I recently led my preaching cohort through an insightful conference talk on preaching by my friend Justin Anderson. One of the things he mentioned was how he thinks about connecting with different listeners. He talked about four archetypes he preps for in preaching. Justin’s four were:
- The Mechanic – “I picture a fifty-year old dude with blisters on his hands…hard worker…’Tell me what to do.'”
- The Smart Skeptic – “You need to address their skepticism and do so intelligently.”
- The Disciple – “They bought in. They love you. They love the gospel. Give ’em some meat, something to chew on.”
- The Dude Who’s There for Chicks – “There’s a dude in your church who’s there for chicks, not for you. Talk to him.”
This can be incredibly helpful to think through when trying to communicate effectively. In some ways it’s akin in spirit to Paul’s attempt to become like those whom he sought to persuade for the gospel (cf., 1 Cor. 9:20). Justin got me to thinking about constructing our own local archetypes. I tried to put together somewhat a matrix for those archetypes. I believe it runs on two continuum.
The first continuum addresses education.
Let it be said, anytime one uses occupational archetypes for levels of education or critical thinking prowess they do so with great generalizations. For example, I know some mechanics who are incredibly erudite and some skeptics that are merely pseudo-intellectuals. We must remember these are archetypes. They are typical/popular ways society thinks about people or things. So, since I live in an area dominated by petro-chemical industry and NASA, our team constructed the ends of the continuum:
The Plant Worker <——> Rocket Scientist
Again, the sweeping generalization is of a shift worker who looks for the “how to” more than the abstract while the rocket scientist wants thought-out, articulate answers to the propositional statements they hear from the pulpit.
We also have an inordinate amount of engineers so I added them to our list. While they sit to the right of the continuum education-wise, we put them in the middle for space-sake. Why add them? Because the engineer archetype has specific distinctives about their learning process (e.g., linear thinkers) that I, as a preacher, must keep in mind if I’m to communicate well to them. This means, you may have a high concentration of a specific type of people that you cannot help but consider in the preaching event. For us, it is engineers.
The second continuum deals with interest level.
While we kept The Disciple, we replaced The Dude Who’s There for Chicks with a better archetype for our church. (I also reversed the order Justin presented.)
The Consumer <——> The Disciple
We chose consumer over the “Chicks” guy because it better describes our cultural setting. The consumer is the one who comes to our church because it’s the popular thing to do, or it’s good for business, or for any reason that isn’t spiritual in nature.
The final result was a matrix that looked like this:
What would your matrix look like? I believe this can be a helpful tool in making sure your message connects with your congregation. Sit down with your staff and construct your own.