Three Ways to Improve Your Preaching (Part 3)

In my two prior posts, I shared two ideas that have greatly improved my preaching. Here is the third of three lessons I've learned over the past eight years of weekly preaching. This has proven to be the most helpful of all.

3. Stop Teaching and Start Worshiping

Reading books about preaching and taking classes both use a lot of time to help craft a good sermon with a strong presentation. They train you to be aware of body language, eye contact, the mood of the room, and more. All of these things are very helpful to be aware of and consciously think about...before the sermon. But once you step into the pulpit, these things cease to be helpful and can become a distraction as you find yourself asking:

Am I making eye contact?

Am I pacing too much? Or not moving enough?

Am I too tied to my notes?

Should I be using this illustration right now?

Should I have kept that other point in? Or was it best to cut it out?

Is anyone even following me right now?

Asking these questions as you preach requires that your focus turn entirely on yourself. This is the absolute worst place for your focus to be for three reasons. First, because when your focus is on yourself, you will teach from your head instead of your heart, which will make the congregation much less interested in what you came to teach. Second, when you are focused on you, your congregation is also focused on you. They can't hear your thoughts but they can see the impact of those thoughts on your delivery. As you focus on your uncertainty and awkwardness, they will become fixated on how your uncertainty and awkwardness is affecting your presentation. Third, and most importantly, if you are focusing on you, you are not focusing on the God you came to worship. And neither are your people.

@@When you are focused on you, your congregation is also focused on you.@@

When you step into the pulpit, you must leave everything you have learned in the pew from which you just rose. When you stand before the people of God, your focus ought not be on your teaching. It ought to be on your Lord. If this is where you want your people to fix their eyes, why wouldn't you fix your eyes in the same place? If your sermon can't move you to worship, why should it move your congregation to worship? If the truths you're proclaiming don't cause you to be overcome with joy, why should they be overcome with joy? If you are not moved to weeping over your sin or over the glories of Christ, why should your church be? You should use your preaching to worship Christ because he deserves it. You should also use your preaching to worship Christ because it trains your church to do the same.

@@Use your preaching to worship Christ because he deserves it & your church deserves it.@@

The greatest improvement I experienced in my preaching came when I stopped using those 45 minutes to teach my people and started using those 45 minutes to worship my God. That's when I truly started teaching them something that stuck. It's also when all of the important things I was taught about sermon delivery started to click naturally, without even having to think about them. When you are worshiping God as you preach, you don't have to worry about your body language. Your body language will be the body language of worship. You don't have to wonder if you are looking too often at your notes. You are speaking from what the words you wrote down have done in your heart, not from the words themselves. You don't have to carefully plan out the right amount of eye contact for the right length of time. Your eyes are simply following your heart in worship. You don't even need to wonder what illustrations or points you should cut or keep. Your worship will lead you to focus on those things that most magnify God, and to pass over those things that don't.

@@The greatest improvement to my preaching came when I stopped using those 45 minutes to teach my people@@

If you're a preacher I encourage you to make a commitment to stop teaching from the pulpit and start worshiping. Your worship will teach your people better than your teaching ever could.

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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