Learning to preach

Last night I did a lil’ bit o exegesis at our college and careers night. At least, I tried to.

I didn’t BOMB, per se, but I don’t feel soaring-over-moon happy about it.

But I am excited that I felt like I learned a lot that I wouldn’t have known if it had gone tremendously well.

Here are some notes to myself:

  • take more time to prepare. Andy Stanley has his sermons ready three weeks before he preaches them.
  • practice more, hone in on exactly what you want to say
  • you can’t think on your feet as well when you’re presenting because you’re nervous.
  • if you want to say something, you have to write it down
  • point form notes don’t always trigger the memory. Write it all out.
  • Practice.
  • watch sermons by pastors you admire and respect – not lectures – before you present, or else you’ll sound like you’re lecturing, not preaching. (I watched TedTalks…and was probably influenced by them because I came across a little professor-ish. Monotone. Ack. That was the nerves, too.)
  • be more comfortable (PRACTICE)
  • speak to your audience…you wrote this with them in mind…look at them. talk to them, not at them.
  • use anecdotes, make it interesting. vary your voice and tone and get people engaged.
  • You procrastinated and wrote essays in a couple days for university. Your average was in the seventies. If I were to have graded that, I would’ve given it a 67 or a 76.  God – and those you love and want to serve through your teaching – deserve better than that. Step up your game. Take this seriously. Unlike the essays you wrote on Shakespearean prose, this actually has eternal significance.
  • Work on your conclusion. REALLY REALLY work on your conclusion.

Problems I can identify in preparation:

Starting on Friday. Spending probably 5 hours total on it (it was 15 minutes long in practice, and 10 minutes long when I did it at the front of the church). Practicing it out loud once with one other person. My notes in three different places because I didn’t have a pad of paper to write on. Being distracted by Facebook while I tried to write. Not having a good conclusion.

On the bright side, I learned a lot personally from the study.  I made Steve Mah laugh at one point by suggesting we were in Africa (that was a really good point, and one of my major points, and I had a funny & memorable way of explaining it – I should’ve done more with that).

Bah, well anyway. First sermon. Sort of. I’m glad it kinda sucked. I feel like it’s a challenge to do better next time.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim Thornber says:

    I’m glad to see that you are involved in honest self-examination. You’ll get better as you practice and learn to find your own voice.

    My first sermon had Peter in the boat, out of the boat, walking, sinking, crying out and back in the boat in 15 minutes! Today, I can’t hardly tell you my name in less that 15 minutes. My preaching teachers told me that one day I’d be working on what to take out of a sermon, not what to put in. I disbelieved them, but that day did come.

    Keep trying. Keep failing. Keep changing. Keep growing. Learn from other teachers/preachers but be yourself.



  2. beth says:

    You should talk to my dad sometime about this. He’s a great teacher, and a excellent preacher ( and I’m pretty sure I’m not just saying that cause hes my dad).

    Top three things I’ve learned from him:

    1. Use your personality – your sense of humour and your passions- to your advantage. This engages your audiance, charms them.
    2. Keep yourself on time. The shorter the better (really!!!). This shows respect to your audience/ congregation.
    3. Practice. This ones kinda a duh, but man, does he ever work away at his sermons, cutting, revising, rehearsing.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Excuse me? Essays on Shakespearean prose *aren’t* eternally significant??! ;)

    1. Christine says:

      Maybe YOURS were ;) :D

  4. C. Wiles says:

    I ALWAYS get excited hearing about others’ preaching experience(s). My first lasted 45 minutes and was basically a graduate school lecture. In retrospect I’m amazed no one shot themselves in an effort to stop the pain. I totally agree with the notes above and your own advice. Personally I hate practicing and find I’m better without it (but I can name way more people who benefit from practicing). What’s helped me is writing a full manuscript and memorizing my outline. Then I speak for 30 minutes or more with no notes (my profs used to say if YOU can’t remember it, then THEY can’t remember it). Not using notes is extremely liberating, but demands thoughtful preparation. Anyway, this is less advice than just what’s helped me. I’m glad you had this experience; regardless of what you may think, God’s word will never return void. I guarantee someone will come to you later and say “remember when you said…” and you’ll think: “I said THAT?” He’ll use it. Keep on rocking in the free world.

  5. Darrell says:

    Here are 2 more things I was told about preaching. 1. Billy Graham in his early years got up and preached his heart out and there was no movement. He thought it was one of his best. After examination and advice from another friend he found that he had left the Cross out of his message. From then on he always took people to the Cross at one point during his sermon.
    2. A friend preacher of mine said he went up to preach confident in the message he had prepared and full of pride about it. He said he bombed. He came back down without the confidence and pride, broken. He talked with his dad about it. His dad said, “son if you had gone up the way you came down, you would have come down the way you had gone up.”
    Study, prayer, and letting God mold you and break you over the message. The best messages seem to be those that you have experienced personally. Keep preaching.

    1. Christine says:

      I am so incredibly encouraged by your insight and what others have said as well. Thank you for leaving your comments.

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