This should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t. When you preach, please know what you are talking about! There are few things that undermine integrity as quickly as a preacher making mistakes in what they say.
We all make mistakes, and there is grace, of course. I’ve made mistakes. You have too. But the difficulty here is that ignorance is never obvious in the mirror. It is really hard to know what we don’t know.
I would love to give some examples, but I’ll keep this slightly general. Here are some categories:
1. Do you know the book from which your preaching text is drawn? Now and then a preacher will come out with something about a Bible book that leaves those who know their Bibles thoroughly confused. Actually, they will see through the preacher, but the ignorant will swallow the error.
2. Do you know the context of the cross-referencing you are doing? It is easy to spin off a text and dip into another part of the canon (either quoting or referring to content). But do you know that area of the Bible? If you only studied for your preaching text then you might easily make errors in regard to that other part of the Bible.
3. Do you know your theology as well as you think you do? Sometimes preachers will make theological points that have no foundation in the preaching text (or any other text, for that matter). This might be done when trying to show orthodoxy in some way – for example, wanting to affirm the full deity and humanity of Christ, but forcing that into an explanation of something to do with Christ’s ministry where it doesn’t fit.
4. Do you know the facts of the illustrative material you are using? I heard a preacher apparently trying to quote a key figure in church history, yet his introductory comments about him betrayed a significant ignorance of that church history. The same could be true when presenting a scientific or cultural example – getting the facts wrong, or even looking shaky, will undermine integrity.
5. Last but certainly not least, have you actually looked carefully at the text you are preaching? There is nothing worse than a preacher going off on a point about something, apparently trying to link it to the text, but ignoring the adjacent phrase that undermines the entire point.
Know the text, know the context, know the book, the Bible, and any realm from which illustrative materials are drawn. Hard work? Of course.