Preaching is hard. Preaching good sermons, that are biblically rooted and connect with your audience, is even harder. Acts 29 exists to help churches plant churches that plant churches. In order to plant churches, you need church planters. And church planters that will plant healthy churches that go on to plant more churches will need to be able to preach good sermons. Therefore, as a network, we want to help equip pastors and church planters to be the best preachers they can be.
On September 1, 2016, Acts 29 Georgia will be hosting a one-day event called “Preach Better Sermons”. The purpose of this event is to help equip preachers to excel in their preaching. In what follows, I want to offer a few big-picture ideas that may help us preach better sermons. These ideas will be unpacked in more detail at the event, but this is an opportunity to begin the conversation.
1. Find your rhythm
If you preach regularly, you know that Sunday comes every week. It’s relentless, and it does not slow down and wait for you if you get behind. In order to help avoid the despair of an unprepared sermon that is due to be preached, we need to have healthy rhythms of preparation.
Some preachers prepare sermons several weeks in advance. Others prefer to focus each week on the sermon to be delivered that weekend. But all healthy preachers have a rhythm. My weekly routine looks like this – Monday is staff discussion about the text/topic to be preached on that Sunday. Half of Wednesday and all of Thursday is sermon writing. Early Friday morning is reserved for fine-tuning and review of the sermon. My final outline is due to our media team by lunchtime on Friday. On Sunday morning, I awake early to pray over and review the sermon. I also prayerfully look over the sermon in my office one last time most Sunday mornings, about an hour before I am scheduled to preach.
Wise preachers pursue a healthy rhythm of preparation.
Rhythm is important for long-term successful preaching. The pressure of delivering a sermon each week is already difficult. A lack of rhythm adds unnecessary pressure that, inevitably, affects the quality of the sermon. Wise preachers pursue a healthy rhythm of preparation.
2. Be a learner
Good preachers are good students. They pay attention to themselves and to the world around them. They are constantly on a journey of learning that informs their preaching and increases effectiveness. Below are a few areas that good preachers are constantly learning.
If you will be a good preacher, you must have a deep and growing grasp of the gospel realties that you are proclaiming
Learn your Bible – This should be obvious, but it’s worth saying. The best communicators are those who have a deep grasp of the subject(s) that they are communicating. If you will be a good preacher, you must have a deep and growing grasp of the gospel realties that you are proclaiming to your audience.
Learn humility – The best preachers are not necessarily the best orators. The best preachers are, however, growing in humility. Humility will free you to be honest in your preaching. It will free you to learn from others about the subject(s) you are preaching. It will free you to be critiqued and learn how to grow in your preaching. And, very importantly, it will help you connect with your audience in a deeper way. Nobody likes to be lectured by a know-it-all. But people are often willing to listen and learn from a fellow sinner on a journey of grace.
Learn your audience – Good preaching speaks to the heart of the hearer. A sermon must not be a dull commentary. Rather, a good sermon helps people to understand why they should believe and embrace God’s Word. A good sermon reveals heart idols, challenges sinful behavior and ideas, and offers grace and mercy for healing and real and lasting change through the gospel. But for a preacher to be able to speak to the heart issues of his audience, he must know to whom he is speaking.
[When preaching], don’t be a cheap imitation of someone else. Don’t try to imitate your latest podcast addiction.
Learn your voice – Be you. Don’t be a cheap imitation of someone else. Don’t try to imitate your latest podcast addiction. You are the only “you” that there is, and God has created and wired you to communicate in a way that is unique to you.
Learn from those who communicate well – While you don’t want to try and be someone else, you certainly should learn from others. Listen to great communicators as they communicate. Pay attention to ways that they connect with their audience. If a certain communicator connects with you when they speak, ask yourself the question, “Why?” How is it that this communicator can capture my attention and keep it for so long? Then consider how what you are learning might be applied to your own communication skills.
3. Consider your physical health
Preparing to preach is, in some ways, like preparing to run a marathon or participating in a competitive sporting event. If you know that you are running a marathon tomorrow morning, you would be wise to pay attention to what you eat tonight, what time you will go to bed, and what time you will rise.
Similarly, as you are preparing to preach, you should give serious consideration to being well rested and fully charged before you step on the stage. Your physical health will inevitably have a direct bearing on your ability to preach to the best of your ability.
These are just a few of the very practical ideas that we will consider during the “Preach Better Sermons” event on September 1, 2016. Make plans to join us and begin praying even now that God would use this event to help many of us “Preach Better Sermons.”
Ryan is the Lead Pastor of Sojourn Church in Warner Robins, GA. He also serves as the Acts 29 Area Lead for Mid-South Georgia in the US Southeast Network. Ryan has been married to Lori, his high school sweetheart, for 12 years and they have three children. You can follow Ryan here on instagram.