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What Do You Wish Your Preacher Knew About Preaching?

Preaching week-to-week is tough sled. I’m always grateful for the people who e-mail, text, Facebook and Twitter to tell me that my speaking at their church or a camp or a conferences has effected them, but they here my best stuff out of a year of preaching. I suspect it’s a different experience for the people who listen to me week-in and week-out.

One of the great blessings of my preaching is that I spent the first eleven years of my ministry life NOT preaching. I was a youth worker. That meant I sat in the pew through many sermons and sermon series. I watched the audience as preachers weaved their way through texts, and I got to hear the unedited scuttlebutt during lunch at Luby’s as people responded to what they had just heard.

That time taught me a lot about preaching. It taught me even more about what people hear from the preaching. Unfortunately, preachers who come straight out of seminary and directly into a pulpit miss the opportunity to listen to sermons with adult problems, stressors and ears.

Here’s what I learned about preaching during 11-years of not preaching:

  1. We Recognize Self-Aggrandizement. Please save the stories that are simply designed to make you look good. You’re our preacher. We already like you. You’re wasting time telling us about how great you are. And that story you told about what God did to alleviate you of your perfectionism and how God showed you that you don’t have to finish first, we know you’re just trying to brag.  And you don’t need to tell us what you’re writing, what you wrote or where you’re speaking. We think you’re a capable speaker, that’s why we give you 20-45 minutes of our time every week. Trust in God’s gifting to you.
  2. Quit Apologizing. When you say, “I could go into it if I had more time,” or “I’d like to talk more about this, but we’re running out of time,” that’s not our fault. If something in the text is critical tell us. If it’s not don’t mention it. You’re responsible for how you use the sermon time. We assume that there is more in a text than you can tell us today.
  3. Preach Only As Long As You Need. Sermon length in evangelical churches are getting longer, and maybe sometimes you need to go 10 minutes longer than normal. That’s fine. Just make it worth our time. We can listen to you a long time if your message is inspirational, informative and aimed at transformation. It doesn’t matter to us if you can be engaging for 15-minutes or 45-minutes, just don’t get out of your lane. Preach well for as long as you need.
  4. Series Length Matters. Acts is a great book, so is Matthew, Luke, Genesis and all the others. If the church needs to hear a certain message, please don’t take 25 weeks to tell us. Log on to a few central themes, preach it for 6-8 weeks maximum and then move on to another topic. Most sermon series (at least in the tribe I was raised in) are just too darn long. Each year I preach the Sermon On The Mount, though I’ve only done one series on the Sermon On The Mount. Be creative. People take medicine better in small doses.

These are just a few of my gleanings from being an adult listener to sermons.

What do you think? What do you wish your preacher knew about preaching? Leave a comment below….And be nice! 🙂

  • Your observations are excellent. For my part, it’d be delightful if more preachers had a little more faith in their congregations, gave their parishoners their intellectual due. We’re smarter than you think, so don’t be afraid to lay some heavy thoughts on us. It is better to preach us up to your level than to preach yourself down to ours.

    • Thanks. Preachers tend to preach down because those are the people who speak up. Frequently we here, “I didn’t understand you” or “You use words I don’t know.” I’ve never understood why it was better for a speaker to act like s/he knew less than they do and why others weren’t encouraged to seek and find. One way develops no one, the other way develops everyone.

  • Good thoughts. One of my elders wishes I would share more of my own personal “testimony” stories more often. I keep telling him that he’s assuming I have an exciting life 🙂 since I really don’t want my sermons to be the chronicles of God and Rex. Also, I just began to learn the value in #4. Years back I can remember preaching through the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark back to back…ugh! I think I had people running from Jesus rather than to him.

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