It’s amazing. Those Sundays seem to come every week whether I am prepared or not. Every week I take a day and half of another one to put together a sermon for the weekend. In addition, I spend time tinkering all the way up until late Saturday night. I know that is probably an astonishing amount of time for a 35 minute talk, but I need every bit of it. Even with that amount of time dedicated to a sermon it is still lacking some weekends. Not all of us can be Andy Stanley. In my case, I’m just shooting for at least Andy from Parks and Rec.
I’ve struggled to both change and improve my preaching. This certainly isn’t written as an expert, but just to share my struggle. Here are 3 things that I have come up with that I feel like have helped me improve.
1. Content before entertainment
No one wants to be the person that sees a bunch of glows on the faces of the people you are speaking to. No, I’m not talking about the glow that Moses experienced after being in the presence of God. I’m talking about the glow of an Iphone that is visible on the face of people when you are speaking from the pulpit. I’m sure they are searching scriptures on YouVersion and not scrolling through Facebook, but either way no one wants to be boring. If you aren’t careful you can end up losing your message in jokes, illustrations, and other things that are an attempt to make the sermon palatable. My practice is to take one study session to just put the content together for the message. Later, I will come back and look at the message to see how I can make it funny, or more enjoyable to listen to. At the end of the day, heck at the end of my life, I won’t be judged by how good my jokes were, but whether or not I taught people the Word of God.
2. Fresh not new
The bible says there is nothing new under the sun. When it comes to teaching scriptures, coming up with something new can be downright dangerous. Some new thought and suddenly everyone is in robes, head shaved, and drinking a big glass of kool aid. My job isn’t to teach anything new. It’s to take old truths and established principles, and make them fresh. With the Holy Spirit’s help, the job of a communicator is to bring the ancient scriptures into today’s issues of life and help make them relevant. This is probably the thing that I struggle with the most. Making scriptures applicable and helpful on Monday and not just inspiring on Sunday is much more difficult than it sounds. This is where we need the help of the Holy Spirit giving us wisdom to teach the Word of God. Paul told Timothy, “a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15 Amp). The struggle isn’t for something new, its for something fresh. Fresh comes from the Presence of God.
3. Helpful not original
It’s actually a form of spiritual pride to withhold helpful information from people because you didn’t come up with it. I once handed a small group lesson to a guy who promptly gave it back to me because he couldn’t teach anything that God didn’t give him. The problem is that the stuff God was giving him wasn’t very good or helpful. I guess God was just having writer’s block or an off day. His group fizzled because he couldn’t be humble enough to use other people’s material. I enjoy writing and speaking. I love developing content and sharing ideas. However, my main responsibility is to equip people with the word and help them live a victorious spiritual life. I’m a preacher not an artist. There is an art to preaching, but I can’t elevate art above the preaching. Give credit where credit is due if you use material from other people. (This blog was inspired by a blog from Hillsong) Let people know where you got it so they can get plugged into great resources that will hopefully help develop them spiritually as well. It’s great when I come up with something that I think and perhaps others think is really good. I hope that I am constantly learning and developing original material. However, it’s not about me. I’m here to serve people and I want to do that with the best material possible whether it’s mine or someone else’s.