How Do You Grow as a Preacher?
In my research, I have spent considerable time struggling with the idea that a preacher, through their effort, can become more effective. Theologically, this idea creates two problems: it puts unrealistic pressure and expectations on preachers and more importantly, it downplays the role that God plays in the preaching event. For these reasons, I want to be careful when suggesting that you can improve your preaching. There will always be a connection between your efforts as a preacher and God’s work but, as is always the case, as pastors and preachers we cannot create the kind of powerful change that God’s grace can. To that end, we must serve faithfully to our calling.* One of the ways to faithfully serve is to dedicate ourselves to the craft, to the skill of preaching. The goal of this post is to explore how you can work to improve your skills as a preacher.
1) Read About Preaching
If you want to know more about preaching, reading is a great way to start. I promise you; you will never run out of new material to read about preaching. There are two great sources at your fingertips: books and online resources. To the first, there are a plethora of great books on preaching. You may look into more classic texts such as Homiletic: Moves and Structures by David Buttrick or Preaching by Fred Craddock. You can find more contemporary books such as Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley. No matter what you read you will find yourself challenged and ultimately grow as a preacher. To the second, the internet has given us a wide variety of sites dedicated to preaching. If you are looking for a place to start try Preaching.com or you may look at some of the posts by Carey Nieuwhof who often posts about preaching.
2) Listen to Sermons
There was a time where the only sermon you could listen to was the one you heard live. This is no longer the case. We have been given a gift in having the opportunity to listen to a good preacher from around the world. Find one that you like and take some time to study their sermon. Ask yourself: Why did I like this? What did they do that is different from my preaching? What did they do that I didn’t like? Thinking about how they preach will help you to understand better how you preach. I would put one warning here: you are a unique voice called to preach in a unique place and while you can learn from other preachers never lose sight of your own voice.
A friend of mine recently led me to a Tim Keller quote that said: “For the first 200 sermons, no matter what you do, your first 200 sermons are going to be terrible.” Arguably, the more you do something, the more you learn and grow in your ability to do it. Trying, and even failing, creates an opportunity for growth. The best and sure-fire way to grow as a preacher is to do it.
4) Get Feedback
The first three options are tried and true methods for growth as a preacher. They will get you far, but there will come a point where your understanding of preaching and your skills as a preacher will reach a limit. This is why I argue that every preacher needs direct feedback to grow. This is why I created this website and became a preaching consultant. For preachers to improve their skills, they have to be open to feedback from trusted individuals. You can get that from a number of sources. Your church family is probably full of people who would love to tell you what they think. Your own family may have unique insight into your skills. Your peers and fellow leaders can offer you feedback. You have some great resources in your life who can give meaningful encouragement and support as you try to grow as a preacher. Wherever you get it, meaningful feedback is a key to improving your skills as a preacher.
If you are interested in trying consultation and receiving feedback on your preaching check out the services that are offered here.
*Look for more on this in future posts. Suffice it to say that the relationship between human and divine effort is complex.