How can I become a good preacher?

Status
Not open for further replies.

cultureshock

Puritan Board Freshman
Dear friends,

I would like to know how to become a good preacher. I am interested in any general comments about being a good preacher.

I am also wondering about how to overcome stagefright and freezing up in front of a crowd. I realize that this comes from a sinful fear of men. If anyone else has struggled with this and overcome it, I would be interested to know more how you approached the problem.

Lastly, I also wonder if anyone has any thoughts on starting sermons with stories or analogies. Oftentimes, I feel that such oratory devices are misused in the pulpit. At my church, the liturgy communicates to the congregation that we have been called into the presence of God, and that we are there, not because we have obeyed his law, but on Christ's account. If this message has been communicated through the liturgy, and has set the congregation's frame of mind, I think it is inappropriate to jump into the sermon with a light-hearted personal story that doesn't have much of a point except to draw the audience in (not to say that this happens at my church). If this happens, essentially, I feel that the message being communicated in the liturgy has been betrayed by the opening of the sermon. Do any of you out there relate to this or have any further thoughts?

Personally, the kinds of sermon openings I appreciate are the ones that get right down to it, with the high expectation that the Word of God already is directly relevant to your life, and doesn't need some flowery intro to try to make it such.

Brian
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
1) If you are called to preach by God, you will be able to do it. If not you will not be. Whatever God calls you to is good, and shouldn't be ashamed if it isn't to preach.

2) Pray

3) Live in the Word of God.

4) Seek counsel from those who preach.

5) There should be classes that you have to take as an MDiv student to help you with this also.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by cultureshock
Dear friends,

I would like to know how to become a good preacher. I am interested in any general comments about being a good preacher.

I am also wondering about how to overcome stagefright and freezing up in front of a crowd. I realize that this comes from a sinful fear of men. If anyone else has struggled with this and overcome it, I would be interested to know more how you approached the problem.

Lastly, I also wonder if anyone has any thoughts on starting sermons with stories or analogies. Oftentimes, I feel that such oratory devices are misused in the pulpit. At my church, the liturgy communicates to the congregation that we have been called into the presence of God, and that we are there, not because we have obeyed his law, but on Christ's account. If this message has been communicated through the liturgy, and has set the congregation's frame of mind, I think it is inappropriate to jump into the sermon with a light-hearted personal story that doesn't have much of a point except to draw the audience in (not to say that this happens at my church). If this happens, essentially, I feel that the message being communicated in the liturgy has been betrayed by the opening of the sermon. Do any of you out there relate to this or have any further thoughts?

Personally, the kinds of sermon openings I appreciate are the ones that get right down to it, with the high expectation that the Word of God already is directly relevant to your life, and doesn't need some flowery intro to try to make it such.

Brian

Brian,

Here is my advice for introductions:


  1. They are important. They give your audience a chance to connect with you and be attentive
  2. They can be (and often are) overdone
  3. They are often an excuse to bring in inappropriate material. Men believe that they can introduce R-rated movies, drinking stories, etc. into introductions. Remember that your congregation has 9 year olds as well as 19 year olds.
  4. They are a helpful way of framing the main point of the sermon in an applicatory way
    [/list=1]

    So my common practice is to introduce the sermon with a brief (2-4 minute) introduction, setting the text in an everyday context. I hardly ever use a movie illustration - and if I do, it is usually either generic "in Western movies, usually the good guy..." "in old Medieval stories, the herald..." or generally unobjectionable (old movies being the best). I have to say that I am not a fan of the penchant for using the latest "great" or "Reformed fan" movies. No Lord of the Rings, no Narnia, no Braveheart, no Saving Private Ryan and the like. To my mind, it gets people (as it does me) thinking about the movie, and what else happened, what I liked or didn't, etc., instead of focusing on the sermon text.

    So I do thinks like "do remember as a child having fears of the dark?" or "Do you know what was the worst part about getting gifts as a child? Having to do thank you notes. Why do we insist on formal thanksgiving?"

    You can see what I do by downloading just about any sermon and listening to the first couple of minutes.

    {P.S. I will reply to your earlier email. I haven't forgotten. Sorry.}
 

cultureshock

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by joshua
Brian, has your calling to the Gospel ministry been confirmed?

Sorry, I didn't make that clear. No, it has not yet been confirmed. I am taking preaching classes in seminary right now, and I am struggling a bit with these issues in abstraction, not in actual practice (yet).

Brian
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I'll address a couple of things you mentioned...
Originally posted by cultureshock
I am also wondering about how to overcome stagefright and freezing up in front of a crowd. I realize that this comes from a sinful fear of men. If anyone else has struggled with this and overcome it, I would be interested to know more how you approached the problem.
Be yourself and forget yourself. As one pastor of our day put it, "You''ll never know freedom as a preacher untill you're free from both the smiles and the frowns of those to whom you preach."
Personally, the kinds of sermon openings I appreciate are the ones that get right down to it, with the high expectation that the Word of God already is directly relevant to your life, and doesn't need some flowery intro to try to make it such.
One thing the preacher must bear in mind in coming to the pulpit is that your audience is not where you are (And hopefully you're already where you need to be in terms of having exegeted the text/passage, drawn out its implications for application, you've prayerfully prepared yourself, and you have been gripped by the text/passage/message yourself. To sum this up, I'm thinking of the analogy of Moses coming down from the mountain with a glow - he'd been in the presence of God). So remember, you're coming into the pulpit "hot," as it were, with the impact of your message fresh on your mind. But your audience is not coming to the sermon with the same degree of warmth, thus, you must, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, labor to drawn them into the message. Now, I'm not talking about gimmicks or jokes, but whatever is used must be employed with the purpose of helping your audience to see the relevance and importance of what you're about to say. When preaching, you must (and I can't emphasize this enough), you must bear in mind your audience - Put yourself in their shoes, and give some thought to ministering to their weaknesses. Be conscious that you're engaged in a spiritual struggle.

Remember, too, that the devil is no respecter of sacred people, sacred places, sacred days, or sacred things (Mark 1:21-26). If you have something worthwhile to say, then you can be sure that opposition (to a greater or lesser degree) will be present to resist your endeavors. I can't remember exactly how John Owen put it, but I'll try to paraphrase him - He said something to the effect that "the more spiritual the exercise is in which you seek to engage, the more violent will be the opposition of the devil to resist it."

DTK
 

cultureshock

Puritan Board Freshman
Fred, thanks for your thoughts on introductions. I have actually heard one of your sermons, and I did appreciate your introduction! You used the personal story in a very meaningful and useful way that actually related to the text.

Your point about movies is very important. When someone mentions a popular movie in a sermon, I also find myself drawn away from thinking about God's Word.

Brian
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I will only try to address one question here, that of "stage-fright."

It may be that "fear of men" is what restrains you. Or it could simply be discomfort at an unfamilar situation, something that can be overcome with a dash of courage and determination to stand up and do your duty. But in either case (or a combination of both) the solution is conviction.

The first time I stood up to exhort a congregation (as one under-care of presbytery, and a 1st semester seminary student) it was with an overwhelming sense of duty. I was convinced in my own heart that there was no reason at all for these people to listen to me, except out of politeness. BUT through the session of that church, God had appointed me to bring HIS Word to them that day. I had a duty to speak that hour, and they had a duty to listen.

How does this conviction come about? A genuine sense of the Lord's call is part of it. As is knowledge of self, of the essense of what a call to the ministry is about, and of mastery of the material you are about to present. Added to that is the material's mastery of you, your submission to it first, and prayer. Meditation on how this information will be of practical benefit to the people to whom it comes.

When God is first in your consciousness, and the people to whom you speak are second, your self-awareness will be a distant third, and will not present an obstacle.

Hope this is helpful...
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Dr. Pipa wishes that everyone would never use notes!

I, however, have not mastered that process. I am yet a note user. My notes may be a full manuscript, or they may be abbreviated. The fuller they are, usually the later my sermon has been prepared. Which is the right direction, I think. Perhaps one day I will be able to be "free" in that sense.


Oh, and to add a Scripture verse to my previous post: "Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!" (I Cor. 9:16) That about sums it up.
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by cultureshock
I am also wondering about how to overcome stagefright and freezing up in front of a crowd. I realize that this comes from a sinful fear of men. If anyone else has struggled with this and overcome it, I would be interested to know more how you approached the problem.

I think the best weapon against fear is to be prepared. Likewise, it helps to teach Sunday School and get public speaking experience elsewhere.

Moreover, as long as you can maintain sufficient eye contact, I think there is no shame in writing a sermon out, and simply adding your impromptu thoughts thereafter, though it would be a good idea to memorize as much of it as possible. Jonathan Edwards wrote out and read his sermons.

I knew a lot of passages, and when I couldn't recollect them I would just goto the Word.

I did my first sermon on the ordo salutis which was about 27 minutes. I did my second one on Nehemiah which was 50 minutes. On my later expository sermon, I confess that I didn't adequately surmise the timing of it, and only by experience can we work on transitions and delivery. I didn't close it exactly how I wanted to-- because I felt the pressure of time. Most people are forgiving if you are really diligent and can give a good sermon. I've just seen some terrible guest speakers in my time, and I tend to know a good sermon is-- which is why I have no intent of denigrating the solemnity of the occasion by inadequate preparation and poor content.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Amen to much of what has been said above.

I only have one thing to add: Like anything else, you must practice! Get experience! Preach at every opportunity!
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
I know it's usually bad form to recommend a book, but hey, I'm Reformed, that's what we do!

John Angell James wrote a book entitled An Earnest Ministry which I plan to read every year of my life until God takes me. I think it is invaluable in the way that it holds forth what we really should be about in many different areas of being a pastor. And, while it is not focused primarily on homiletics, it has a fair bit in it about preaching.

I recommend it highly. Dabney's book is well worth it. Lloyd-Jones is good, too.

The key, I think, to be a good preacher is in the preparation in the Word and piety in the life. If these things are present, it is more likely that the preaching will be good. But, like shooting free-throws or batting, or kicking fieldgoals, or etc., without preparation through practice, odds are the good result will never come. Preparation and piety is the yeast of preaching. Sometimes it might work out alright without it, but odds are, it'll be a flop. It goes without saying that the Holy Spirit must be present in all preaching, but secondary to that is preparation through prayer in the Word that is lived out during the week.

In Christ,

KC
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
As for "stage fright", Donald Cargill said upon mounting the scaffold that he did so with less fear than ever he had entering the pulpit to preach. Many other godly men have experienced the same thing. I think it has more to do with the weight of the charge entrusted to them as the ambassadors of Christ. They possess the Key of God's Word to unlock and lock out men from the kingdom of heaven. The eternal fate of mens' souls are in their hands.:chained:
 

Ivan

Pastor
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
The more spitting and fist-shaking, the better. :D

HA! Well, not my style, but I've see it happen. During those types of sermons I sat a little farther back in the sanctuary. :lol:
 

alwaysreforming

Puritan Board Sophomore
About the use of notes:

I wanted to piggyback on the topic of notes that was mentioned above. Normally you wouldn't think that a great deal of written material up on the pulpit would make for an interesting sermon. But, if a preacher is particularly skillful with his voice, and with the content of what he's chosen to preach about, he can get away with a whole lot of notes.
I used to go to this church where the pastor would not only use notes constantly, but he also SAT DOWN while he did his sermon, pouring over his notes the whole time!
Believe it or not, he was a VERY interesting preacher! He held my attention as well as any, and more than most.

He would, however, be more of an exception than the rule.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Jonathan Edwards preached over 1500 sermons. In them you will find not one joke. I think, in even seeing how God blessed his ministry of preaching during the Awakening, it may do us good to consider that.

I never introduce the topic by means of a story or illustration. I begin with the text, explain it, then pull something go value for the congregation from the text, and then apply the text. In either the doctrine or the application I will use a very short, but pointful quote or notation that flows, or is almost a sub-sentence, that simply lifts, briefly, the sentence I think needs to be briefly illustrated.

I always use notes. I could "not" use them, but then I will have more to say. If I have more to say, that means the congregation will sit there longer and have to listen. I find it easier to "restrict" myself by notes so that I don't go anywhere I don't need to that does not help the flow of the sermon.

Personally, for me, three books were helpful and key - The Christian Ministry by Bridges, Pastoral Theology by Murphy, and Evangelical Eloquence by Dabney. There are some other's I would consider secondary, but those are must "must read" helps.

None of the things anyone mentioned, though, will make you a good preacher. Only God can do that. Only God can make a minister at all. These things only help to refine what God has given us.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top