Preaching Articles

When I was in Bible college, I was taught the same basic sermon preparation methods that thousands of other preachers have learned. It’s a linear outline that usually begins with a major proposition, continues with several major points, each supported with explanatory illustrations, and then a conclusion that summarizes the truths presented. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but my tendency too often is to rely on what I know.

This past Sunday, my wife sat and listened to the message so I asked her how it went, and she offered plenty of encouragement along with a question about why I had chosen a particular illustration that was a little trite and impersonal rather than a life experience we had endured that illustrated the point much more personally. Ultimately, it was easier for me to stay away from the deep, personal story that would have better connected with the audience and play it safe with something more lighthearted. Hence, I missed a great opportunity.
The message was about waiting on God’s “yes” to a prayer while He grows us. I could have shared about our long battle with infertility during which we experienced two miscarriages (one ectopic) and drove four hours round-trip to Tulsa about 40 times seeing a specialist. We endured some rather rough times, but we grew spiritually, and God eventually gave us the desire of our hearts. Had I shared this story, my audience would have felt the truth I was explaining, and some might have even personally identified with the experience. Our conversation served as a powerful reminder to me of the value of getting personal with the audience.
If you want to preach more powerfully…
  • Get personal – unveil your life and let the crowd into your heart and your experiences.
  • Be specific – it’s easier to give a broad challenge but more beneficial to ask for a particular response.
  • Tell stories – people like them more than quotes, statistics, and abstract analogies any day.

It’s tough to get personal, but it's worth it as it moves people into greater intimacy with Jesus.

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Michael Dissmore

commented on May 28, 2012

I agree. It's funny, my wife does the same thing. I'll share an illustration and she'll later tell me about something in our lives that would have driven the point home much better. I'm trying to remember her as a resource during my sermon preparation time. I think that many of us avoid using the personal story because we recognize that it's not about us. We don't want to use our own stories as the basis for His story. The fact is, people love to hear how human the speaker is, and know that he or she can relate to their own struggles and failures. I find that humorous stories about my embarrassing moments are more effective than boasting about my achievements. Too much about yourself, or repeating the same story too many times, will cause your audience to drift away. Everything in balance!

Stanley Florence

commented on May 28, 2012

I know it works Jesus was a story teller,parable, apostle Paul was also.When people can feel your experience thru scriptural word from the BIBLE.Your passion with the holy spirit will aloud them to lesson to open up their hearts to what the word has to say.

Mh Constantine

commented on May 28, 2012

I would just add that sometimes it is better to tell a personal story in the third person rather than identifying it with yourself. We know a pastor whose son has denied the faith and become an avowed atheist. He shares that chapter of his life in the third person,not to protect his reputation, but to protect his son from the exposure. Same is true for sharing anything with sexual overtones that happened between you and your wife. It might be better to put that in third person narrative. Thanks for the good thoughts Brandon.

John E Miller

commented on May 29, 2012

In preaching we must be very careful to make it our priority to lift up Jesus. "He must increase, but I must decrease."

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