7 Quick Ways to Improve Your Preaching – Part 3

So far we’ve mentioned cross-referencing, quoting scholars and meandering in part 1, then apologizing and illustrations in part 2.  Now, let’s finish this list of seven quick fixes with part 3 of the list:

6. Stop trying to be funny.

To put it bluntly, either you are funny or you are not funny.  But trying to be funny is not funny.  It is annoying.  That is not to say there can be no humour in our preaching, but let it be more natural.  Unless you are a great joke teller, don’t invest minutes of a sermon in telling a joke.  Trying to entertain or seek approval by laughs is not fulfilling your role as a preacher.  Instead let your demeanor be saturated with genuine gospel joy and enthusiasm that comes from living in the text you are preaching and walking closely with God.  It will be more sincere and people will appreciate it more.  If they want stand-up comedy then the internet is replete, ready and waiting.

7. Stop scratching at your passage.

Ok, this is probably not a quick fix, but it is significant.  A lot of preaching barely scratches the surface of the preaching text.  No matter how much you add careful illustration and clear structure, you can’t overcome the lack of biblical rootedness in this kind of preaching.  Instead of adding filler, or jumping around the canon, or whatever else you might do, dig down into the text you are preaching and make sure the message has the fingerprints of this specific passage all over it.

That was quite a random list, but maybe one of two of these quick fixes fit for you?  Feel free to comment with other things you have tweaked that helped you, or what you need to do next!

Is Our Goal Transformation?

It depends on the point of contrast.  That is, if transformation is contrasted with education, then yes, it is certainly closer to our aim as preachers.  We don’t want to merely inform, we want to see transformation.

If the contrast point is conformation, then I would argue that transformation is a better goal than simply pressuring people to conform to certain behaviours.

But what if the contrast point is relationship?  I have suggested on here before that preaching is about three relationships: the first being the preacher’s relationship with God, the second being the preacher’s relationship with the listeners, and the third is the goal: the listeners’ relationship with God.  In this context I would argue that our goal should be relationship and not just transformation.

Here is the potential problem with transformation language.  If we don’t include the key concept of relationship, then we can drift towards settling for behavioural change or lifestyle change.  The reality is that being in relationship with Jesus is not just the end goal of ministry, but it is also the means by which genuine transformation occurs – or perhaps we could say the intermediate goal as well as the ultimate goal.

True transformation in gospel ministry is a matter of relationship.  But in our fallen world, we naturally believe that an individual can be transformed simply by a change in how they think or what they choose.  It is this fallenness that makes me suggest we be careful with the language of transformation.  Too many in our churches settle for life tweaks without the heart-changing transformation that comes in the context of genuine relationship with the Father through Christ and by the Spirit.

Oh, What a Calling!

We live in an age of increasing biblical illiteracy.  While we may not lose sleep over the growing lack of awareness of structural details of the tabernacle or believers’ ability to recount the kings of Judah in order, some things should concern us.  I just read an article referring to the ever-shrinking affirmation of Jesus’ exclusivity among self-professed evangelicals.  I just experienced it first-hand at a large gathering of believers.

If Jesus wasn’t right to teach that he is the only way to God, and if the Bible isn’t really right to state that there is no other way to gain salvation, then where do we stand on everything else?  I can understand how people, bombarded and brain-washed by the tolerance teaching of our age, can feel uncomfortable with claims of exclusivity.  What I do not understand is how they piece everything together in their own minds, and how they can have any confidence in God when His Word is perceived to be flawed.

What about the deity of Christ?  His resurrection?  The nature of God?  We really are living in an age when christians are often very committed to a composite theology of their own construction, but one significantly shaped by the tone and teaching of the world.  Perhaps this has always been the case, but nevertheless, we need to be concerned to clarify the truths of Scripture.

At the same time let’s not allow ourselves to think that truth clarified means job done.  Remember the relational core of Christianity.  God in relationship with His people.  Knowing the facts about my spouse is not enough for a healthy relationship.  There is a dimension that goes much beyond the brain and cognition when it comes to marriage.  The same is true when it comes to the relationship that human marriage illustrates.

What a task is ours as we preach!  Not only must we present the truth of God’s Word to counter the constant confusion engendered by a corrupted world system, but we must also consider the dynamics of relationship between the Lord and His bride – a bride that so often is lulled into diminished relationship by truth-assent alone, or experience alone, or effort alone.

Preach the Word of God in all its truth, in all its winsomeness, in all its power, in all its subtlety, in all its relevance.  Preach the Word of God, not as man-centered teaching, but God-centered self-giving.  Preach the Word of God to the mind, but don’t stop there, preach also to the heart.  Preaching, what a calling!

Buy a Stained Glass Window

There is always a danger for preachers preparing to preach.  It is easy to slip into a pragmatic mode of studying a text to find a main idea and develop a message.  All very accurate, very professional, but having lost touch of the reality of what is going on.  As we spend time in God’s Word we are listening to God, preparing to speak of God to a needy group of people.  We are preparing to proclaim God’s truth as an act of love and praise.

Michael Pasquarello III, writes in his book, Christian Preaching: A Trinitarian Theology of Proclamation, that he moved his preaching classes from a seminar room to the seminary chapel.  His goal was to change the ethos in order to change the students’ mindset and approach to the preaching process.  His goal is not just accurate preaching, but “doxological speech from the canon of Holy Scripture that creates the faith, life and witness of the church, which is the work of Christ and the Spirit.”

In the past I have found it very helpful to prepare at least some of the time, in the church where I would preach the message.  This isn’t practical for all of us.  So perhaps it’s time to buy a stained glass window for our study?  What have you found helpful to stimulate the reverence and spirituality of this highly spiritual process?