Three Ways to Improve Your Preaching (Part 1)

Before I started pastoring, I read every book there is to read on preaching. These books taught me how to study and outline a biblical text, inevitably resulting in a biblically faithful sermon. Without these books, I would have failed miserably. Even with the knowledge provided by these experienced authors, there were still many things I had to learn from my own experience. In this post, I share the first of three lessons I've learned over the past eight years of preaching every week.

1. Spend less time reading blogs and more time reading your people.

We preachers feast on information wherever we can find it. We love reading our favorite blogs to stay up-to-date on what our culture is thinking and doing, curious as to how various Christian voices will be responding to it. We believe that taking in as much of this information as possible will give us a well-rounded understanding of the world and will help us to preach messages that are relevant to the trends of culture.

This is most definitely true.

It just doesn't matter half as much as we think it does.

Far more important than knowing what the rest of the world is thinking and doing is knowing what your congregation is thinking and doing. The members of your congregation are not craving answers to the theoretical debates of the blogosphere, or even to the heavy theological questions that most interest you. They are craving answers to the real, immediate, personal debates of their own hearts.

The most effective preachers are those who spend time reading their congregations by hearing their questions and observing their lives. This is one of the many reasons why the Apostle Paul's letters are still relevant two thousand years later. He was not concerned primarily with addressing the passing trends of culture, but with answering the specific questions, conflicts, and challenges facing the congregations he oversaw. Reading the hearts and lives of your people will make your sermons far more relevant than reading any number of blogs or books apart from the Bible

@@Effective preachers are those who spend time reading their congregation@@

In addition to maintaining the relevancy of your preaching, reading your people also makes your preaching more loving. The more time you spend with your people, the better you are able to love them. This affection will even infect your most average sermon with palpable passion and empathy that will compel your congregation to listen. When the people of your church can hear your love for them, they are far more likely to heed your words to them. Such love will not be cultivated because you spend hours with dead theologians. Such love will be cultivated because you spend hours with your church.

Therefore, if you're a preacher and you're reading my blog right now - STOP.

@@Therefore, if you're a preacher and you're reading my blog right now - STOP@@

I won't be offended if you don't read another word. God will be more glorified and your church will be better served if you use this time to listen to a member of your church instead of listening to me.


Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.


Photo credit to Olga Caprotti: