My preaching debut took place in February 2004. Our little Bible College on the Canadian prairies invited me to preach before the student body. In the moments before I went up to preach in front of nearly 800 fellow students, my heart was racing. As I looked down, I could see my lapel mic moving as my heart threatened to explode out of my chest.
As I expounded on Luke 10:1-8, I made it through this terrifying experience. In the following weeks, several students and even some professors took the time to encourage me. Since then, I have never stopped preaching, and by God’s grace, I have grown a lot.
No preacher ever “arrives.” If a preacher ever believes he has mastered the craft and can push cruise control and glide along, he is in a dangerous place. I am confident, however, that you desire to improve your preaching and are earnest to do so.
Here are 5 ways to strengthen your preaching.
1. Listen to “good” preaching
It has never been easier to listen to preaching. There are millions of sermon podcasts available online. Not all sermons are “good” sermons, but find a few able preachers you trust and glean all you can.
Preaching is not so much “taught” as it is “caught.” The more you listen to good preaching, the better you will understand how preaching works. It will also feed your soul and take you deeper into the riches of God’s word.
If you can, attend at least one conference yearly that includes plenty of preaching. I have attended several practical “how to” conferences, and they have their place. But the conferences that proved to be the most impactful, refreshing, informative, and encouraging were those that focused on expository preaching.
2. Read a lot
Simply put, preachers are readers. If you don’t like to read, I am not sure God has called you to preach. It’s a good idea to set some time to turn off the TV, set down your smartphone, and supplement your reading diet.
First, let me challenge you in the reading of Scripture. Find a Bible reading plan (if you don’t have one), and dive in. Every preacher should be “competent in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24) and familiar with its contents.
Additionally, try to read a good work on preaching annually. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ Preaching and Preachers is one of my favorites. Read widely in the areas of theology, biography, history, and maybe even a work of fiction. If you have never read a classic like Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress or Augustine’s Confessions, perhaps it is time to “take up and read.”
Not only will this be a fun exercise, but it will also serve to improve your vocabulary.
From start to finish, you must coat your sermon preparation in prayer. You cannot faithfully deliver God’s Word apart from His grace.
As you begin preparation, you can pray something along the lines of:
“Lord, help me to see the riches contained in your holy Word. Lord, help me to be disciplined and diligent in my study of the Word. Lord, help me handle the text of Scripture aright, and present the message clearly and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help my hearers to be attentive and receptive to the message. Lord, may this sermon accomplish your eternal purposes, and may you alone be glorified (Romans 11:36).”
I remember meeting with a veteran pastor years ago who told me he prayed more after the sermon than before. He is wise. The last thing any preacher wants is for the seed of the Word to be snatched up by the enemy (Matthew 13:19).
If you are to strengthen your preaching, then prayer is a must. Saturate your preparation, delivery, and follow-up in prayer. And don’t be afraid to ask your congregation for prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
4. Attend a preaching workshop or seminar
Years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop. There was preparatory work, peer evaluation, and helpful instruction from skilled expository preachers. This “hands-on” workshop proved to be very beneficial in my ministry.
Finding a solid preaching workshop in your area can serve as a ‘tune-up’ for your preaching. It is well worth the time and effort.
5. Preach a lot
The more you preach, the better you will get. Generally speaking, that’s how things work in life. Preaching is no different.
Take every preaching and teaching opportunity seriously, big or small. Whether it be Wednesday evening service, a men’s bible study, a small group bible study, or something else. Handle the Scriptures with care and reverence (2 Timothy 2:15).
If you can preach or teach outside your regular Sunday morning duties, jump at it. When I traveled to Africa a few years ago, I preached seven times in 5 days. This pace stretched me, but in a good way. My translator told me at the end of my trip, “each time, you got a little better.”
If you are looking for more opportunities, pray, “Lord, open up doors of opportunity for me to preach.” I am confident He will.
In conclusion, remember that preaching is a sacred task. Indeed, there is a certain audacity to preaching. To stand in the pulpit and claim to speak God’s Word is no light matter. The apostle Paul declares, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).
Wherever you are in your preaching journey, you can grow. You can better feed your people “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). Continue to trust God to Work through His Word. And pray that God will help you take your preaching to the next level.
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