Preaching. It is not the only thing that we do as pastors, but it may be the most important thing we do as pastors. Nothing you do on a weekly basis affects the entire church the way that preaching does. Additionally, the ability to teach or preach is the only distinguishing mark that separates pastors from other leaders within the church. All church leaders (deacons, for instance) are called to the same standard of holiness, but pastors must also be able to teach.
Because preaching is important, pastors must work to preach well.
Pastor, you recognize the importance of improving your preaching, but you also know that time is a rare commodity. Your weeks are filled with caring for the needs of God’s people, handling the ordinary business of the church, managing odd interruptions, counseling, and writing multiple sermons each week. Carving out extra time to improve your preaching seems nearly impossible, but nearly is not the same as completely. You must make time to grow as a preacher.
We will not all be great preachers, but we can all become better preachers with time, and since the message we proclaim is the most important message in the world, it is worth our efforts to get better. Here are a few steps I’ve taken to improve my preaching over the years. What you will find is that many of these steps do not take much time at all, just some work, planning, and thick skin.
- Preach often. If you are a young preacher, the only way to get better is by preaching. Take every opportunity to preach that is presented to you. Go to nursing homes and private schools. Preach at youth events and senior adult suppers.
- Invite Critique. This takes a thick skin, but it is necessary. I have been blessed in my past to have pastors who were willing to critique my sermons as a young preacher. Today, my sermon receives critique every Monday morning during staff meeting. The pastoral staff of our church is given freedom to critique my sermons in any way they deem necessary. My wife continues to be my most helpful critic. Her love for me, our church, and the gospel gives her a unique perspective that is always beneficial.
- Listen to Sermons. There is no substitute for experiencing a sermon live and in person. For that reason, you should make efforts to attend conferences and other events where you will be preached to rather than being the preacher. But, since you cannot always go and hear good preaching in person, make use of technology. The internet is full of good sermons and podcasts. I have recently enjoyed the Word of the Week podcast because it features a different preacher each week. Listening to good sermons helps me to think more carefully about the way I craft my sermons.
- Read Books on Preaching. Few things have helped my preaching as much as good books on preaching. Many of you do not have the time or desire to read tons of books, so get some advice and set out to read the best books on preaching. I’ve compiled a list of my top books on preaching at my website www.passionforpreaching.net.
- Prayer. Pray for your preaching. Pray as your prepare. Pray as you study. Pray before you preach and pray as you preach. You should also beg others to pray for you. Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for the spread of the message (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Spurgeon, when asked the secret of his greatness replied, “My people pray for me.” Without the power of the Holy Spirit, you may be a great speaker, but you will never be a great preacher. Pray that God would visit you with power from on high and ask others to do the same.
Maybe you have found other ways to improve your preaching. I would love to hear about them so that we can all grow together.