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?
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