10 steps to better preaching

Michael Kellahan
November 30th, 2011

How do you progress as a preacher? Here are 9 quick tips…

1. Prepare more. Obvious, isn’t it – but does your diary reflect it? It takes a certain discipline to be reading now for next year’s preaching, or committing to less in a week in order to commit more to reading the word. The longer you go on as a preacher the easier it is to ‘knock out a sermon’ faster or microwave something you prepared earlier. There will be weeks like that – but it’s not a good way to be feeding the flock.

2. Leave out the boring bits.  Yes, there are boring bits and they are the fault of the preacher not the bible. Be ruthless and drop the stuff that is dull. Suddenly you’ll find your sermons are shorter and more interesting.

3. Don’t wait till Sunday. As you work on the passage try things out as you meet with people during the week. My men’s breakfast group and some guys I meet with 1 to 1 are better than a sounding board for the sermon as work in progress – they’ll often hear ideas they have on the passage coming back at them on Sunday!

4. Ditch notes – sermons should be spoken and heard not written and read. Any preacher really can easily learn to go into the pulpit with an open bible and a very brief outline and speak for 20 minutes.

5. Speak to the people who aren’t there yet – I think I’ve stolen this one from Tim Keller. If you just preach to the choir then they’ll never have confidence to invite others or be taught how to communicate the truth to their friends family and neighbours.

6. Have an argument – put up some of the alternative belief systems to the text that people may hold – show how God’s word shows a better way and is a better belief. Arguments are always more interesting and forces people to think about where they stand.

7. Speak to the people who are there –  what needs to be said differently to reach this particular gathering of people? Are you connecting with the literacy, age, learning styles, special needs, cultural backgrounds, life questions of those that are there? The quickest test of this is asking how different the early morning seniors sermon is from the family sermon. Preaching the same passage to different congregations demands a different talk.

8. Avoid trite application – The congregation here know when I’ve prayerfully sat under the Word of God and it has rebuked and challenged me in concrete ways. Think carefully through how the particular text challenges our understanding of God, his world, ourselves, our church and its mission, our city etc.  Don’t try & say everything but show how this part of God’s word speaks to us.

9. Talk about Jesus every week – we are here to preach Christ crucified. Our sermons must therefore sound different from those of the synagogue.

10. Listen to your own podcast – the pain will be worth it. There is no faster way to hear what you actually sound like and see what needs to change.

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