Good preaching is hard work and I have great respect for those who practice this calling on a regular basis. I have already written two previous blog posts with similar titles on this subject, which can be accessed here and here. Can you believe I still have more to share on this subject? This post, like many from a different perspective, is filled with my personal opinions. If you deem it without value, you can file it in your digital wastebasket. However, if you like to learn from others and want to improve, here are six tips. In order to keep those who don’t know me from assuming, there’s no perfection here; I’m still working on these pointers too.
1. Immediately prior to pulpit time, connect with God. I assume that every portion of your study and preparation has been bathed in prayer, but I’m talking about a certain sense of desperation whereby you know that effective preaching only comes by His divine help. I often pray that God would help me stand and speak as He did the prophets of old who boldly stood to declare, “this is what the Lord says…” I also sometimes pray “Lord, You are the only anointing I have. Without Your hand upon these gifts, I have nothing.” The point is to confess your total dependence upon Him. As well, this ought to be every preacher’s prayer: “God help me to say the right stuff and nudge me when I’ve said enough” (Benny Tate).
2. Learn to preach without the expectation of applause and amens. While you’re at it, I think you should stop asking for them. Is it genuine if you have to pause in the midst of preaching and tell the congregation to praise the Lord or give God a round of applause? I know this sounds a little harsh to my Pentecostal friends. However, we must keep in mind that we have a responsibility to teach the truth without regard of affirmation. Preach the Word and if people want to provide spontaneous applause, praise to God, or other words of agreement, then let it be. Otherwise, do what one of my favorite road signs says, “Keep Moving.” By the way, I appreciate a genuine “amen” as much as any preacher and I don’t think preaching should be a boring monolog.
3. Pay attention to those repetitious phrases. We each have our own pet sayings and overused phrases. Are they necessary? Have you listened to you lately? Do so and catch your own catchphrases. Evaluate yourself. This tip has to do with the need to be conscious of your own vocabulary and choose your words wisely. I’ve heard some sermons that if you were to remove all of the fluffy catchphrases and often repeated phrases, the actual message would have only been about twenty minutes – but oh, what a powerful twenty minutes it could have been!
4. Use other preachers. Do you have any staff that also preach? Are there any retired (or semi-retired) ministers in your congregation or circle of influences? What about gifted lay speakers in the church? The pastor that preaches every service for every week of the majority of the year will eventually run out of steam and the quality of spoken ministry will begin to suffer. Additionally, pastors need to help develop the gifts of other preachers and what better way to do that than with the occasional Sunday evening or midweek opportunity. If you never do this, then you are also robbing your congregation of some gifted voices that God wants to use to strengthen and revitalize His Church. When a senior pastor routinely uses staff and other guest preachers, the unspoken principle being taught is that the message is always more important than the messenger.
5. Get some help. Find some trusted resources. Why? Oh, simply because none of us are as brilliant as we’d like to think. My pastor at the time of my beginning to preach advised me to “notice the structure of the Sunday School lessons.” His advice to me was to understand that just like a good Sunday School lesson, good sermons will need some sort of helpful structure. It only took me a few months into my first pastorate to realize that I was in desperate need of some help. So be willing learn from other gifted communicators and communications. My advice is to ignore the majority of Christian television (it’s not an ideal source for this kind of help). I’m suggesting that you buy a few books here and there to read and keep your own creative juices flowing. God has gifted some of His choice servants to write resourceful materials to help others. Get your hands on some and let others help mentor you in that fashion.
6. Keep good records. Seriously, you need some sort of log that you can go back and review as needed. Such records should include the place and date, a sermon title or theme, the primary text used, and any special results that took place. Ideally, such data should be entered into a spreadsheet for easy searchability. If you pastor, this activity keeps you from being too repetitious with your pet themes, favorite doctrines, and well-polished sermons. In the pastorate, there is some value in creatively preaching previously prepared material, but it’s a privilege which cannot be abused and must be done sparingly. Those whose preaching ministry is not pastoral, need these records to ensure they don’t give repeat sermons in the same place.
Pentecostal Bonus – Maintain your composure, by staying in control of your emotions. This was actually a lesson I was taught by my first and second pastors after I had begun preaching. Both of these men were veteran Pentecostal preachers who had been used in a variety of great settings. You see, it is possible for the minister to get so involved with preaching the message that he (or she) gets overwhelmed with the goodness of God. We Pentecostals can be an excitable group. However, the preacher’s goal is not to get excited or excite the congregation. Your passion will naturally spill over into the congregation, but do your best to maintain your composure because your goal is to clearly proclaim the revealed truths of God’s Word.
What pointers for preachers would you like to share? Comment below and let’s keep praying for our preaching friends. Lastly, I’d appreciate you reading these two related posts on this subject: 6 Practical Pointers for Preachers and 6 More Practical Pointers for Preachers. These will help you to understand better my heart for this topic.