I am a pastor who loves to preach. I find joy in proclaiming God’s Word to people. The thrill of watching people’s eyes light up as the truth of God comes to life is addictive. There are just few things that compare.
So when I see articles and posts on preaching, I am inclined to read them. I want to get better at preaching. I want to excel at this craft. I know the gravity of preaching, so improving at it is non-negotiable. Many of the articles and posts on preaching have the same advice being offered, which is fine considering how leaky we are. But I have discovered some non-traditional, sparingly recommended preaching helps that I want to share that could be used to improve your sermons.
Here are five surprisingly effective ways to improve your preaching:
1. Spend more time with people, less time holed away preparing for messages.
For some guys, just finding time to sermon prep is the challenge. But for many, there is too much time focused on preparing the message, and not enough time with the people the message is intended for. I pastor a large church and cannot meet with everyone, but it is vital that I spend consistent time with a wide variety of people. It helps me keep a pulse on the struggles, valleys, sins, joys, pursuits, and hopes of my congregation. I have found when I spend a lot of time in a given week with people, it inevitably helps me prepare my message. I know what my people need as I spend time with them. I know how to speak to their issues, when I know their issues. You may find a little less time prepping, and a little more time with people, helps your preaching tremendously.
2. Take preaching breaks and listen to others preach.
Taking breaks from preaching can actually make you better preacher. There are two ways this can happen. First, taking time to listen to other preachers can make you better because you can learn from them. You can watch how they introduce a sermon. You can focus in on how they make application. Their passion and fire can serve to remind you of how affection-driven preaching can be effective in impacting lives. Second, taking a break just fuels a desire to preach more. When you take breaks it stirs a fire to preach again. That fire can make you a better preacher when it comes time to step into the pulpit.
3. Read some non-Christian, non-theological books.
I love reading. I really love theology books and Christian biographies. But I have found that reading non-Christian books and bios can truly help me see the world outside the church better. I have often found powerful illustrations and piercing insights into human sin and suffering by reading such books. Take time to pick up a book that is outside your normal scope of theological or Christian reading.
4. Let other people help you prepare your sermons.
One of the most helpful things to my preaching the last few years is the incorporating of a teaching team. I have several people who help me prepare the structure and direction of messages. I write the sermons on my own, but I do not structure and prepare them on my own. Bring some people into your circle and ask them to help you work through passages you are preaching. Ask them to help you with insights and applications. This can make your preaching exponentially better.
5. Shorten the length of your sermons.
I am a pastor who wants more time to my preaching allotment each week. However, I have found if I force myself to shorten my message, it sharpens what I actually preach. When I give myself a smaller time allotment, it forces me to be precise on what things I need to say. It removes the fluff and forces me to get to the heart of the matter. If you aim to shave five to seven minutes off your normal sermon length, it will be a challenge, but you may find your sermon is actually better as a result.
There are a million different preaching helps circulated on the internet. These non-traditional, sparingly recommended tips may be the difference in raising the lid of your preaching a few notches. Take one or two of these and seek to apply them immediately. But whatever you do, keep seeking to grow as a preacher of God’s Word.
Erik is the pastor of The Journey Church outside of Nashville, TN. Erik has written three novels, multiple Bible studies for Threads, The Gospel Project, & Bible Studies for Life, and served on the Advisory Team for the best-selling Bible study: Explore the Bible. He and his wife, Katrina, have three kids: Kaleb, Kaleigh, and Kyra.