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7 quick ways to improve your preaching

Listeners will listen gripped by well organized and well-presented material.

BIBLICAL PREACHING AUTOR 108/Peter_Mead 16 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 2020 14:00 h
Photo: [link]Tai's Captures[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Sometimes a quick change can make a big difference. Let’s say you drive your car with the handbrake only partially released. Release it properly and your driving will immediately improve. 



Here are 7 quick fixes to markedly improve your preaching.



1. Stop excessive cross-referencing



There are lots of reasons we cross reference with other passages, but not many good reasons.  I tend to think that reinforcing a point as biblical when it seems unlikely, or clarifying the background of a text quoted in your text are two of the good reasons to jump out of your passage. 



But some of the bad reasons?  To fill time.  Because that’s what other preachers do.  To show off knowledge. Because older listeners expect it.  These are not good reasons. 



I remember someone saying that too much cross-referencing confuses younger Christians because they can’t follow along, and it causes older Christians to sin because it feeds their pride.  There are reasons to cross-reference, but remove the excess and your preaching will improve.



2. Stop excessively quoting scholars



Adept transitioning between the insights of various commentaries can be like good gear changes in driving.  Referencing every scholar along the way makes those gears crunch. 



Generally, it is worth asking what is added by naming the scholar?  If you use particularly specific wording and the name of the scholar is helpful, then by all means name them. 



Otherwise generally decide between preaching without any reference, and making a vague reference…”One book I was reading put it like this…” (Remember, people can always ask for your sources, even though they almost never do.)  There is no requirement that you identify three commentaries and include a Spurgeon quote in every sermon.



3. Stop meandering



Listeners will listen gripped by well organized and well-presented material. But listeners can also spot meandering and filler like a dog can sniff meat. Don’t look at your notes and assume it will come out ok when you are preaching. 



It is much better to preach it through and make sure it can come out of your mouth and not just look good on paper. Meandering transitions, conclusions and even whole points are counterproductive. And with decent preparation, they are really unnecessary.



4. Stop apologizing



I don’t know if you do this, but if you do, don’t. Apologies for lack of preparation, or for complexity of subject, or for lack of illustration, or for lack of time to do justice to the subject (you’d have had more if you didn’t apologise for not having enough!) … there are probably a dozen opportunities to apologize in every sermon. 



Generally speaking, don’t. I apologized the first time I was up front at church. The visiting missionary thanked me afterwards and told me not to apologize because everyone else was encouraged to see me up there. 



Then the first time I took a lecture for one of my profs at seminary I apologized for not covering every aspect of my subject.  He firmly told me to let people think they have the full meal deal.  Generally speaking, with some careful exceptions, don’t apologize.



5. Stop using illustrations that don’t work for most listeners



Illustrative material generally should either work for all, or be combined with parallel illustrations that together will cover the congregation.  For example, I have some teens in my house. 



If I talk about parenting teens then what about parents with smaller children, or those who couldn’t have children, or empty-nesters whose memory has faded? (Plus, what about my teens who have to sit through the illustration – maybe your own family isn’t as good a source of illustrations as you might think!) 



Then there are my hobbies, or my film choices, or my life experiences…all of which are quite specific to me.  Actually, finding illustration material that most can relate to is not easy.  But being irrelevant to a group of people for too long in a message is too damaging.



6. Stop trying to be funny



To put it bluntly, either you are funny or you are not funny.  But trying to be funny is not funny.  It is annoying.  That is not to say there can be no humour in our preaching, but let it be more natural. 



Unless you are a great joke teller, don’t invest minutes of a sermon in telling a joke.  Trying to entertain or seek approval by laughs is not fulfilling your role as a preacher.  Instead let your demeanor be saturated with genuine gospel joy and enthusiasm that comes from living in the text you are preaching and walking closely with God. 



It will be more sincere and people will appreciate it more.  If they want stand-up comedy then the internet is replete, ready and waiting.



7. Stop scratching at your passage



Ok, this is probably not a quick fix, but it is significant. A lot of preaching barely scratches the surface of the preaching text. No matter how much you add careful illustration and clear structure, you can’t overcome the lack of biblical rootedness in this kind of preaching. 



Instead of adding filler, or jumping around the canon, or whatever else you might do, dig down into the text you are preaching and make sure the message has the fingerprints of this specific passage all over it.



Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. This article first appeared on his blog Biblical Preaching.


 

 


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