It’s a bit odd to share preaching tips when I am still such a work in progress. But what I have learned, I love to give away.
If you feel incompetent about sharing, preaching or teaching, then welcome to the club! It’s you, me and the Apostle Paul; who wrote, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
I have been preaching and teaching for more than 15 years now. And here is nothing more exciting than being in front of thousands of people, sharing the good news and seeing transformation happening right in front of your eyes.
Nothing like it.
However, I’ve also done sermons that have gone way too long. Used jokes that offended good people. Preached using horrific theology, bad references and little anointing. And I even spoke to a large crowd right after throwing up (as I walked up the stage).
That being said, here is some advice for all of you who are working on the craft of public speaking and hungry to reach more people with your voice:
1. Start from the back:
What do you want to see at the end? People encountering hope? Young ones coming to the Lord? Healing, signs and wonders? The answer will drive your sermon and will keep you focused. Knowing how to end is my most important thing to determine while I prepare. Because when I can see the end result in my heart, then I can start crafting the message to see that outcome.
2. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback:
The most necessary (and most annoying) component for growth. It takes humility to listen to what might feel like “criticism,” but if you endure the death of your pride you might discover truths about yourself and your preaching that can seriously help your delivery. So be proactive in getting feedback. Go to your pastor and ask his advice. Talk to your spouse or parents about how approachable you seemed. Let your friends tell you what they learned, what they liked, what they found unnecessary.
Listen, adjust and grow.
3. No need to impress people:
Rather, focus on loving them. Whenever I have looked at the crowd and thought about God’s love for them, I felt my heart shifting from, “How can I look good?” to, “How can I encourage them?” We are trained to look out for ourselves, but Jesus is all about everyone else. Let him teach you how to simplify your message, how to stick to grace and how to share from your pain and failures.
4. Put in the hours:
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become world-class at anything. There is no school, no article, no training that can do more for your preaching than good-old hard work. It takes time to develop your skills. It takes years to improve the art of story telling. It takes a lifetime to develop your life’s message. But don’t be discouraged, let hour number one start today. Go Find a small group, a kid Sunday school opening, a prison ministry that is looking for help… and preach!
5. Don’t exaggerate the story:
a.k.a. Embellish the truth – a.k.a. Take licence with reality – Lying, basically. It’s one of the biggest temptations a preacher will face. But the truth is beautiful, daring, captivating enough. And it carries more power than any add-ons you can produce. (Read more in The 15 Biggest Mistakes I’ve Made As A Pastor.)
[bctt tweet=”Say it like it is, or don’t say it at all. “]
6. Feel uncomfortable:
It’s usually while I leave my comfort zone, when I really hit the sweet spot. Sometimes, when I am being honest and feel exposed, people are grateful for my vulnerability and open their hearts more. Other times, when I feel like I’m being overly passionate, people get permission to be passionate themselves. And when I think I am being overly dramatic, people stay engaged and enjoy the experience.
Get out of your box, for the sake of everyone still in theirs.
7. Don’t judge, just preach
Keep your heart open to the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Be humble and take feedback. Stay hungry to learn and grow. But while you’re preaching, don’t worry about anything else but sharing Jesus and enjoying the moment. There will be time for review in the future. The moment is NOW to go for it! So while you teach, don’t judge yourself, don’t judge the crowd’s reaction, just keep your eyes on the prize, and know that your heavenly Father is super proud of you!
8. Extra (Basic) Strategies:
– Find your three favorite preachers and observe. Then, ask yourself, “what do I love about them?” Get their books, their podcasts and resources. Imitate.
– Practice your most natural sermon in front of the mirror. No notes, no shame, just your passion and a stop watch set to 20 minutes. Repeat.
– It’s all about Jesus. He’s the hero of the story. Greatest preacher ever. Start and end with him. Remember.
– Take a class on public speaking, communication and/or preaching. Nothing like being intentional and investing in the craft. (I teach one at the School of Revival in Raleigh NC and it’s one of my favorite things to do). Go.
Can I say it again? God is super proud of you and you have been called to the nations. Be faithful in the little, and you will be given much!
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
*Here are 2 helpful books I recommend:
1. Preaching that Connects by Mark Galli
2. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller