Combatting Listener Fatigue! (and we all get this at some point?)

Blessings on you as we begin 2021. Our chaotic world is ultimately ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, there is no chaos or distress. As one of His young’uns, should I be stressing out?

Those who respond with a word of encouragement, validation, ask a question or raise a differing view are all appreciated. The viewership of Ministry Monday continues to grow, particularly when I’m consistent. A few people buy my books and some readers even purchase another book I’ve written. The comments that come back mean a lot. That is affirmation for any author. In the past two years several books have far surpassed my previous sales marks.

#1 - Light in a Dark Place – Encountering Depression has hit a target. Because depression is such an issue during the pandemic Light in a Dark Place has been discounted to half price at my website and 80% off as an eBook for the Kindle app. There are requests for more books on this topic and in 2020, two events that actually were carried out included the request for me to teach on “Encountering Depression.”

#2 – Personal Devotion – Keep It Simple Saints (K.I.S.S.) is just what it sounds like. A book that teaches you how to start and sustain your personal devotion. Many people want to have daily time with God but they don't know how to start or sustain their personal devotion. At least three pastors have bought a copy of Personal Devotion – Keep It Simple Saints for every member of their church. A purchase of more than 15 of these books receives a 15% discount.

#3 – Bad Decisions – The Legacy of Lot has been a breakout book.  Pastors Anthony Mangun and Edwin Harper each gave Bad Decisions heart-felt, I’ve read-the-book and see-its-value reviews. A leader’s guide is available for Bad Decisions. Pastor Jason Cox in Chicago-land is using Bad Decisions with the group of men he leads.

My last blog of 2020 addressed How to Start 2021 Right.



Listener Fatigue!

In late 2020, Garret Gould’s article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch mentioned reader fatigue. He cited Tony LaRussa, a manager who has been honored by being selected to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, as having said that after managing the same team for 10 years, there came “player fatigue.” The players no longer listened to what the manager was saying. And his motivational approach no longer worked.

Think about these phrases:

  • Reader fatigue – For over a decade, I stopped reading a particular leadership guru because his books all had the same message. Only the stories changed. I recently picked up one of the author’s newer books. The content was fresh and vibrant. Perhaps he has freshened his message, or perhaps not having read him for a decade prepared me to again hear what he was saying.
  • Listener fatigue – Have you ever became weary of the same voice? I had a few professors who should be prescribed to cure insomnia.
  • Leadership fatigue – John Maxwell says some pastors do not lead a congregation toward something for 20 years, instead they repeat ,”the same one year, twenty times.”

What is Audience Fatigue?

Well first off, it is an interesting topic needing more thought than has been given. The significance is under-rated because fatigue steals vitality and energy. Weary people have little enthusiasm.

Have you wearied of listening to the same voice, the same timbre, degree of passion, and the same words repeated? Where I attended college, the Chairman of the Business Department was such a sort. He taught all the accounting courses. Everything he said had value. Some of it was of extreme legal importance.

But I got so tired of hearing it. Decades ago, I arrived at listener fatigue with talk radio. How much of significance is there for opinionated people to say about any sport, the opposing political party, your own political party, or how much it rains in the Midwest?


While preaching this next little section would be known as "chasing rabbits." 

As a side note:  it is my decided opinion, that talk radio is a colossal waste of a listener's time. Use the same time to listen to educational audiobooks, sermons or to just think. Most of us don't have enough time to do the latter. Rush Limbaugh, ESPN Sports, or any other "rattling head" have not yet helped me understand a passage of scripture, or inspired me to be a better Christian. I challenge you to FAST your voice of choice for 2 weeks. At the end of the two weeks evaluate what you missed out on by not listening to such.


Appetite Fatigue

One mother experimented with serving her family, chicken with wild rice for 21 days. Her family loved chicken with wild rice. Particularly the way she cooked it. But not many days into the experiment:

  • Her family was consuming less at dinner. A lot of chicken with wild rice was being left on their plates.
  • The kids seemed to be getting quite a few invitations to stay at the home of a friend for dinner.
  • Dad was working late more often and, "To make it easy on her, would just 'Pick up a sandwich on the way home.'”

The family loved the lady of the house. None wanted to hurt her feelings. Cooked with some Cajun seasoning to give it a bit of zip, Chicken and wild rice is a good meal. But enough can be enough.

The same can be said of an audience that listens to the “same old, same old” without change of inflection, posture approach, or illustration.

Suggestion #1 – Involve other voices and methods in your preaching.

Actively involve your audience. Paul Mooney, the former pastor of Calvary Tabernacle in Indianapolis, is a master at interacting with a person or two in a audience. I’ve watched him engage someone during a camp meeting service. Thousands of people were in attendance and Bishop Mooney's interaction with some person he’d never met kept the audience wondering what might happen next. I’m not adept at Bishop Mooney’s approach, though there have been times when I used it because it was a natural fit.  

Be warned:  this approach can get more interesting than you planned. In 2019, Bishop Mooney and I were teamed at an event in Kentucky. As he preached, he interacted with a lady in the congregation. She was "off the chain," and wanted to say far more than what he'd sought input on. Yet, as this unfolded, none of us dozed off. We were all breathlessly waiting for what she might say or do. As someone trying to learn how to preach, my interest was in how the preacher was going to deal with her aggressive responses. 

While not using Paul Mooney's approach as often as I should, I extensively use the following in some form. These keep people from becoming weary at my voice. The sound of a voice distinct from my own seems to arouse fresh interest.

  1. When I teach, people in the audience do some of or most of my Bible reading for me. Usually, the various verses are assigned to different people scattered across the congregation. These can be “newcomers” who are willing to read aloud, as well as people who have been around a bit. As Calvary has grown, we now have someone take a microphone to the next reader.
  2. A song on the list for a recent service fit part my message. I I set it up with the praise leader to use that song in the midst of my preaching. The song affirmed and communicated my message but a different method was used. The audience was re-energized. It is almost a, “What’s going on here? This is not what we usually do,” sort of response.
  3. Responsive reading!
    1. Approach #1:  I read the first verse of the passage, the audience reads aloud the second verse. We then alternate. 
    2. Approach #2:  Used when a reading is much longer than the normal. Have the men read a verse and the ladies read the second, both groups being led by someone with a strong voice and microphone in hand.
    3. Approach #3: Some Psalms were written for responsive reading. An audience loudly responding with, “His mercy endureth forever!” awakens people who would have dozed off, if you had read the entire Psalm.

When different voices are heard, with a purpose behind those voices, audiences perk up. Try it, fatigue will be reduced. 

Suggestion #2 Keep a Record of the Topics you preach on!

We all have topics we prefer to preach about. Perhaps we enjoy studying those topics or a certain topic seems to draw a response from our audience. But a non-stop diet of prophecy, sermons on divine healing or personal evangelism is not particularly well-rounded.

Perhaps more important, unless you:

  • Study your preferred topic from a fresh angle.
  • Read more material that expands your content
  • Alter your approach significantly

those topics you love to talk about can be preached but the audience not hear. 

Our message can be like the sound of siren to someone who has lived in Manhattan for thirty years – the sound of the siren exists but the significance of the siren no longer registers.

Instead, of talking about the same topic too often, decide on an array of topics that a healthy church should hear. Over 30 years ago, I heard the pastor of a significant church say he had 20 topics he tried to preach about two times each year. This kept him to stay fresh. I took his suggestion to heart, developed a similar list and began keeping a record of how and when I’d addressed various topics. This chart was in the back of my Bible.

My “Twenty-One Topics” is a free list you can download here.

None of this may be comfortable to you. Nothing new ever is. But your audience may be tired and ready for you to try some new things.

They do love you and your “chicken and wild rice” is the best in the world. Your congregation loves you. They won't hurt your feelings by telling you they are tired of the sound of your voice or that you lack variety. But while you preach, do some in the  audience seem to started writing their shopping list for tomorrow’s trip to the grocery? Does “Dad” seem to work late and do the “kids” seem to be staying at their buddies for supper?

It could be that they are tired of “chicken and rice.” I challenge you just try some of this for six months. It may surprise you how well it works.

More on this next week!

My little book, K.I.S.S.—Personal Devotion is oriented to Keep It Simple Saints. Many people want to have daily time with God but they really don't know how to practice that. If you'll go to the website they're discounted for a limited time.

Also, in regard to keeping your new converts, Lane and I continue to work on improving the Discipleship Training Course

It's a course on disciple making and it is discounted to have price right now well enough about all of that I’m working on some other projects

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1 comment

  • Rick McGee

    Bro. Coon, thank you for your thoughts and insights! This is a great topic, and you gave us valuable suggestions. I’m very interested in reviewing your “21 Topics” list. The link doesn’t seem to be working yet, but I’ll check back. I appreciate all the resources and investments you make for the Kingdom.

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