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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 10–25% 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 vs. 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.

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.

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John Downey

commented on Nov 30, 2011

Good article over all and I agree with most of your points, but I would like to bring to your attention in in point number four you suggest that it is your (the pastors) job to convict in a sermon when that is not the case. It is purely the job of the Holy Spirit to convict. A person can be convicted of a issue in their life when the sermon has nothing to do with the topic being preached. If you as the preacher are trying to convict then you are trying too hard to do a job that is not yours in the first place which will lead only lead you (the preacher) to frustration.

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Nov 30, 2011

While you are correct, John, that the Holy Spirit's ministry is to convict, according to Scripture, I am surprised that your comments on Brian's article are more critical than appreciative. True, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, according to Scripture, to convict of sin, it is an absolute that the minister call for changed lives at the close of every sermon. He must turn the audience into a jury, and call for a verdict from them based on the Biblical evidence they have just heard in the sermon. The verdict must be "changed lives" for all in the jury box.

Chaplain Shawn Kennedy

commented on Nov 30, 2011

Well done article. Preaching is such a passionate subject. I remember a few years back a survey that was done that asked preachers and congregation members what they were looking for in a sermon- preachers said "challenge" and members said "comfort".

K. Edward Skidmore

commented on Nov 30, 2011

I enjoyed the article, Brian, and agree with all four points. Perhaps another myth may be that being folksy, chummy, or funny is the main ingredient in a great sermon. Others seem to think that walking around a lot is the key to greatness. I say, "Myth!"

Richard Hopper

commented on Nov 30, 2011

Loved the article! The one thing most preachers are too sensitive to is that of feedback. Too often we see this as an attack on us personally when it isn't, for the most part. I have been preaching for 30 years and have found that when someone gives me feedback they're addressing issues that spoke to them directly or that frustrated them directly. I learned long ago that we can't please all the people all the time. Besides I don't preach to please people, I preach to please God and to be His instrument to deliver His truth. If we love God and preach Christ crucified, buried, risen and coming again then we have done our job and leave the rest to Him.

James Sellers

commented on Nov 30, 2011

Good article. I enjoyed the truth presented. My prayer has always been that I present the word of God with such simplicity that the babe in Christ will understand and yet the mature believer will be challenged. That's not an easy task, but with God all things are possible.

Folasade Sofowora

commented on Nov 30, 2011

In as much as i agree with your 4 pts i still would advise that pastor should choose carefully those that you would be looking for feedback or criticism from, because some will not because of your preaching or the sermon criticise you but because of what they have against you. overall you as a pastor must be prepared and be focused.

Rhett Topliss

commented on Nov 30, 2011

after 15 years of preaching I have learned the following: Never assume that because you have a lot to say that you have something to say. When preparing a sermon start out to disprove your own bias first. Read scripture don't paraphrase it. 30mins of shouting at people is not preaching - preach like you were appealing to your best friend at the back of the auditorium. My number one. 90 of your message will be forgotten by tuesday! only the Spirit inspired prophetically uttered words will remain in their spirits - all the rest of your words were just a vehicle to impart this, the vehicle is less important than what it carries. Incidently I made all the above mistakes for many years!

Sterling Franklin

commented on Nov 30, 2011

Sermons have to be 3 points and a poem, right?

Edmund Chan

commented on Dec 1, 2011

I love Myth-Busters! Sincere thanks for the thought-provoking article and for the discussions. In preaching for 25 years, a common myth I have seek to bust is that "sermon preparation is an individual assignment." Sure, it is a personal and spiritual exercise - but "personal" is not necessarily "individualistic". Each week, my fellow-pastors present their sermon outlines to the preaching staff (we take Tuesdays as our day-offs) and loving offer to each other our insights to the text, its exegesis and applications. Good news is, we have our sermon outlines by Mondays (free ourselves from the Saturday Nite Fever of struggling on what to preach Sunday morning) and a whole week to develop the sermon after the loving community input!

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