- Pray, Pray, Pray
- Read Before You Write Your Sermon
- Application For Transformation
- Preach to Yourself First
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Set Up the Drive Home
These 6 strategies will lead you to better preaching. Proclaiming the good news of the Gospel each week is one of the most important things you do as a pastor, but being a better preacher and preparing a powerful, life-changing sermon 40-50 times a year can be really challenging. We’ve compiled a list of six practices that we think will go a long way to making your sermon prep more productive and leading you to better preaching. Before you ever open your mouth – and before you ever put pen to paper – try these six strategies:
Pray, Pray, Pray
Wait! Don’t skip this one. When it comes to being a better preacher, this is the most important step. We all know the value of prayer. We all know the importance of prayer. But knowing facts and living them out are two very different realities. Take for instance, the gospel. We all know there is a big difference between knowing the gospel in our heads verses knowing the gospel in our hearts. That divide can mean the difference between an eternity experiencing the love of God verses an eternity experiencing the wrath of God.
In a similar fashion we know the importance of prayer, but are we taking the time to engage God and ask him for his guidance, his blessing, his insight, his strength? As much preparation as you put into preaching better sermons, they will fall flat without the power of the Holy Spirit moving in people’s hearts. Jesus gave us plenty of examples of the importance of prayer in his earthly life. Take for instance the time he took prior to his arrest and crucifixion to talk with God in John 17. It is clear that prayer should take a central role in our lives. If that is the case, then I think it is clear that prayer should also take a central role in our sermon preparation. So please, do not skip this step. Take the time daily to seek God in this area.
Read Before You Write
It’s tempting to have an epiphany when driving down the road, watching a tv show, mowing the grass, etc. and then try to reverse engineer a sermon around that. You may pull out your moleskin and scribble your three points out, then spend the next several days searching your Bible for verses to bolster them.
Assuming you’re listening to God’s Spirit, and you’re already fairly familiar with scripture, epiphanies aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but we recommend that you read and re-read your key passage(s) – and dig into commentaries and other study resources – before you ever write a word of your sermon. Let your words be informed by diligent prayer and research. Even if you end up back at the three points from your original flash of inspiration, your sermon will be richer for having done the hard work of listening deeply.
Application for Transformation
I love a good Bible study. The opportunity to dig into the text with other believers and really mine the depths of the Word in order to pull out all of riches and treasures that are there. This includes looking at the original language, sentence structure and more. Bible studies can truly be rich, transformational times. I think we can all agree, however, that the sermon is different. And to become a better preacher, this is a key understanding to possess.
Preaching the good news of Christ is different than teaching a class. When we are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, we are looking to see heart transformation leading to life transformation. We must seek to have applications that would naturally flow from the meaning of the text. So go back through the passage, and go back through the sermon to see if you have specific applications that your congregation can put into practice today.
Preach To Yourself First
We all have a tendency to be better at finding specks in others’ eyes than we are at noticing the 2x4s in our own. It’s easy to read the warnings and admonitions in scripture and think about how they apply to all those other people, but harder to look inside ourselves and see where we fall short.
Before I get up to share a biblical text with an audience, I try to always think about my sermon as though it were being preached just to me. I don’t want to go out and decry all the people who are being pharisaical without first examining ways in which I’m a pharisee. This isn’t only important for our own spiritual growth and maturity, but it will help you communicate your message to your congregation in a way that’s truly relatable.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Have you ever heard a joke fall flat because the delivery was off? We all have, and it’s painful to watch because we know it would have been funny had it been delivered correctly. The same truth can be applied to our sermons. We all know pastors that we love to listen to. Why is that? Is it because they have a solid, theological understanding of the Bible. I hope so. But why else? I know several people who have a great insight into the Scriptures, but aren’t able to communicate it clearly. And that’s ok. But the preachers I love to listen to can communicate biblical truths in a clear, passionate, and applicable fashion.
Don’t take this for granted. As though these pastors don’t work at their craft of preaching. Everyone had to start somewhere, and it’s important to desire growth in this area. And the only way to grow is to practice. Film yourself in the pulpit as you preach to an empty sanctuary. Vary your timing, your pitch, your movements. Your desire should be to communicate the Word with clarity and conviction. And as you practice you will become a better preacher and your congregation will thank you for it.
Set Up The Drive Home
Your sermon is less about what’s proclaimed in your church building, and more about what’s processed outside of your walls, inside the hearts of your listeners. In other words, choose words that get your folks thinking and, more importantly, talking. Present your material in such a way that friends and family will want to keep talking about the message when they get in the car to drive home.
What do you do before you preach?