In the sister post to this article we spoke about why we should re-invent our preaching today I want to be practical as to how to accomplish this task.
When we talk about re-inventing our preaching I am not talking about a total change but rather making “changes to an idea, method or system in order to improve it”. If you are like me and dare to listen to our own messages you will always find room for improvement:)
With that in mind here are a couple of suggestions that will not take much more of your time and that I think will keep you fresh in the pulpit because a lot rides on our Sunday Ministry.
1) Change Your Prayers
“The minister who does not earnestly pray over his work must surely be a vain and conceited man. He acts as if he thought himself sufficient of himself, and therefore needed not to appeal to God.”
Here’s a suggestion, as you regularly read your Bible, when you come across a passage dealing with the Word or ministry go ahead and pray it. Then make a list of the passages and pray them before you study and before you speak.
- Romans 15:4
- 2 Corinthians 4:4
- 2 Timothy 3:16
- Psalms 19:7-11
- Psalms 119:101-105
We are all creatures of habit and that holds true for our reading as well. My natural bent it towards biographies. What is your natural bent? The problem is if we are narrow in our reading we are narrow in our opportunity for illustrations. I remember a friend of mine who was reading one of the “hit” books at the time saying, “If this guy gives me another sports illustration I am going to lose my mind.” Here are two suggestions to consider.
1) The experts say to read at least two good preaching or communication books a year to challenge you. A couple of years ago I read a Screen Writing book called Save The Cat which was very helpful when it comes to thinking about narratives. Currently, I am reading Made To Stick by Chris and Dan Heath it’s one of the best books communication I have ever read.
2) Add a new genre to what you are reading already. This can be as simple as adding a couple of newspapers/magazines/blogs to your reading schedule. The more variety in your reading the more variety you will have in your illustrations which gives you a better opportunity to reach a wider audience when you speak.
Just as we all have a default for reading we have a default for our sermon outlines as well. I do not want to turn into a debate about expository preaching versus topical or textual preaching. All I am saying is a little variety never hurt anyone. You do not have to change the way you study just consider changing the way you present what you have studied. Here are a couple of outlines to consider.
The Question and Answer (Aquinas)
- Make a bold claim (or ask a tough question and give an answer)
- Anticipate the objections raised by your claim/answer
- Answer the objections
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 as long as necessary to establish your original claim
Solve the Problem (Andy Stanley)
- Create Attention: “Here’s a problem that needs to be resolved
- Integrate Scripture: “Fortunately, we’re not the first ones to wrestle with this”
- Clarify The Significance: “Here’s why this answer matters”
- Apply The Concept: “And here’s how to make it work in real life”
Life Change (Rick Warren)
- Establish a need
- Give personal examples
- Present a plan
- Offer hope
- Call for commitment
Pronouns (Andy Stanley)
- Me (Orientation): Introduce yourself to the audience and to your personal experience of the problem you’re talking about.
- We (Identification): Show how the audience has the same (or a sufficiently similar) problem.
- God (Illumination): Tell them what the Bible says about how to respond to this problem.
- You (Application): Call for a personal response
- We (Inspiration): Explain how things would be change if we all responded in obedience.
As ministers we all have a lot on our plates while at the same time we are juggling many hats. The work of administration, counseling, pastoral care and putting out fires are all vying for our attention. Yet, Scripture is clear that people come to new life in Jesus through the preaching of the Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, staying fresh in the pulpit is of utmost importance for each and every one of us. The following quote sums up why this needs to be our #1 priority.
“Decline of spiritual life and activity in the churches is commonly accompanied by lifeless, formal unfruitful preaching. . . the great revivals of Christian history can be directly traced to the work of the pulpit and in their progress they have rendered and developed a high order of preaching. . . . preaching can stimulate revival under God and benefit from it. Want of biblical preaching is an announcement of death and is also killed by lifelessness.”
(A History of Preaching)
I have a great chiropractor who has done wonder over the years to help us. Every time we make a visit I am stuck by the fact that one simple adjustment can make a world of difference. I think the same idea applies here, a simple adjustment in your prayers, reading and outline can breath new life into you as a preacher with you, your people and the Kingdom being the beneficiaries.