Many years ago, I was asked to preach for a congregation in Huntsville, Alabama, for about six consecutive Sundays. I had never done this before. This was a church of about three hundred people which just seemed huge to me! What made it especially challenging is that I had only preached about three to four times before this.
That meant I had only two or three sermons.
I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I had graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in business. I was in my second semester of study at a small Bible college in Alabama. So now I was being asked to preach every Sunday for six weeks. I began working on sermons, not really sure what I was doing or how I needed to begin.
Beside the content for these sermons, I was confused about how a person develops a style of preaching. It seemed as if the styles of various preachers were so different.
So, I listened to recordings of several preachers. In those days, I would listen to Landon Saunders one week and Charles Coil the next. On still another week I might listen to Lynn Anderson then W. F. Washington the following week. Each Sunday morning I seemed to do a poor imitation of whatever preacher I had listened to the previous week.
I can’t imagine the confusion the congregation must have experienced over those six weeks as they listened to this young, novice preacher who sounded like a different person each week.
It took me a long time to find my own voice. It took me a long time to learn to simply be myself.
Today, the temptation remains for those of us who preach to try to be someone other than ourselves.
- We may try to sound or appear cool.
- We may try to sound like the “successful” minister we admire.
- We may try to sound like others we perceive to be “ahead of us” in our quest to become an influential preacher who is highly sought after.
- We may try to copy a friend who seems to be two steps ahead of us in the way this person preaches or does ministry.
Perhaps you have a friend who seems to always be returning from delivering a keynote address or preaching in another country. It is very easy to look at this friend, wonder what you are missing, and then attempt to adapt something your friend does. There is nothing wrong with learning from a friend, but far too often ministers attempt to become someone they are not.
1. Be yourself. There is no one quite like you. Don’t underestimate the power of using your own voice.
2. Remember that “cool” has a short shelf life. If you want to serve meaningfully with a church for many years, learn to deeply love them. Focus on loving people instead of being liked.
3. God has called you. Others have their own gifts, abilities, and opportunities. Focus less on what others are doing and more on what God has done and is doing through you.