I am sometimes asked how I developed my style of preaching.
I laugh inwardly.
The question assumes I have an intentionally developed style.
I just do what I do every week. After doing it for years, certain characteristics have formed in my preaching. Yet I believe there are ways you can establish your own voice in preaching.
How can you develop your “style” in preaching?
Preach. Preaching is caught as much as it is taught. You learn to preach by preaching. Take advantage of every opportunity to teach and preach. And take every preaching assignment seriously. Preach as if it is the first time, may be the best time, and could be the last time. As you preach, you are stirring up the gift that is in you.
Study preaching. Good preaching is not just an art. It is also a science. There are rules to follow for effective preaching. Become a student of homiletics. Read at least one good book on preaching each year. Take advantage of ongoing learning opportunities. Learn, follow, and master the rules. Then, eventually, you will be good enough to break them.
Focus on the message. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word.” Paul exhorts Timothy to preach, to be a herald for the King. He also explains what Timothy is to preach: the word. It is the content of our preaching that makes us faithful, not the style. Style does not matter if you mishandle the word. It should serve the message. Let your style develop around what you have to say, not the other way around.
Be yourself. We are all influenced by preaching voices in our heads. To this day, I have to limit how much I listen to my favorite preachers, lest I carry them into the pulpit with me on Sunday morning. I want to be a voice, not an echo. Preaching is truth through personality. So be yourself. The congregation will forgive you for not being Dr. So-and-So. They will not forgive you for not being you!
Expose yourself to great preaching. I pity the congregation that only hears one preacher. And I pity the preacher who only listens to one preacher, especially if he is that one preacher! Sitting under the ministry of others will elevate your preaching. Listen to sermons by noted preachers. Read classic sermons. Hear respected preachers in person. Expose yourself to great preaching. The more, the better. Following various effective preachers will help you resist the urge to mimic any particular preacher.
Practice self-critique. Force yourself to listen to your sermons. If you can watch them, that’s even better. Make note of bad habits, sloppy speech, and distracting patterns. Don’t be narcissistic about this. And don’t try to whitewash your preaching of idiosyncrasies that reflect who you are. But examine where there is room for improvement and do it.
Get healthy feedback. All of us have blind spots we cannot see. Be willing to receive constructive criticism and legitimate encouragement. It’s hard. But it’s worth it. Seek feedback from your wife. (Just don’t do it on Sunday afternoon!) Ask family and friends where you can improve. Consult people who listen to you regularly for advice. They will have a better feel for what is typical or an exception in your preaching.
Strive for excellence. Desire to be the best preacher you can be for God. Don’t compete with other preachers. Compete against the preacher you are now. Work to be a prepared, strong, and growing minister. Let your progress be evident to all (1 Tim. 4:15).
Be patient. My preaching has developed naturally as I grow older and more mature. There are things I said and did years ago that doesn’t fit me anymore. The passing of time has a way of shaping your preaching. Be careful of defending the way you preach. You may grow out of it by this time next year. Give yourself room to grow.
Don’t worry about it. If you are too concerned about matters of style, it will handicap your preaching. Preaching is not about the preacher. It is about the foolishness of the message we preach. You will have a car accident if you are preoccupied with what you see in the vanity mirror. Pay attention to the road. Stay in your lane. Focus on getting to your destination.
What do you think? Please comment.