The following are suggestions for better preaching. (See Part one here.)
1. Talk to people as if they are intelligent (they are) but resist the urge to prepare a sermon for a seminary professor. You are now before the people of the congregation. You are not trying to impress your professor. You are trying to connect with a group of people who have a variety of problems and who are engaged in a number of professions. This doesn’t mean that you must “dumb down” your preaching. It does mean that you need to work hard for clarity.
When I was almost finished with my DMin degree, I received a call one day from one of my professors. He said he and his wife were going to be in our assembly the following Sunday. He wanted to hear me preach. After hearing that he was going to visit, I panicked. I wondered if I should not toss my sermon into the trash and start over.
Fortunately, I caught myself and realized I was preparing to preach to one person instead of preaching to the people who would be gathered in our assembly.
2. Note the importance of ethos. Your genuiness and goodness are incredibly important. No longer will people listen simply because you are the preacher and you have been to seminary. For many people today, your credibility will first come from your life and godliness.
3. Present the opposing view as if very intelligent, good people believe this. In other words, don’t make fun of the opposing view or talk as if those who hold such a view are obviously not intelligent, thoughtful, or spiritual. When presenting an opposing view, present the strongest argument for that view, not the weakest. In other words, you may not agree with the view but you can respect those who happen to hold that view.
4. If you want people to take you seriously, then do nothing that might give them reason not to. Remember that preaching is a matter of trust and credibility. Preaching that deals with Jesus, sin, suffering, doubt, faith is deeply personal. Very often your hearers will listen not only with their ears but in some of the most tender places in their hearts. They are allowing you, as you handle the Word of God, to speak to their hearts. They are trusting you to walk gently and to handle the Word of God as a skillful surgeon. They trust your integrity and authenticity.
(This is one reason why it is devastating for a member of the congregation to learn that their preacher is committing adultery. They have given that preacher much trust and it turns out this person has not been living a trustworthy life.)
5. Take your preaching seriously and yourself less seriously. Remember that most any preacher can be heard through podcasts or some sort of digital recording. Don’t panic when the congregation starts quoting a nationally known preacher after listening to his latest podcast. Be glad they are learning and growing.
When you make mistakes, laugh at yourself. Your laughter will put them at ease and they will more readily connect with you. Admitting your mistakes and laughing at yourself will actually help you bond with the church.