Becoming A Better Preacher
October 14, 2014
Hershael York has written an excellent little article on preaching entitled Four Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don’t.
The article poses a good question: Can preaching be taught? In other words, is it possible for someone not brimming with natural gifts of communication learn how to be a good preacher?
Dr. York is a pastor and professor of preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his years of teaching preachers York has noticed certain things that improving preachers have in common: 1) Calling, 2) Teachability, 3) Passion, and 4) Reckless Abandon. I think Dr. York’s fourth point is especially relevant. He writes:
The generation of students I now teach have grown up with the written word—on screens, smart phones, blogs, Kindles, and now iPads. Through video games they have raced cars, built civilizations, won wars, destroyed zombies, and killed hundreds. They communicate orally far less than any previous generation, and when they do so, they typically do it with less passion. Yet God still uses the preaching of his Word—an oral event—to edify the church, encourage the saints, and engage the lost.
So to preach the Word, a young man has to be willing to get completely out of the comfortable cocoon he’s built in his personality and habits, and recklessly abandon himself to risk being a fool for Christ.
I tell my students, “That little voice inside your head saying ‘That’s just not who I am’ is not your friend. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit overcomes ‘who I am’ and shapes me into who he wants me to be. So if I need to preach with a reckless abandon that is foreign to my natural way, I will beg the Holy Spirit to help me do it for Christ.”
When I think back to my early days as a preacher I can’t help but cringe. Some of my sermons were a disaster exegetically and others were disastrous in delivery. Pity those who had to sit through those sermons of mine which were both poorly composed and poorly delivered!
By God’s grace my preaching has improved over the years. And I believe there are specific things that God has used to make me better. Here are a few off the top of my head:
Preachers ought to go to seminary. My seminary education made me a far better preacher than I otherwise would have been. Good preaching requires good exegesis. Hermeneutical skills are learned by careful study. The good news is that there are infinitely more opportunities today to earn a seminary education than ever before in history. If you are called to preach then go to seminary.
2. Listening to great preaching
I love listening to great preachers not least of all because of my need to be built up by the Word. But listening to great preachers has the added benefit of helping me improve as a preacher.
3. Reading…a lot
I did not develop a discipline for regular reading until I was a university student. It has proven to be immensely helpful in my preaching by giving me a greater facility for language. Reading widely (theology, fiction, history, biography, etc) has also given me a far richer store of illustrations and references than I otherwise would possess. When it comes to weekly preparation I scour my library for books that will offer me any insight, illustrations or ideas for application for a particular sermon.
This one is not gratuitous I promise. It is vital for me to pray for my mind and heart as I prepare throughout the week. I also find myself praying quite desperately every Sunday morning as the weightiness of the responsibility revisits me. My prayers on Sunday morning are usually something like, “O Lord, these are Your beloved people. Please give them what they need. Please help them hear a better sermon than I am about to preach.”
Carl – What have been the most helpful things for you in growing as a preacher?