I don’t know if you watched Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention live or not. I wasn’t planning to watch it but kind of got sucked in during the speech by the mayor of San Antonio.
If you haven’t seen it, allow me to encourage you to watch it above.
What I saw the best political speech I might ever see in my lifetime.Which is saying something, because her husband has had some epic moments during the 2008 campaign. Anyone remember 1 million people showing up at Grant Park in Chicago? I mean Clint Eastwood says he cried. There are reports that Chuck Norris gave up round house kicks to the throat because of Barack’s speech there.
The speech above is amazing in a lot of ways. But, the real question for my fellow church leaders is… what can we learn from Michelle’s speech?
Here’s 5 lessons:
- She was set-up well. The content of her speech was clearly part of the script for the night. Previous speakers didn’t hint at the content of her talk or step on her themes, they didn’t package a video intro highlighting the key words to listen for, etc. The video intro and the introduction set-up the audience for what they were about to hear. Lesson: Don’t make your services so thematic that the sermon doesn’t reveal something. If you are producing services in a theatrical manner (auditorium, stage, lighting, etc) than use that to your advantage. I can’t tell you how many times the person introducing the sermon has said, “the pastor is about to talk about ____.” I mean, really? Don’t do that!
- She was prepared well. Trust me, this wasn’t a speech she practiced twice on Wednesday morning and then said, “I’m good.” That speech was a team effort. She knew where the cameras were, she knew where he emotive points were, she knew which lines were instant Twitter gold, and she was familiar enough with the content of the speech to get past forced gestures and have the whole thing come off as straight from the heart. That only comes when you really, really know your material. Lesson: Too many pastors depend on talent/experience, foregoing the positive impact of practice and preparation. If you are working on this weekend’s sermon this week, you’re not going to get that response. And if you are creating sermons in a vacuum, even with just your staff, you aren’t going to get that response. Prepare more for a better response.
- She stayed within herself. She spoke within a framework that her audience expects of her. Clearly, her speech was political as she tied her families story to the story of millions of Americans in contrast to her husband’s blue blood opponent. But she didn’t get into issues or stomp the stump. She played her part, she was an expert character witness, and you never felt like she was stretching to become believable. Lesson: One of the things I really like about our pastor is that he stays within what he knows well. Too often, I hear pastors preaching things they know little about. You are left to think… “Wait, what does he know about counseling… he has an MDiv, he’s not a licensed therapist.” When you get outside of what you know you start to look real dumb, real fast. If you need an element for something, bring in an expert or use a video.
- She was centrist. For years I’ve talked about the 1-5-10 rule of content creation. Negative content gets a 5 times multiplier versus normal content. But truly remarkable content gets a 10 times multiplier. She didn’t get 28,000 tweets per minute by being negative. She got the massive response by telling a story every person in the room could identify with. Lesson: I’ve heard from pastors who say they preach in response to what’s happening in their congregation. Um, responding isn’t leadership. Leaders take people where they would not go by themselves. Remember, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for EVERYONE. If you are preaching to the choir than you are limiting your potential impact. Instead of aiming your ministry at the top 15% or the bottom 15% of the learning curve, aim for the middle 70% to maximize.
- She was inspirational. Her speech reminded people that the American Dream is not just about financial success. (Certainly, the Obama’s are no longer poor.) Her speech took the audience somewhere. It started as the Obama’s story and morphed from personal pronouns of “my story” to our shared journey of “our story.” You were left not just cheering for the Obama’s but also for yourself. That’s impressive. Lesson: Take your audience somewhere. Help them see that their life with Jesus can add perspective, meaning, and purpose to their lives. Stop talking about the dreams of the individual and move people towards the dreams we can fulfill as a community of believers. I don’t want to go to the mountaintop alone– I want to go with us.