The pulpits of our land have fallen into disrepair. We have so much inferior preaching it's time to provide some instruction. Some of it is for people who are loud and fast thinking they are anointed. They aren’t. They need to be taught some platform skills. Some is for those who think they are entertaining, but they aren’t. Some is for the boring preachers and some is for the preacher who basically reads you his prepared text. Of course they will reject this instructions because they re foolish. According to the word of God, a fool disregards instruction. The word of God has the answer: "Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored." Proverbs 13:18 Stop being foolish and learn answer your calling better.
Too many stuck churches with disgruntled leaders wonder why they are stuck. The envy factor by them of the more successful is palpable. They see others with churches that started the same time they did now with thriving growing churches expanding exponentially. It's not the building, it's not the programs, good teaching and preaching is the glue that holds it together. Certainly a manifestation of the Spirit of God and the awe of the supernatural presence will draw them, but in the end there must be a word of the Lord from the platform. Preaching and the Prophetic both bring the word, but not all prophetic is preaching and not all preaching is prophetic. It is the lack of skill from both that results in stagnation. Of course there must be good community, enough relevant programs and relationships that can hold people for a while, but it won't grow.
The Pastor on Sunday said, "I've been preaching to you for over an hour". I looked at my watch and I was surprised he was right. You know its good preaching when it goes an hour and you don't even notice it. Excellence in the Pulpit is developed and is attainable as a skill, but not by accident.
A surgeon goes back for continuing education to learn to do it better, only in ministry do people get in a rut and never develop the platform skills that matter. It's not a show, but you gotta capture and hold your listener's attention if you are going to make it as a preacher. Let's do a better job of communicating the word of God.
People remain unsaved not because they have never heard it preached, but that it is preached so badly they can't comprehend it. Some will stand before the King and give an answer, but Lord, no one ever told me. So they stay asleep in the light headed for perdition.
Here are Four Keys to bringing the word of the Lord to people better.
1. LEARN TO USE NOTES PROPERLY
There are two camps in preaching. Those who wing it and say they depending on the anointing and the spirit of God to lead them as they mount the pulpit. They usually preach fast and loud. Occasionally a blind sow does find an acorn and good preaching results. But the bulk of the time it’s weak, aimless and shallow. If you prepare, you will have notes. But that is a two edged sword. If you have lots of notes you will overuse them. In many churches when the preaching begins you might as well have the preacher say, “Now I will read you my sermon”. Over rehearsing is the same thing. I know a young preacher who memorizes his sermon verbatim. He’s not using his notes but he’s also a parrot of his own making. Flat as a pancake. Amateur hour.
So what to do?
1. Main Points Header (A track to run on)
2. To get a quote right (Read the quote)
3. To get a scripture reference right. Or a passage from an alternate translation.
Don't try to preach directly from your notes. You should only refer to them a few times in your whole talk. This is particularly true with a tablet computer.
Earn the right to preach what you say. Avoid trying to preach from a book. That should be resource, it can't be your sermon. Even if you preached from Billy Graham's books, you will be a second class Billy Graham. Be a first class you. More important, trust the Holy Ghost to fill your mouth from what you prepare. Sometimes HE has something he wants you to say. Go ahead and say it, but prepare without memorizing or reading the whole thing.
2. HOW TO USE HUMOR IN PREACHING
Or how to be funny even if you aren’t
Humor is dangerous. Humor badly delivered is deadly. But if you are in front of others and you say something you think is witty and people laugh, you just might be receiving the “COURTESY LAUGH”. You know it happens, there is a titter that flows when say something you thought was funny. You are the preacher; the folks love you and want to respond to you. So they give you a giggle and secretly wish you hadn’t gone there. It’s the courtesy laugh.
I know some preachers who are genuinely hilarious. John Eckhardt is one. I nearly roll on the floor sometimes. He’s quick. Jesse Duplantis was so funny I sometimes lost the drift. Joel Osteen always tells a joke at the beginning of his talk, and he does it well. Let’s learn from them.
The trick is, if you have comic instincts and can deliver at that level of stand up, then go for it. You will be the one in ten thousand. That level of platform skill is rare. If you don’t have it naturally, then do what the very best speakers do including Joel Osteen does, READ IT, practice reading it for timing. Don’t rush. Don’t ad lib. Stay with the script.
I encourage weaning from notes as an essential. Yet a good joke is carved carefully with timing, twist, surprise and punch line. If you read it you will get it right. If you try to ad lib from memory .. YOU HEAR THE SOUND OF "SPLAT" FALLING FLAT. One liners are OK.. but dangerous. Lots of room for misunderstanding. It's where most speakers get in trouble. I once had the man that trained me to train others say, "Your asides are killing you"
So use humor, relax, but don’t overuse it. Funny isn’t always funny. However it is essential. It is needed, comic relief. Just do it well. Read it.
The best humor off the cuff are personal experiences and stories that you found amusing. Speak from your heart and go for that kind of humor or expect to be greeted by a hearty COURTESY LAUGH. You have them, you have their attention, don’t abuse it. Don't make them be banal in their appreciation. Read the joke and move on if you must be funny.
3. MACHINE GUN PREACHERS MISS THE MARK
I have sat under a dozen great preachers and hundreds of really bad ones. With a trained ear I hear what you say or don’t say and how you say it; that's why I want to help you. You can do better.
Your anointing might be amazing but your lack of skill is so obvious you fail to connect. No one has any idea of what you are saying so they yell, shout, stomp, jump up and holler. It’s not about you.. They’re bored with you. You think its approbation, it’s not. It’s masking the fact that you have nothing to say but you say it fast and loud and people respond. Some think this is strong preaching, no it’s wrong preaching. The form is confused and the function of what you are supposed to be doing up there is lost.
Learn to pace yourself. You do that by having a track to run on. Don’t overrun your preaching headlights. It’s OK to get loud occasionally as is needed but loud all the time for emphasis means there is no emphasis at all. Screamers who preach are painful to sit under; Even for one day. I seldom return to hear a screamer preach.
This does not mean there isn’t a time to get loud and scream if you need to.. but do it in small spoonfuls. A little sugar makes the medicine go down, but don’t overdo it. Find a point you are going to develop. Underscore your point, give scriptural evidence for your point and then with enthusiasm offer experience, testimony and Biblical under-girding of the point. Build to a climax and then close … ON THAT POINT.
Start slow and low and accelerate to a peak at the moment you make your point.
Then repeat the process. Dial the volume back to 3 from 11 and dial the speed back from 120 mph to about 40. Leave some breathing room. Quietly and firmly make your next point. Build and do the above.
Each of these points could be a stand alone sermon and an altar call could be given on them. They are connected only in that they support the same general thesis.
The reason we end up with machine gun preaching, is the desire on the part of the preacher to get all his or her points in. The classic case is the preacher who has a well crafted sermon and at 40 minutes into it looks down and has only hit 3 of the 7 points. The temptation is to preach faster (read that worse).
The worst thing is to tell your listeners that you have 4 more points you can’t get to and tick them off. BAD PLAN. They don’t know you have 4 more. That’s good material for another day. Find the best of the three you have preached and close on them. Don’t title your sermon “17 ways to find more of God” or something something. That’s your book title you should write. Preach “How to find more of God in your life” you can have 17, if you get to 5 that’s a miracle. I can’t tell you how often I have been embarrassed for the preacher who tries to hurry thru the talk and I know if fleshed out would have been GREAT. I feel cheated. Don’t cheat your listeners.
If you are any good (and I hope you are) you should be able to close on any two pages in the Bible and from the text before you, give an altar call, take an offering or open a communion service. I have asked people to test me on this. I’m not even an apostle or been to Bible School, but I can do this. If you claim the pulpit you should be skilled enough to do it or sit down.
An old black Preacher friend in Georgia long ago told me and I never forgot, “Gene Preach Less Better”. He’s gone now but his words to me in that little church 40 years ago lives on in my head.
4. PUTTING PEOPLE TO SLEEP SHOULD NOT BE YOUR ANOINTING GIFT
I’m at an age where sometimes if a preacher drones on I go away. It’s not an insult, I’m not bored or ungodly. I’m tired. Please Preacher, hold my attention. I need you to help me stay awake. I don’t want to drift off. I will retreat however if you don’t find the energy button in your preaching.
Sometimes in some churches I have been in, I got what I really needed that day from the preacher,
The classic dry droning preacher we think of in some mainline churches today only serves to drive people away. Unfortunately some are in good evangelical churches. Platform skills are lacking and because of that people close their eyes. The preacher might notice and think they are praying. Nope, they're sleeping.
Of course you may have some in your congregation who fall asleep while you are preaching well because, they are tired. Had a long day at work, Night Shift or sickness. Don’t take it as insult.
Here are some words of wisdom to the preacher who has too many snoozers in your congregation.
1. Make sure your sound system isn’t putting them to sleep. Why attend a church where I hear and understand half of what is said. Yes my hearing isn’t great, but I attend some great churches where it's not an issue. Same hearing, different sound systems. It’s not volume, it’s directionality. You can be a little boring if you are at least heard. The worst cases are those churches who place their speakers way above people’s heads. Even aimed down the sound is lost. When we speak to each other one on one in real life we do best when we stand in front of someone and speak eye to eye with them. Many set up sound systems like you are speaking to someone from an upper floor and your hearer is 30 feet below you. No matter how loud you speak, you will never be heard well for a lack of proximity. The opposite is true when one has a poor sound system badly positioned and to compensate for the situation turns up the volume to 11 thinking that will solve the problem. Nope. For that reason I carry earplugs to protect my hearing in such a situation. If you preach without a sound system, get close and look them in the eye. Even if you are a bit of a droner, you can make it work if folks can hear you. Get sound right.
2. Modulate some. Rise, fall, louder quieter. Pause from time to time. Put a little color in what you are doing. Gin up some level of enthusiasm, even if you have to fake it, for what you are saying. Imagine that the next year of your hearers lives will be impacted by what you are saying if you do it well. Be fired up, not a machine gun preacher, but above the dull roar. Preach as if you actually believed what you are saying and people are asking you to prove it. They are.
3. Don’t over-rely on gimmicks. If you are trying to compensate for your lack of platform skill by using lots of video support, do less better. I enjoy a good video example from time to time, but (and this is true) I once sat under a preacher who showed 5 in a single sermon. I had no idea what he was trying to accomplish. I never figured out what any of that had to do with anything. One or maybe two is more than enough.
Same with powerpoint. Nothing wrong with it, but most of the greatest preachers I know don’t use it much except for putting up Bible Passages for those who didn’t bring a Bible. Some of the truly great don’t use it at all. Little cartoons and such are sometimes like bad humor. Be sparing in your employment. Bring the word of the Lord, we can watch TV at home.
4. If you are a droner and you find yourself running out of things to say.. STOP. This is actually true of any preacher. When you have reached the end, you will only create confusion by rambling on. You would be best to have 7 times more prepared than what you can successfully deliver in the time allotted, however sometimes you know you are done. It’s time to close.
You can minister healing or bring a prophetic word. You can call on a testimony you know. You can allow someone to bring encouragement. You can pray.. but pray with meaning not with many words. In the end, bless the folks and let them go home. I have found that less is more most of the time. They will say to each other, “That was really good”. I needed that. You will be questioning yourself.
Keith Green sang a song where the refrain was, “Just keep doing your best and let God take care of the Rest”. It’s still true and for the droner, that’s what you have to do. You can’t preach like everyone else, don’t try. Just do your best, but don’t make the rookie mistakes that so many do.
Let God take care of the rest.