I thought it would be helpful to some people if I drew up a list: 10 Ways to Become A Better Preacher. Enjoy.
1. Enjoy God’s Grace/Stay Excited About Jesus
In my opinion good preaching is something that flows through the heart of a man who is excited about Jesus because he’s personally enjoying the love of Jesus. I think the single most important thing a pastor can do is wake up each day and focus his energy on enjoying Jesus and having as much fun as possible. This is the only thing I know of that will protect you from the burnout most pastors experience from the relentless strain of preaching and leading a church. I don’t think there’s much power in preaching grace if you yourself are not reveling in grace.
2. Preach A Lot
You get better at preaching by preaching.
Suffering makes you a better preacher because suffering breaks you and teaches you to live and preach dependent on Jesus’ strength, not your own. I’m not suggesting you seek out suffering, I’m suggesting that you embrace the perspective that your suffering exists, in part, to deepen your preaching and help the people you’re shepherding through your preaching.
4. Live An Interesting Life
Live an interesting life. Don’t settle for the status quo. Pursue your curiosity. Notice things. Spend lots of time with people. Things happen in my life everyday that shape my sermons. In my opinion, you should never use those preaching websites or read those books of collected sermon illustrations. I can’t see how that would make for fresh, good preaching. Earth your preaching in your real life. If you live an interesting life, you will always have plenty of fresh experiences, observations, conversations, and illustrations that will help you bring to life the text you’re preaching this week.
5. Sit Under Your Own Preaching
When I preach each Sunday I’m preaching to everyone in my church, including me. Each week as I approach the text I’m excited to discover what God will say to me. I love getting a break and taking a week off from preaching, but I’ve also found that the weekly process of preparing and delivering a sermon has become probably the most central factor in my own sanctification, growth, and deepening walk with Jesus. Ten years ago I dreaded sermon prep (mostly because I had made preaching an idol in my life, creating so much stress and performance anxiety for me around the whole preaching process), but today I look forward to the weekly rhythm of sermon preparation because I view it as a central source of joy and refreshment in my life. Preaching feels to me like exploring. Each week I’m exploring something new about God, life, and the human heart.
6. Ask Your Church to Pray for You
I love my church. I ask my church all the time to pray for me as I preach/prepare to preach. Remember, Satan hates you. Satan hates that you’re preaching Jesus. This is a spiritual battle. Preaching is war. So, you better be soaking your sermons in prayer, including other people’s prayers for you.
7. Be Yourself
Be yourself. If God has called you to preach, he wants you to preach as you. He’s uniquely shaped your story, personality, and gifting. Stand up in that pulpit each week and boldly be yourself with your unique strengths, weaknesses, style, and quirks. If you’re trying to be like or sound like someone else, stop that.
8. Get Feedback from the Right People
People love to give feedback to preachers. Ignore certain types of people, the types that somehow think their job in life is to critique your preaching and tell you all the things you can do better. Instead, get feedback from people who know you and love you. Have them speak into your preaching, using their feedback to become more self-aware of your preaching. Ask these people who love you not only to share constructive criticism, but also (mainly?) encouragement. For me, encouragement has shaped my preaching more than people’s critiques.
9. Don’t Focus Too Much on Your Preaching
Don’t focus too much on your preaching. Spend less time on sermon preparation. Instead, do what I’m talking about above: spend lots of time enjoying and caring for people, live an interesting life, notice the world around you, be a Christian, have a life outside of your job (having a hobby or two will really help your preaching). If you focus too much on your preaching your preaching will probably get worse.
10. Have Fun
I’ve been pastoring/preaching for 12 years now and I hope to do this for the rest of my life. Preaching is fun. I love what I do. If you’re not having any fun preaching, this might not be the right calling for you. I don’t see how we can become very good at things that we don’t enjoy.
Justin Buzzard is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a church plant in Silicon Valley, and author of the books The Big Story: How The Bible Makes Sense Out of Life and Date Your Wife.