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Maybe it’s because I’m naturally a pessimist, but the most natural way for me to figure out how I can grow as a preacher is to identify what mistakes I most commonly make and try to work on improving those, by God’s grace. For the purpose of self-evaluation and "fanning into flame" the preaching gift that I have, I decided to list out the mistakes I most often make in sermon preparation and delivery.

I imagine that I’m probably not the only preacher who makes some of these mistakes with regularity, so I thought I’d share them here in case my list ends up helping any of you brothers who are working on preaching evaluation/improvement as well.

Top Mistakes I Make in Sermon Preparation:

1. I Don’t Pray Enough.

This one is simple. There are more weeks than I care to admit when there is very little by way of earnest, extended times of prayer for the ministry of the preached word. This reflects self-reliance and a disturbing amount of trust placed in my gifts rather than the one who actually has the power to do spiritual work in the hearts of the hearers. This one is first because it’s clearly the worst offense.

2. I Don’t Study Enough.

This doesn’t happen quite as much for me, but sometimes I think my sermons are lacking in power because I just simply haven’t studied broadly enough. If I’m not absolutely confident that "this" is what the text says, then I can’t preach it with absolute conviction.

3. I Study Too Much.

This happens to me fairly regularly. The issue here is not so much that I study the text too much, but that the bulk of my sermon preparation goes to studying so that there is far too little time left to actually write the sermon. When this happens, illustrations become sparse and obscure, and application can seem forced. When this happens, my sermons include very little by way of helps for the hearer.

4. I Don’t Spend Enough Time "Snacking."

Great sermons are personal. They reflect the reality that the preacher has soaked in the text, has drunk deeply of it and been changed by it.

I once heard a preacher (lovingly) talk about his "large" grandmother. She was always cooking, he said, but never ate with the family. He couldn’t figure out, as a child, how she could be so large if she never ate.

Then, one day, he watched her in her kitchen. As she cooked, she snacked. All day.

This preacher said that we, as preachers, ought to be like his grandmother. We must be constantly snacking on the food that we’re preparing for others. When I do this, I think my sermons are more personal, more practical, warmer and easier to hear. I just don’t do it enough.

5. I Don’t Consider a Broad Enough Audience.

Oftentimes when I think about the point of a text that I’ve been studying, I think of a particular demographic that this point applies to, and then I gear the sermon to them. I don’t do that consciously, but I think it happens subconsciously a fair bit. That may be appropriate in certain contexts, but when I’m writing sermons for public consumption I need to think about more of a broad audience so that people can more clearly and easily see the relevance of the text for them.

Mistakes in Sermon Preaching:

1. I Preach Too Long.

Hear me on this: People need to hear preaching, and Christians need to cultivate the spiritual discipline of listening to God’s word through preaching so that sermon-listening becomes an act of worship. I don’t think that one hour per week is too much to ask of God’s people.

I think if we sit through movies and sporting events and TV shows for hours on end, God’s people can and should be disciplined to sit and hear from God. The people at Grace Fellowship Church get this, and I love that about them. They love to sit under the word and never complain about the length of sermon.

That being said, I do want to consider that sometimes talking too long diminishes the power of what’s actually being said. I need to work on correcting this.

2. I Preach a Commentary Rather Than a Sermon.

This relates to a couple of the points above. Too often, I think that merely understanding what the text says is the same thing as having a sermon to preach. I can default to thinking that merely explaining the text is the same thing as applying. That is simply not what is most helpful to people.

3. I Give Too Much Detail/Information.

Christians love the word of God and want to study it deeply. But no one can drink from a fire hose. And too often, I take what took me three days of study to understand and try to force feed all of it to others in under an hour. People need truth that is deep, but they also need truth that has been distilled.

4. I Don’t Sit Under the Word While I’m Preaching It.

I’m embarrassed to even think about how many times I’ve preached a sermon without realizing in the moment that the one person in the room who needs to hear this particular word from God the most is the one preaching.

Some of the most effective preachers I’ve heard also happen to be the most affected preachers. And that’s not because they’re dramatic (it’s fairly easy, I think, to tell the difference). Effective preachers are affected preachers because they themselves are sitting under the word that’s being delivered and are experiencing the ministry of the Spirit of Truth even as they speak.

I need to cultivate more of a spirit of humility and neediness so that when I preach, I also listen to hear what God would say to me.

Am I Alone?

Anything else? What are some common mistakes you make when you preach or study to preach?

Julian Freeman is husband to Stacey and father to three daughters. He was born and raised in the city of Toronto where he currently serves as pastor of Grace Fellowship Church (gfcdonmills.ca). Follow him on Twitter at @julianlfreeman.

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Irene Allen

commented on Jul 19, 2013

Referencing point number one- I agree. Lack of TOTAL dependency on God who gave gifts to men, for the equipping of body when sharing his word is, detrimental. To both the hearers and those speaking for God. I think it is a blessing, you, Julian, recognize the need to evaluate how you minister your God given gift. Every good gift comes from the Father, so we know the gifts from God are perfect, so our desire is to handle every gift from God with care.. Great list.

Greg Crocker

commented on Jul 19, 2013

Good list!

Brad Brought

commented on Jul 19, 2013

GREAT reminder, thank you!!!

Lloyd Vorderstrasse

commented on Jul 19, 2013

Very good. Thanks and God bless you.

Mercia Lee

commented on Jul 19, 2013

It's good of you to share your thoughts with the 'brothers' who are working on preaching. Perhaps my reading of the article was coloured by the fact that you excluded me as a 'sister' working on preaching.

Philip Verghese "ariel"

commented on Jul 19, 2013

Hi Good to be here. Wonderful tips here. I like the no.1. Yes, many fail here, I heared of a Man ofGod who spend who spend hours together in prayer even for just half hour preaching. As you said, this one is the worst offence most of us make. Thanks for the reminder. Keep Inform. Best Regards. Phil

Philip Verghese "ariel"

commented on Jul 19, 2013

Hi Good to be here. Wonderful tips here. I like the no.1. Yes, many fail here, I heared of a Man ofGod who spend who spend hours together in prayer even for just half hour preaching. As you said, this one is the worst offence most of us make. Thanks for the reminder. Keep Inform. Best Regards. Phil

commented on Jul 19, 2013

Thanks Julian. Great list!

Muthengera Brian

commented on Jul 20, 2013

i needed this because am always struggling with it

Ron Hoffmann

commented on Jul 20, 2013

Really good article. You are a young man and I am an older man (60) who has been preaching for 35 years. Funny, I could have written this! Not as well, probably, but your points resonate with me today as in most of my ministry. Let's pray for one another to keep fighting the good fight for proclaiming the matchless grace of God in Christ!

Charles Wallis

commented on Jul 20, 2013

Very good thanks!

Michael Karpf

commented on Jul 21, 2013

Don't draw attention to yourself. Yes, you are the one up there, and everyone is watching you (and hopefully not sleeping), but your purpose is to point them to Jesus, not to yourself. I appreciate the prayer my pastor prays and it has become mine too. It is that Jesus will help me to move off center stage and that He takes center stage. It's not about me, it's about Him.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jul 22, 2013

@ mercia lee says..."Perhaps my reading of the article was coloured by the fact that you excluded me as a 'sister' working on preaching." 1 Timothy 2:11-14 "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." 1 Timothy 3:1-2a "This is a true saying, If a MAN desire the office of a bishop, HE desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the HUSBAND of one wife,"

Kevin Kleinhenz

commented on Jul 22, 2013

Julian, this is great. I suppose you are a bit younger than I but I struggle to put the quality of time in prayer that I know I should. I feel the majority of "honest" pastors would admit the same. E.M. Bounds wrote, "a prepared heart is better than a prepared sermon". I think we should do both, but in the end it is the "Spirit that makes alive." John 6 Blessings to you and the ministtry God has called you to!

Mercia Lee

commented on Jul 22, 2013

Dennis - the Bible was written in patriarchal times so the fact that these women are mentioned probably means there were many more women leaders placed by God for needy times - Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, Ruth, Esther, Tabitha, Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia...

Sheng Yen Cheng

commented on Jul 22, 2013

To listen to the Lord as to what He wants to share with the congregation is important. Preparation too is needed.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jul 22, 2013

mercia lee says... "Dennis - the Bible was written in patriarchal times so the fact that these women are mentioned probably means there were many more women leaders placed by God for needy times - Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, Ruth, Esther, Tabitha, Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia..." None of these women lead men. So are you saying that 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Timothy 3:1-2 are not for our day? If so, how can you trust anything the Bible says? When God is done with something. like for example, the sacrificial system, He lets us know about the change. Where does God say that women are now allowed to teach and have authority over the man in the church or the home?

Minister Angela Woodard

commented on Jul 25, 2013

Great article!!!

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