Lessons Learned as a Preacher

I preached my first sermon when I was 13 or 14. I wrote out every word, and read for a total of 8 minutes (Overcomers probably wishes I still kept it to 8 minutes). I had no instruction but a ton of good intentions.

In 1998, I went to Bible college. This was a totally new world. I learned how to interpret the Bible in context and a ton of other things to which I had never been exposed. The big thing was the “art of preaching”. We heard preachers almost daily, and many of us aspired to be like some of them. We mimicked vocabulary, vocal inflection, and various mannerisms. However, we were quickly taught that our messages needed substance rather than performance. Hence, we were exposed to what is called expository preaching (or as one preacher on the radio called suppository preaching…God bless his zeal).

Expository preaching is a systematic way to preach through passages of Scripture in context. Many preachers preach through an entire book of the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse. It is a good way to be true to the real meaning of a verse rather than go off on a tangent. Plus, it is easy to plan your preaching calendar. Most everyone knows what is coming next, and it can become strictly academic if the preacher does not illustrate and apply. If the preacher follows the formula given him in Bible college or seminary, it can easily get very predictable.

After hearing multiple expository sermons, I began to notice that people did not always know what the takeaway was from the message because they were loaded with tons of information in one message. Although we were highly discouraged from preaching topical or textual sermons, I discovered that people walked away with a better understanding of certain things when I preached on a topic like the Holy Spirit or preached strictly from one verse. Because of this, I aimed for a balanced preaching ministry which included various styles of preaching. This does by no means imply that I am some superb preacher. It simply means that I have learned a few things about preaching (and am still learning) from the perspective of one who has been on both the listening and preaching side.

  1. Be yourself. Don’t try to be the next Billy Graham, T. D. Jakes, Steven Furtick, or Joseph Prince. Be the person God created you to be.
  2. Utilize humor. People tend to be extremely tense in worship services. Somebody has to loosen them up. We are permitted to enjoy the Christian life, so set the tone and example.
  3. Use real-life illustrations. If you are teaching or preaching to various generations in one room, you want to be able to connect. Use current events or personal stories in addition to things from the past to support your point.
  4. Make complex doctrine simple. If all you do is use big words like eschatology, justification, sanctification, and hermeneutics, most who listen to you will be clueless. Explain it in such a way that even someone with minimal understanding of the Bible can grasp.
  5. Call people to action. You are not simply a dispenser of information. God has called you to inspire people to take the Bible and obey it. Give them a call to act upon what you preached.

I know there is probably so much more I could say. Don’t be getting up on a stage putting your knowledge on parade. Preaching is not about the preacher. Preaching is done to magnify Jesus Christ and communicate His truth to people. Don’t get so lost on the ego trip that you forget who called and equipped you to be His spokesman.

Photo from justinbuzzard.net

6 thoughts on “Lessons Learned as a Preacher

  1. Ah,sweet Matthew! I love the idea of an 8 yr old you, preaching.

    I’ve watched a lot of pastors and what makes them so amazing is when they can hit all five of your bullet points. I actually have a check list in my mind that looks quite similar. Humor? Check. Authentic? Check. Real Life? Check. Keeps it simple? Check.

    So yes, you’ve really nailed it well. Something I might add, don’t be afraid of “the simple.” Those of us who are really complicated and kind of smart, we tend to be the very ones who value “the simple” most of all. I sometimes tell the tale of my favorite pastor speaking of, “what good is salt that has lost it’s flavor?” About as useful as a stinky kitchen sponge full of stagnant water because it’s never been wrung out properly. Bahaha! It was Pastor-love at first sight over stinky kitchen sponges. 🙂

  2. Now this is wisdom–wisdom being the application of knowledge! However….I have heard some “expository” preaching sound more like “suppository” preaching. If I ever have to use one of those “big theological words”, I say “Now there’s a big word like mahogany and its…” and then I go on to explain in it simple words with images that relates to our culture….thanks for sharing!

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