21)
  • “The best time for thinking is while you are talking because it is not limited.” (23) By limited, Sedniev means that it is not limited like the problem of remaining silent until an idea pops up and makes analytical sense.
  • When someone asks a question, you have several choices to make in responding. You can answer the question directly, answer in part, transition to another topic, refuse comment, or answer later (28). You can also pick a word from the question to focus on, seek clarification, or redefine the question (30-31).
  • In an impromptu speech, you talk about one idea for a couple minutes, transition to a second idea, then transition to a series of other ideas. Transitions are hugely important to bringing your audience along with you. One way to transition is a synthesis (this idea is a part of a larger class of ideas, as in cups to dishes) or an analysis (this idea can be broken into subclasses of ideas, as in cups to tea cups), which Sedniev calls linguistic pyramids (32-33). Another way to transition is to use associations, as in a table and a donkey are similar in that they both have four legs (34-35).
  • An impromptu speech is still a speech, having three parts: an opening, a body, and a closing (36-38).
  • Impromptu speeches generally have three basic frameworks. You can tell a story, a PEEP (point, explanation, example, and reiteration of point), and a PAB (position, action, and benefit) (40-45).

 The PAB is an approach often used in a business context to propose a solution to a problem, an action that needs to be taken, and a benefit likely to result.

Proficiency in Impromptu Speaking

Sedniev sees four levels of proficiency in impromptu speaking. At the first level, you acquire the ability to talk for two minutes about an random topic without discomfort. At the second level, you add an introduction, body, and conclusion to your two minute talk. At the third level, you begin to pay attention the audience, gesturing, using dramatic pauses, establishing eye contact, and vary your voice. At the fourth level, you mix things up—using slant—a bit to make your talk more interesting (69-71).


Andreii Sedniew’s book, Magic of Impromptu Speaking, is a helpful and interesting book focused on extemporaneous presentations. For people unaccustomed to speaking on short notice on random topics, like myself, this book fills a unique void in the speaking literature. In my case, I must have twenty books on preaching and speaking, but none address the question of improvisational speaking. Seminary students, pastors, business leaders, and politicians may all find this book beneficial.


[1] @AndriiSedniev,

Sedniev Teaches Improv to Speakers

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