Advice for Beginning Preachers
Preaching is not as easy as it may look. I find every week to be a new challenge. The text challenges. The audience is a challenge. My flesh is a challenge, and so on.
It would seem then that this difficult task should be left to the trained and professional preacher.
But how do people learn to preach unless they are given the chance to preach? If only the “experts” preach then who will take their place when they have served their turn?
Additionally, I have written previously why I think it helpful for others to preach. Do You Let Others Preach? You Should!
If preaching is difficult, then how can others learn to preach in a way that benefits both their hearers and their own development as a preacher? How should a beginning preacher learn to preach?
Here is some beginning advice for those who aspire to preach:
- Abide in the text and ask the Spirit to open your eyes to see what the Spirit has inspired for the human author to record.
- Be yourself and ask the Spirit to sanctify your personality that your hearers might see the glory of God in Christ. You are not Matt Chandler, John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, or anyone else for that matter. Your voice and your mannerisms should be uniquely you.
- Have an introduction. The introduction should hook people and tell them where you are going by revealing the big idea.
- Keep it simple. It is better to be simply clear than clever and misunderstood.
- Have structure/outline (points). People need hangers to place ideas. Tell them with repetition what your big ideas are. This will also help them track with you through the text and connect the text to the sermon.
- Sprinkle the sermon with illustrations. Give them mental images that help the hearers understand your big ideas. This will also help keep attention. However, be careful with long and clunky illustrations. You don’t want to detract from the text or to use too much time telling a story.
- Apply each big idea. Make clear from the text what people should think and what they should do (James 1:22). Application is just as much thinking as it is doing. A person can’t do what is right if they don’t think what is right.
- Keep it short. If you are a beginning preacher, never preach longer than the regular preacher. Shoot for 30 minutes max. One of the hardest parts of preaching is editing what might seem interesting and keeping what is crucial to the hearer.
- Articulate the gospel. Don’t assume everyone there knows or is trusting the good news of Jesus Christ. Surely there will come a point in which you can say, “Jesus lived perfectly and took your place, paying for your sins on the cross, rising from the grave to beat sin and death. Surrender your sin to Jesus and trust in His finished and resurrected work.” The sermon is incomplete without this.
- Have a conclusion. Bring the sermon to an end with an illustration and one last application, imploring people to respond to God’s word.
There is much more to preaching but the point is to be personally prepared and to keep it simple so not to be overwhelmed and therefore underwhelm those listening.