The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries
Teaching and Selling
There's a big difference between teachers and people who work in sales.
The difference has nothing to do with academic degrees. It does have some bearing on the fact that one group gets a salary, and the other works for commissions.
The core of the difference has to do with the intention of the individual for us. A professor wants us to learn ideas. A salesperson wants us to make a decision about spending money. Students ask their teachers, "Will that be on the test?" In sales, the test has to do with who is holding the cash at the end of the day.
Both teaching and sales can be reputable professions. But those who excel in one area may be dismal failures in the other.
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In the unique job expectations for clergy, strengths in both teaching and sales have to be combined with other skills in areas like counseling and administration. One of my seminary professors gave me a valuable insight into how teaching and sales mix as parts of pastoral ministry.
In the introductory preaching class, we were told to have a clear statement of purpose for every sermon, a purpose that could be expressed in a single sentence. There were three acceptable ways to start that statement:
My preaching prof was aware that pastors move back and forth between teaching and sales roles. Sometimes, it is appropriate and necessary for a sermon to teach about an idea, or to convince the listeners about the validity of an idea. Other times, though, the pastor moves into a different style and tries to persuade the audience, to get them to make a choice or take an action.
The preacher needs to use different methods to accomplish those goals. Persuasion is not achieved by lots and lots of teaching. More and more information does not lead anyone to make a choice. Persuasion takes sales skills, not teaching skills. Teaching and convincing happen in the head. Persuasion happens in the heart and the guts.
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In my work with Eco-Justice Ministries, it has been exciting to connect with hundreds of pastors and church leaders who are trying to engage congregations around eco-justice issues. In my conversations with those leaders, it seems that churches have two core problems that keep us from being effective.
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Teaching, convincing and persuading are all part of the complicated job of ministry. May God strengthen our skills in both teaching and selling, and help us to discern the best balance among those approaches.
Eco-Justice Ministries * 400 S Williams St, Denver, CO 80209 * 303.715.3873
Home Page: www.eco-justice.org * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org