Preaching Articles

It's Saturday night, which means you're slumped over your sermon notes when it finally sets in. 

No, you're not hiding any sin or walking through suffering. You're not spiritually dry or nearing burnout.

You simply can't remember the last time you had a Sunday off from preaching. As a result, you feel like you're saying the same thing the same way week after week.

Your illustrations are tired. Your jokes are dry. Your applications are about as helpful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm. 

Your preaching has gone stale.

But you know what? It happens. It happens to every faithful herald who fills a pulpit week in and week out.

Each Sunday, as I drive home from church, I experience the collision of two emotions simultaneously: 

The satisfaction that I’ve preached another sermon and the stress of having to do it all over again the next week.  

All preachers know what it feels like to wake up Monday morning and want to do anything other than prepare another sermon, especially when you feel like you're in a rut you can't climb out of. 

Pastor James MacDonald captures the tension of preaching weekly so well:

Biblical preaching demands effort, drains energy and distracts attention away from other things that matter, too, but demand less. Real preaching requires any offense to be resolved, sin to be surrendered and distraction to be diminished. It’s easy to do poorly and terrifically difficult to do well, once. The better you preach, the greater the demand that you do it great again next week, because "we are bringing our friends." No matter how good the meal, take a deep breath, because they will be just as hungry in less than seven days, and you need to know you "have it" well before then. Good preaching is a love-hate relationship: I love preaching, I hate preparing; I love seeing God work, I hate the pressure of needing to see it again; I love the Lord and His Word, I hate the battle He allows to accompany its proclamation. (Vertical Church, p.199)

Periodically, every pastor to whom God gives the privilege of preaching weekly will find themselves in a rut. 

It’s not a matter of if this will happen, but what will we do when it does? How do we crawl out of the rut? How do we breathe new life into our dry hearts? How can we refresh our preaching when it feels stale?

Here are seven suggestions in no particular order …

1. Take some time off.

Maybe you just need a week off from prepping a sermon. You need a break to refresh your heart and mind. I know it’s not always easy, but figure it out. Train up another preacher, call a friend, do whatever you need to in order to get some time off. 

2. Choose one of your preaching tools to develop. 

Exegesis, humor, illustration, application—these are tools we use to construct sermons and convey God’s Word. One way to refresh your preaching is to choose one of these tools to intentionally develop. Think about it, focus on it and seek to improve your use of that tool each week.

3. Listen to preachers outside of your style and stream.

We are blessed to live in a period of time when we have access to a wealth of amazing preaching. Pick a preacher who may be outside your style or theological stream and study what they do well. 

4. Prep with a team.

You don’t need a staff for this. Gather a few people from your church, get your Bibles out and talk about what you see going on in the text. When done well, it takes a huge load off of you. You’ll come up with outlines, illustrations and applications you would never think of alone. 

5. Read the biographies of great preachers.

Spurgeon, Wesley, Whitfield—get familiar with the preachers whose shoulders we stand on. Relate to their struggles and be humbled by the successes God gave them. Reading the stories of these men God has used in powerful ways inspires me to work harder and want more from God’s Word. 

6. Take a retreat for prayer and meditation.

One of the most refreshing things for me personally is a day alone with my Bible and room to walk. I pick a book of the Bible and read slowly, stopping often to meditate, pray and reflect. Find a spot, clear your calendar, turn off your phone and get with God.

7. Get a coach.

Having a strong preacher listen to and speak into your sermons is a surefire way to get better. They can encourage you, push you and stretch you to step out of what may be stale and into something fresh. 

If God has chosen to allow you to preach in any fashion, in any context, you are blessed. Preaching is a high calling and a huge privilege. It’s difficult and draining, but don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Rest in God’s grace and trust Him to refresh your preaching.

I was born in Corvallis, Oregon, but due to my dad being in the military, I grew up on both coasts and went to high school in the midwest. Jesus saved me at the age of six and since that time my story has been one of Jesus’ faithfulness in the midst of my unfaithfulness. College brought me to Chicago, and in early 2006 I began to sense God’s call to church planting. After a few years of prayer and planning my wife, Tami, and I planted Redemption Bible Church with a few friends crazy enough to follow us on this journey.

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Tim Secrist

commented on Mar 28, 2014

Good list and well said. I would add one thing from my thirty-five years of preaching: don't wait until the Monday before to get started on your next sermon. By starting on a new sermon each week and working on it each following week for 4-5 weeks, those sermons will have more time for development and when you come in on Monday, your sermon for the next Sunday is either done or nearly done. It takes a little discipline, but is well worth the effort. This pattern won't solve all your "rut" problems, but it takes a lot of pressure off when you know that come what may, next weeks sermon is well in hand.

David Jennys

commented on Mar 28, 2014

Join Toastmasters. I was a member for awhile, and it helped me to think outside the box to develop speeches relating to topics different from Bible (etc.) topics. Since Toastmasters is a speech club, it also helped me get rid of bad speaking habits and cultivate better public speaking habits.

Alexander Drysdale Lay Preacher Uca Australia

commented on Mar 30, 2014

The Association of Speakers Clubs in the UK were a separated organisation from Toastmasters International. I was privileged to be a District President and one of the maxims I used, to explain to new members in new clubs was that a "Speakers Club was the friendliest place to fail miserably." There is a wealth of experience in clubs like that which will help anyone to overcome 'dry-rot or speakers block' problems. Preparing a message form God's word we, with prayer and thought, do our best in Jesus name. If we fall down and make a mistake God and the congregation will understand. If we don't get up then that is failure and no disciple wants to fail Jesus if he can help it.

Merv Olsen

commented on Apr 28, 2014

Alexander - I am a retired Baptist Pastor and live near Brisbane. I joined Toastmasters almost 4 years ago to develop a network of new friends. I did not know until today that the UK Speakers Club broke away from Toastmasters International. Is there any place on the web that tells us how and why that split happened?

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