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The most effective preachers are continual learners. What separates ordinary preachers from extraordinary communicators is a relentless desire to improve. But there are so many things competing for your time it’s difficult to know which resources to take advantage of. To make it easier, I want to share three things you can do right now to communicate better as a preacher:

1. Read great preaching resources.

I once met with a guy who was in his sophomore year in college. He felt a strong calling to be a pastor and wanted to know if he should change his major and pursue ministry as a career. I offered him some books to read that would help him think through his decision. He declined them, “I’m not much of a reader.”

“Well, then you won’t be much of a pastor,” I responded, without thinking much about it.

He was surprised at my assessment that he should either become a reader or do something different for a living. I feel very strongly that those of us who preach have a responsibility to stay on top of what’s going on—to read, listen and pay attention to what’s happening around us. Some of the most important reading you can do is of resources that will coach you in your preaching.

Books. There are so many great books on preaching. A lot of them focus on sermon structure, sermon content and how to properly exegete a text. These books are important, but for our purposes today I want to recommend some preaching books that focus primarily on communication. Here are two books that will help you improve your communication skills as a preacher:

Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley

Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition by Calvin Miller

Blogs. My favorite preaching blog is PreachingDonkey.com (can I say that?) because it focuses almost entirely on helping preachers communicate better. A great way to get started is to check out our top ten most viewed posts. But there are so many other great blogs that will help you preach better. Here are three I love to read:

CareyNieuwhof.com—Mostly about leadership in the church context. Insights from years in ministry leadership.

TonyMorganlive.com—Great insights about what works and what doesn’t in church ministry and communications.

ThomRainer.com—Extensive research on pastors and churches. Helpful and encouraging.

2. Watch other people preach.

This is the best time in history to learn from other preachers. You have free access to just about any preacher you want—every sermon they’ve preached. You can learn, grow, get ideas and be inspired by the best preachers in the world. Let me suggest three people to watch this week:

Andy Stanley—Engaging and insightful. He is masterful at speaking to unbelievers. This post will help you get started learning from Andy Stanley.

Matt Chandler—Deep, biblical and challenging. His preaching reaches down into your soul and pulls out amazing things. Seriously.

Craig Groeschel—Clear and practical. Strong vision and leadership comes out in his preaching.

3. Watch yourself preach. 

Andy Stanley watches himself preach. If anyone could have said, “You know what, I’m good. I don’t need to improve” it would have been him. He could have said that when he was a 30-year-old youth pastor because he was probably a really skilled communicator then. But the reason we’re still talking about him, and he’s still relevant in his mid-fifties, is because he never stopped critiquing himself. He watches every sermon he preaches.

You and I should too. You may be saying, “Oh, I can’t stand to watch myself on video! Oh, I can’t even bear it!” Yes, you can. Just do it. Take notes and improve. Watch (don’t just listen to) your sermons and see what you’re actually putting people through. If your church doesn’t video record the messages you should change that. Until then, set up your iPhone inconspicuously in front of you and hit the record button.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you started right now. What are some other resources or practices you would recommend to communicate better as a preacher?



Lane Sebring is a teaching pastor, speaker and author. He leads The Current, a worship gathering of young adults, in Northern Virginia. He created PreachingDonkey.com, a site to help preachers communicate better.  He has a B.A. in Communication from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. He lives in the Northern Virginia / DC area with his wife Rachel and their daughter, Olive. You can connect with him at twitter.com/PreachingDonkey and facebook.com/PreachingDonkey

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Jacob Conner

commented on Jan 26, 2015

I do not disagree with watching others, however, my list would differ significantly. I also know many, a majority of pastors, do not have video each week. However, even listening I believe can be very helpful. I agree with you on the principle of reading. There are many very good and sound books available to help preacher/pastors. Thanks,

Jeff Strite

commented on Jan 26, 2015

I don't like listening to my voice so I wouldn't like watching myself on video... I'd quit the ministry in disgust. My voice is far more commanding and masculine than I hear on a tape.

Doug Lapointe

commented on Jan 27, 2015

This comment is a blessing to me because I feel the same way. My congregation believes I am a good preacher but when I see myself, I am in disgust. Better to trust them. One way I have gotten around it is to listen to my sermons on a device that can speed up the delivery slightly so that it does not seem like my voice and yet I am still hearing the sermon.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Jan 26, 2015

All your suggestions are good. I don't have the wherewithal for videoing my messages, but I've seen enough still pictures of me in the pulpit to know that I stoop over too much. I know I need to work on that. I do a playback every week. It makes me aware of the strengths and weaknesses of my vocal delivery. As for reading, I think your observation to the young man was "spot-on." We have a lot of lazy preachers who make minimal preparation. I remember a ministerial student at the college where I taught. He came to my office asking me to suggest "some books it will be SAFE for me to read." He didn't want education. He wanted insulation.

Lane Sebring

commented on Feb 20, 2015

Lawrence, love that! "He didn't want education, he wanted insulation." well said.

Patrice Marker-Zahler

commented on Jan 26, 2015

Great article. Try watching yourself as you speak, you will be surprise what you see and hear. Nobody like to hear or watch themselves, because they come across and sound differently then they perceive that they come across to others. If you haven't taken a speech class lately, this is how they teach speech today, along with peer review.

Lane Sebring

commented on Feb 20, 2015

Great points, Patrice!

William Douglas Johnson, Sr

commented on Apr 12, 2015

I would just like to add a couple of ministries to the list for checking out. First is First Baptist Church Woodstock, Pastor Johnny Hunt, FBCW, online media, The second would be Port City Community Church, in Wilmington, N.C., Pastor Mike Ashcraft. These fellows are a great inspiration to me and I have been so blessed to have found them. God bless you for your insights here.

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