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It's Only Me!

Last week the BBC Radio family was united in grief for the loss of iconic DJ Steve Wright and unanimous in appreciation of his unique blend of personality and gifts. The Radio 2 programme Steve Wright in the Afternoonwas a permanent fixture in many people’s days; it became something of a soundtrack for their lives. His Sunday morning programme Love Songs not only played well-loved tunes but made connections between people.

A good radio presenter has to combine many skills. They use words imaginatively to paint pictures and scenarios in their hearers’ imaginations. Good radio turns hearers’ ears into eyes.

How did Steve Wright do that and what can preachers learn from him?

  • This art requires painstaking effort. Programmes that sounded effortless involved hours of hard graft as songs were carefully curated and linking material was precisely crafted to form a bridge between songs. Combined with this, Steve Wright had the ability to create relatable characters and showcase the lives of interesting people both famous and unknown.

  • Speaking to a crowd as if there was only one person in the audience. People recalling Steve Wright’s style speak of his ability to speak to seven million listeners but have one listener in mind. It is this personal connection with the listener that made people want to tune in and listen.

  • Radio was his life rather than a job. It would seem that life outside of radio could be a fairly solitary existence for Steve Wright. It was almost as if he poured all his relational capacity into his programmes, which is why his hearers loved him.

Preachers certainly ought to see preaching as more than a job but there is the danger of living our lives through our work. Too many preachers are only personable when they are in a pulpit and have little or no life outside of it!

  • This requires considerable empathy. One colleague said that Wright had an approach that “lifted and broke me in equal measure.”

Sports broadcaster Adrian Chiles, in an article entitled “I was injured, miserable and lost — then Steve Wright saved me”, talks about a time when he was recovering from breaking his leg.

“If ever I needed a cheering companion at my side, this was the time. And Steve, along with his “posse”, was my man. He was friendly and funny. Two simple adjectives that may seem like damning his talent with faint praise. But the simplest things are often the hardest to pull off.”

Preachers know that it is the simple things that are the hardest to pull off.

That is something we all discovered during Covid, when every preacher had to rapidly upskill and become a broadcaster. Bereft of the setting of gathered church and a familiar church building, careful thought had to be given to how to connect.

“We have become sensitized to relationality as a central concern of our preaching. Whether spoken from the pulpit or projected from the digital platform, all preaching must be relationally anchored, relationally orientated and relationally delivered.” (Marcus Throup - Preaching Beyond the Pandemic)

Think today about how you could make next Sunday morning’s sermon more relatable to your congregation.

Photo by Mike Hindle on Unsplash

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