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Preaching Articles

I sometimes listen to preachers with amazement, if not awe. So many of them are incredibly effective in communicating God’s Word, so much more effective than I ever was or will be. I certainly understand that assessing effectiveness is a very subjective assignment. But, simply put, a number of preachers I have observed are incredible in explaining and applying the Word. As a consequence, God changes lives and saves people.

The best I can do is be a student of these preachers and share with you seven key habits I have observed in most of them. I regularly ask these preachers about the way they go about preparing, preaching and evaluating their messages. My list is fallible, but I do hope it’s helpful.

1. They give preaching a priority in their ministries. A pastor has a 24/7, always-on-call schedule. It’s easy to let sermon preparation slide with the demands of the moment. The outstanding preachers I know give preaching a very high priority. They make certain they put the hours in to communicate effectively and powerfully.

2. They make their sermons a vital part of their prayer lives. Here is a quote from one of those preachers I believe to be one of the most effective alive today: “I cannot imagine sermon preparation and delivery in my power alone. I regularly plead with God to anoint my preaching and to guide me in my sermon preparation.”

3. They have a routine in sermon preparation. To the best of their abilities, these effective preachers set aside many hours a week on their calendars for sermon preparation. And while emergencies will happen, they do their best to stay committed to that time. Most of them have specific days and times of day when they work on their sermons.

4. They constantly seek input about their messages. I know one pastor whose wife listens to each of his sermons ahead of his preaching. She offers valuable input to her husband. Many of these pastors have mentors and church members who help them evaluate their messages. And a number of them watch and listen to their recorded sermons within a week after preaching them.

5. They stay committed to a specific sermon length. The pastors with whom I spoke have sermons that range in length from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. But they all are consistent each week on their specific length. In other words, a pastor who preaches a message 30 minutes in length will do so consistently each week. They have learned that their congregations adapt to their preaching length, and that inconsistency can be frustrating to the members.

6. They put the majority of their efforts into one message a week. Some of the pastors were expected to preach different sermons each week, such as a Sunday morning message and a Sunday evening message. But, to the person, they all told me they can only prepare and preach one sermon effectively each week. The Sunday evening message, for example, is either an old message or a poorly prepared message.

7. They are constantly looking for ways to improve their communication skills. So they do more than just seek feedback, as noted in number four above. They read books on communications. They listen to other effective communicators. And they are regularly in touch with the context of their church and its community, so that their messages are not only biblical, but relevant as well.

I would love to hear your perspectives on effective preaching.

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Tim Riordan

commented on Jun 10, 2014

Thanks Thom for your insight. Do effective pastors typically plan their preaching on an annual calendar? I began doing this many years ago on a sermon planning/prayer retreat, and I could never go back to a week to week or month to month method.

Christopher Thomas

commented on Jun 10, 2014

Tim, I use to be a week to week preacher but now I plan out series ahead of time. I find it easier and helps to concentrate my studies. As a bi-vocational preacher, it also helps with my time management. Now that I have reverted to that, I can't see myself returning back either.

Doug Knox

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Tim, this might be a personal practice. I read an interview with a widely recognized pastor awhile ago, and he said his practice was to gauge his congregation's needs week by week. However, I lean the same way you do. I usually plan by chapter, narrative section, or by book. I believe it gives the Spirit more latitude, and it certainly makes planning easier. Bless you, Brother.

Richard Scotland

commented on Jun 10, 2014

Thanks, and I am glad that your list may be fallible, (rather than one of these "you must do this" lists) but it?s helpful. I am interested especially in the one message a week (#6) - as I think of all the effective preachers I have heard, all bar one would usually have someone else preach at say the evening service. I assumed this was so that they may be fed as well, but perhaps #6 comes into it as well.

Doug Knox

commented on Jun 16, 2015

I agree, Richard. This was a very insightful point.

Wendy Pawsey

commented on Jun 10, 2014

Do you have a method for choosing preaching subjects? We (myself and my husband are both pastors) have preached through fruits of the Spirit and the Book of Acts in relation to congregation need...as we saw it! However I wouldny know where to start planning for a whole year...how do you decide?

Gary Gustman

commented on Jun 10, 2014

First Wendy, there is no such thing as a woman pastor. 1 Tim 2:11-13 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. NKJV Second Wendy, there is no such thing a "fruits" of the Spirit. It is "fruit" singular. All of the attributes together make up the "fruit". It is not a buffet from which you can choose.

David Miller

commented on Jun 11, 2014

Dear Gary, First I would respectfully suggest that thorough exegesis is a key to good preaching and that appears to be lacking in your first point. Second, there is something oddly jarring about apparently hectoring a fellow believer about the need for all the Fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in what reads as an apparently unloving, impatient, unkind, and peevish tone...

Pastor Warren Olson

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Amen Brother! Wow! I used to think this man to be Godly!

Bill Collins

commented on Jun 11, 2014

Wow Gary, what an unkind, unloving comment. Bless you anyway brother. Much love and prayer coming your way.

Gary Gustman

commented on Jun 11, 2014

Bill, loving parents do not allow their children to play in the road. Sometimes people need to be corrected. People who should know better and teach error need a firm warning. Read about the qualifications for "Pastors". "The husband of one wife."

Valencia Newsome

commented on Jun 16, 2015

I am truly praying for this Brother also. He is so caught up on who's bringing the message he is missing the spirit and love of God, He is doing exactly what he is complaining about. He who judges does the same thing. I can't hear his comments because his hatred for women preachers over powers everything else. I pray a woman preacher never has to meet any of his needs, because his pride and lack of knowledge would not let him receive. God's spirit that he place din us is neither male nor female, thank the Lord He does not get confused.

Valencia Newsome

commented on Jun 16, 2015

King James Bible Acts 2:17>>> So how do you explain this passage of scripture King James Bible. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:? .

Pastor Warren Olson

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Good job Valencia!

Chris C

commented on Jun 10, 2014

Hi, have you considered using the Revised Common Lectionary or the Narrative Lectionary? The great things about using a lectionary is they follow the historic church year pattern and you know that there are countless people around the world reading those same passages that week- all meditating on the same scriptures.

Mitchell Leonard

commented on Jun 10, 2014

Thom, Thank you for another great article. As a new full time pastor I've found preaching three sermons a week the toughest part of the job. My wife disagrees but I feel like my messages are "weak" on wednesday and sunday evenigs. I hope and pray as time goes on it gets easier to bring these messages. Thanks again and God bless.

Anonymous

commented on Jun 11, 2014

Gary Gustman ! you don't have the fruit of the Spirit in your life! this is why you are not an effective pastor.

Florento Dapiaoen

commented on Jun 17, 2015

Gary Gustman's a little harsh in his reply,no love in his words, condemnation in his voice...but he's biblically correct and that's undeniable. iiin fact you're a christian you must admit that he is scripturally true and correct.

Gilbert Silumbu

commented on Jun 11, 2014

Gary it means a women to preach in the church is sin ?

Suresh Manoharan

commented on Jun 12, 2014

A wonderful article...offering practical insights...all woven around the theme "Room for improvement is the biggest room in the World". As regards more than one sermon per week, if we completely depend on the Lord and are willing to work hard, the Lord would surely give us the "power" to do the same. Didn't John Wesley regularly preach quite a few sermons per week?

Doug Lapointe

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Great article. Seven for seven I think. Here may be an 8th: Good preachers don't just assume their audience will listen simply because the preacher is talking. They seek to communicate in a way that compels them to listen. This may be the greatest challenge of all and the most time consuming in preparation. It is also one of the most neglected principles of communication.

Michael Karpf

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Great pointers! I am going back to seminary for my D.Min in Advanced Expository Preaching. I'm 65 years old, but I will get a year older every year, so why not make the most of it

Dr Dave Richardson

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Gary - As I understand it, the Bible was written to teach universal principles using culturally specific examples. Any pastor or church who takes the culturally specific example and makes it universal completely misses the point of scripture. The "women be silent" reference is a great example of that.

Lorenzo Forde

commented on Jun 16, 2015

The points mentiond by Tom are very useful.

Doug Knox

commented on Jun 16, 2015

Excellent article, Thom. You have offered new insights from my perspective. Thank you for asking for our perspectives. My sermon preparation always involves these four points: One, prayer first, before preparation. No exceptions to this rule. Two, study and outline the text without commentaries. My personal practice is to perform this with pen and paper. Any insights, interjections, or questions are written down so I can work with them later. This step is not done until I am unable to draw any more insights from the text. Three, check the commentaries, both for accuracy and for insight on unanswered questions. Putting this step here allows the Spirit to give me insight into the text first. The commentaries remain my servant rather than becoming my master. Four, type the sermon in its entirety. This is not for the purpose of reading it, but for thoroughness. If I cannot articulate my material in print, then I will not be able to articulate it in the pulput.

Soyinka Olusegun Oladele

commented on Jun 17, 2015

I have always been greatly blessed by inputs on this platform. May I boldly say that my preaching has been boldly enhanced. More grace. Segun (RCCG, Nigeria).

Clyde Leon Baker

commented on Jun 17, 2015

Clyde Leon Baker, London The points are well researched and are on target. Ada Additionally in my sermon preparation I do not give much attention to commentaries . Sometimes I do not even use them. I use the text as my sermon rather than my sermon being the text. By this I mean I seek to get behind what the text is saying, why it is saying it, how and when. And then I take all these and with the help of God and the guidance of the holy Spirit I make them relevant and applicable. Yes I do spend a long time in sermon preparation. I begin the Monday following the Sunday of my last delivery. I live through the week preparing my sermon. Among others , this allows fresh insights and inspirations as I go along.

Lolita Cabilis

commented on Jun 17, 2015

Thank you for sharing this fantastic article. Some points are like poking me :) God bless you and your ministry.

William Taylor

commented on Jun 17, 2015

Thanks for another great article. Thanks Thom. Mitchell, we are in the same town! Let's get together and visit. I am bi-vocational but I'm sure we could compare and learn.

Pastor Paul A. Taylor, Sr.

commented on Jun 18, 2015

A good article. I'm blessed to be around wonderful preachers. I've learned so much about sermon delivery and I'm hungry for more. Being bi-vocational forces one to be creative with study time. God most certainly makes a way. I only preach once a Sunday unless we are guest at another church. It's refreshing to hear that many who preach twice a Sunday concentrate on one sermon. And there is no question preparation is key. I was not saved when I played high school football. However one thing I learned from my coach was hard work and preparation. His game plans for us was awesome. When I answered the call to preach God reminded me how prepared the team was on Friday night. God's word to me was to prepare the same way for sermons, but to depend on Him. Even though I learned from football, I learned that preparing to preach God's word is in a class by itself. Again thanks for the feedback. What a blessing it is to preach God's word. What a mighty God we serve!

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