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preaching article 4 Popular—and Dangerous—Preaching Myths

4 Popular—and Dangerous—Preaching Myths

based on 5 ratings
Apr 15, 2014

What you think about your preaching while preparing your message might be just as important as the words you say when you deliver it.

Your preaching preparation might be influenced by many things: criticism, praise, the current needs or trials of your people, the depth of the text—but there’s one thing that shouldn't influence us: myths.

We’re all prone to wrong thinking at one time or another. Wrong thought patterns creep in from our insecurities, our environment or even our adversary. That’s why it is so important to continually renew our minds on the truth of the Scripture.

These four myths, if believed, can change the direction of your preaching and impact your effectiveness for the kingdom.

Don’t fall for these dangerous beliefs—stay alert, guard your mind and preach in the freedom and grace God has already given you.

1. More study time equals better sermon delivery.  

This myth seems like a logical truth: Spend more time studying commentaries, reading sermons and notes from the greats, and churn out a better, more compelling message in proportion to the time spent. There’s only one problem—it’s not true.

More prep time can be a factor, for sure, but it’s not a universal truth. In fact, the law of diminishing returns often kicks in at some point in our prep, and more study time can actually hurt your message. The best sermon prep is still wrapped up in experiencing the presence of God—not books and more study time.

Ecclesiastes 12:12: But beyond this, my son, be warned: The writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.

2. One bad sermon equals less attendance next week.

I think this is the fear of many preachers—that one monumental, incredibly poor, disastrous sermon will lead to the church’s demise. This is a false assumption based more on fear than on fact.

People are generally forgiving of a bad sermon. The likelihood of your attendance dropping by 10 to 25 percent because you preached a wonky sermon is minimal at best. A well-meaning preacher who loves Jesus and works hard to prepare his sermon, but still bombs, is just not that big of a deal.

Drops in attendance happen over time typically due to many factors, not just a bad sermon. Of course, if you preach something opposed to the gospel or sound doctrine—now, that might equal a drop—but one sermon that didn’t connect to your audience is not a felony offense. It’s better to focus on what God thinks about your sermon, anyway.

I Corinthians 3:6-7: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

3. Open feedback will hurt your preaching.

Many preachers refuse to receive feedback or criticism because they think it will hurt their preaching or because they feel like they might be scratching “itching ears.”

Open feedback can be tough, but some of the best preachers have learned to listen, receive, filter and grow from it. If you don’t have anyone who's willing to give you honest feedback on your sermons, then your preaching is likely not as good as it could be.

Don’t get me wrong; feedback and criticism are not fun, but neither is growth until you see the fruits on the other end. The secret to making feedback work is finding wise counsel (other than your spouse) for regular, constructive input.

Proverbs 15:22: Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

4. Deeper teaching equals an academic or heady theological message.

There’s a lot of buzz about “deeper teaching” in the church today. The fact is, the definitions that church members and church leaders use to explain deeper teaching are typically not the same.

Church leaders often equate deeper teaching with theological depth and academic delivery, while many church members define deeper teaching in terms of how the sermon impacts or convicts them personally.

So who’s right? On this one, it’s the audience.

The depth of your sermon is not dependent on your academic sources, but on your ability to penetrate, convict and point out truth in clear and simple terms. We could argue about the simplicity of the preaching of Jesus versus the complexities of Paul’s epistles, but the bottom line is that “deeper” teaching should move us to “deeper” obedience.

Academic sermons aren’t bad—they’re just not always deep. Deep sermons require an uncanny precision for building a clear biblical context while moving the listener to a provocative response. Paul summed up his preaching into two powerful points that change everything: Christ crucified. 

I Corinthians 2:2: For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

That's deep.

These are the top four preaching myths I’ve discovered both in my own sermon prep and in my conversations with other church leaders.

I’d love to hear your feedback—what myths would you add to the list?



Brian Orme is the General Editor of SermonCentral.com and ChurchLeaders.com. He works with creative and innovative pastors to discover the best resources, trends and practices to equip the church to lead better every day. He lives in Ohio with his wife, Jenna, and four boys. You can read more from Brian at brianorme.com.

Talk about it...

Mitchell Leonard avatar
Mitchell Leonard
0 days ago
Brian, Thank you for this article. I thought it was well written and helpful for me as a new senior pastor. I have found for myself having to deliver three fresh sermons a week the most difficult part of the job. I catch myself doubting the effectiveness of each one, but by the Grace of God it seems most are received with an overall good response. Thanks again for all you do.
Nom De Plume avatar
Nom De Plume
0 days ago
The misapplication of the verse quoted from Ecclesiastes, coupled with the majority of this article's content, was unfortunate to read. It seems this type of sentiment toward bible teaching is becoming quite prevalent.
Brad Brought avatar
Brad Brought
0 days ago
I must agree Mitchell. I am a new senior (the only) pastor and this being my first pastorate, having never even held an associate pastor's position, can be quite demanding and mind boggling. I seem to allow myself to doubt the effectiveness of my sermons . This coupled with the aura of just being relatively new; drives me into the trap that Brian mentioned as his first "myth". With every mistake, I feel I have made, though not agreed upon by the congregation, I feel I MUST STUDY HARDER, PRAY MORE, SPEND MORE TIME, etc. and I will write, and rewrite, change words in my sermons right up to, and until the few hours before I deliver them. This only adds to the doubt. I am thankful for God's grace and mercy, as well as a wonderful flock of sheep that He has entrusted me to shepherd.
Andrae Walker avatar
Andrae Walker
0 days ago
Great read. I am never against studying and I love to study the scriptures in great depth. But without Holy Spirit revelation and application its pointless. Not everyone needs a deep understanding of God in order to serve him. too many preachers look for that title of Dr. or professor as the main objective in the eyes of man. I don't doubt the doors that it may open but like the scriptures say it doesnt matter who plants or who waters but it is God that grants the increase alone.
Brad Brought avatar
Brad Brought
0 days ago
Thank you Brian for posting this message. As I have responded to Mitchell's post above; I must do as a very wise mentor taught me years ago: "study like it's all up to me, and when I get on the platform, KNOW that it is ALL UP TO HIM". Have a blessed Easter. Keep your eyes on the SON.
Johan Van Der Westhuysen  avatar
Johan Van Der Westhuysen
0 days ago
I am surprised to read so many articles about preaching but so few who make mention of the importance and work of the Holy Spirit. I agree that we have to do everything possible to deliver a good sermon , but the One who will make live changing impact is the Holy Spirit. I have heard a few 'bad' sermons and have delivered quite a few myself, but have also seen how God can use them for His glory. Fundamental to good preaching is prayer and waiting on the Holy Spirit.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.