For The Preachers Who Have It All Figured Out

Sometimes when you talk to people with no outward display of faith, they respond with offense, claiming that their religious life is a private thing.  Sometimes they express an indignant attitude.  It's as if you asked them about their herpes or why they are on the registered sex offender list.

"How dare you ask me if I have faith!  It's a private thing!  It's none of your business!"

I can understand that.  If you have no real system of faith, then faith is the most uncomfortable thing to talk about.

Over the years, I've come up against this kind of response in ways that I don't really understand.

The conversation goes like this:

"Hey, can I help to give you some direction concerning the preparation and presentation of your sermons?"

"Oh no.  I have my own way.  My own style.  The Holy Spirit gives me direction."  (How dare you suggest that my preaching needs improvement!)

I'm baffled by this.

I've been preaching for 14 years, and my preaching needs improvement.  I read books on the topic regularly.  I read articles.  I study the methods of others.  I consider that transfer of Biblical instruction from mouth to ear to be of utmost importance.  What am I doing to hinder communication?  What can I do to improve communication?

If you are an elder who preaches now and then... if you are the associate who fills in... if you are new to the pulpit (and by new, I'm talking 5 years and less at least)...  then your ears should be wide open to any suggestion that someone might give.

Why do you want to press on, year after year, confusing your congregations and providing a mediocre presentation?

I'm going to have to be honest with this one...  The equipping of the saints is way more important, than our opinions of ourselves.

Here's a few things I've learned...

  • We are not entertainers.  Some people want the preachers who hoot and holler so they can hoot and holler and leave church feeling all experiential.  It is not our job to make people feel good.  It's our job to teach, equip and declare the gospel.
  • Know your gift.  Know your style.  Maybe you are not Bob Coy.  Maybe you are not Andy Stanley.  Maybe you are you and it's time to come to terms with it.  If you have a gift to be extemporaneous, (without losing track, going down rabbit trails, saying 12,000 uhms, uhhs and ya'know's or throwing out a 'hail Mary' bumper sticker phrase to incite an 'amen'), then go for it. Be well studied, well prepared and preach it.  If you struggle with that method, then use your notes.  In fact, find better ways to lay your notes out.  If you need the whole message written out (like I do), then break it up in a way that's easy to follow... and, until you get good at following your notes...  rehearse.  That's right, I said it...  rehearse your sermon out loud.  Listen to yourself talk.  Ask yourself the all important question, "Does this make sense?"
  • Don't embarrass your family members very often.
  • Don't just quote other interpretations of a Greek word.  Learn a little grammar.  Consider the sentence.  The sentence will tell you way more than the word.
  • If you have more illustrations than you have Bible verses... get a job writing political speeches.
  • Find experienced friends and mentors who will listen to your sermons and give you honest evaluations.
  • In one sentence, what is the point of your sermon?  If people walk away from your preaching, and can't give you that sentence, then there is room for improvement.
  • Longer is not better.  Shorter is not better.  Find the depth of content and length of teaching that works for your congregation.
  • Before the sermon is about you, it is first about Jesus, and second about those who are being taught.
  • Pray it through... each step of the way.  Cry out desperately for help.  Cry out often.
  • Know who can give you counsel on your preaching, and who can't.  Don't seek approval... seek improvement.