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7 Ways Communicators Kill Their Messages (And How to Avoid The Traps)

If you’ve ever spoken in front a group, tried to motivate a team, or if you prepare messages almost every week like many of us do, you’ve probably wondered what makes for a great talk.

In fact, you’ve probably asked questions like these:

What’s the difference between a talk that flops and a talk that people still buzz about years later?

What’s the difference between a merely good message and incredibly great message?

What’s the difference between a sermon that changes someone’s life and one that no one can remember even as they drive out of the parking lot?

If you’re like me, those questions might even bother you.

I hope they do. They haunt me.

And yet every week gifted communicators kill the messages they bring by making at least 7 predictable, fixable mistakes.

The good news is that once you identify the mistakes, though, you can address them.


 7 Ways Communicators Kill Their Messages

I’m writing from the perspective of a Christian who speaks. And as I wrote about here, I realize that the Holy Spirit is involved in a special way when we speak. He redeems terrible talks and converts people through his power, not our persuasive words. I get that.

But that shouldn’t be your fall back week after week.

The Holy Spirit’s work is not an excuse for laziness. It’s also no excuse for failing to develop a skill set that supports your gifting.

So if you’re at all interested in honing your gift set, identify and then address the 7 mistakes communicators make that almost always kill a message:


If You’re the Leader, You’re the Lid (And 3 Things You Can Do About It)

Today, a really simple—but powerful—principle.

If you’re the leader, you’re the lid.

I know I’d rather pretend that’s not true, but it is.

Here’s what it means:

Over time, the team and organization you lead will never grow past where you’ve grown.

If you stop growing in an area, people who want to grow past that point will simply find another leader to follow.

So this just makes me nervous. As a leader, I set limits that impact others.

How do you overcome it?

It’s Everywhere

As much as you and I would like to pretend that we’re not the lid as leaders, the truth takes us elsewhere.

Your lid operates in every area of your life and leadership. As a leader, you become the organization lid






And on the list goes….

People who want to grow past where you’ve grown will move on.

So how do you keep growing?


3 Ways to Remove Your Lid

So what do you do about it? Three things have consistently helped me grow:


12 Ways Selfish Ambition Damages a Leader’s Soul (And How to Tell If It’s An Issue For You)

If you’re like me (and like most people), you find selfishness in other people to be a real turn off.

But if we’re honest, very few of us are naturally self-less. Every day, I fight selfishness.

If you’re driven and even a little bit ambitious like I am, you have to be doubly careful.


Because when selfishness and ambition move into the same room together the combination is deadly.

Left undealt with, selfish ambition will harm:

Your family

Your faith

Your team

Your character

And almost everything else in your life.

So you have to deal with it. Ruthlessly.

The reality is most of us aren’t exactly sure how selfish we are.

How can you know? Believe it or not, it’s not that difficult to find out.


It Starts Innocently Enough

Most of us secretly want to be better known, valued and appreciated than we are.  That’s not entirely bad, and it’s part of a natural human longing that comes from our sin and desire for a restored relationship with God, others and even ourselves.

For some of us, the desire to be known or appreciated extends only to a wider relational circle.

For others, it’s more public.  We long to be better known in our ministry, in our company, to see our product selling, our album get recorded, our blog get traction or to find ourselves thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook friends.

If we were to pry behind the secret motivation…we think that would make us feel ‘successful’…as though we matter.

I know I’ve struggled with this over the years.

When I was starting out in ministry, I wanted to be that guy who spoke at conferences and was well respected as a leader in ministry. I never talked about that kind of thing publicly or privately, but if you were to gain access to my sinful mind, the thought spun around  in my head from time to time.


God 1, Me 0 (How God Snapped My Will)

Then in a season of my life over a decade ago, God wrestled that down.  Well, that’s putting it nicely.  He snapped my ambition.

He took me to a place where I realized that as much as I didn’t want to admit it even to myself, much of my motivation was selfish and not God-honouring.  I finally surrendered it to him after a painful wrestling match.

In my struggles with God, God brought me to a point where I could see myself serving as an effective pastor in the middle of nowhere without ever anyone knowing who I was. I didn’t really want that definition of success. But I embraced it anyway.

As best I could, I surrendered my ambition to God. I gave in. (Kind of foolish that we resist giving into God, isn’t it? But we do.)

I’m so grateful I had that painful encounter with God.

Left unchecked, selfish ambition turns servants of God into servants of themselves.


12 Ways Selfish Ambition Damages a Leader’s Soul (And What Happens When You Give It Up)

I’ve come to enjoy the slow death of selfish ambition in my life.  It’s not complete, but it’s in progress. Here’s what I’m learning and (now) loving about the difference.

These 12 things are true when you’re motivated by selfish ambition:


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