I’m married to a pastor, the one who preaches the sermon on Sundays. And yet, let’s discuss preaching. After all, as the wife of a preacher, I’ve often heard the sermon five times before it’s preached on Sunday mornings. Lucky me, right? Now while I’m no expert, the Lord has generously given me and grown me as a teacher of the Word. And thus, I want to first address my experience as both a preacher of the Word and listener to hundreds of sermons – some on Sunday mornings, some on a podcast, some excellent, some awful. Friends, this conversation matters. We’re called to preach the Gospel of Kingdom. So humor me as I share my experiences with the hope to encourage you in yours.
Learning how to Preach/Teach
Learning how to preach is like learning how to do anything – growth in knowledge and application in practice. Whether learning to bake a homemade pie, speak another language, or preach a sermon, there’s an element of both acquisition and application. We acquire knowledge, and we apply the skills.
Through years of ministry both in a parachurch ministry as well as on a church staff, the Lord has afforded me opportunities to teach the Bible – to young people, to old people, to 10 people, and to a 1000 people. In addition, getting a masters of theology provided me with some of the skills to both study the Bible rightly and then craft a sermon effectively. And of course amidst a ton of mistakes, I continue to grow as teacher of the Word.
So as you continue to grow as a preacher, remember this: we are all learners. We’re all being discipled. You’re being discipled by the preachers you listen to – whether weekly at your church or frequently on a podcast. You’re being discipled by the authors you read – whether you’re reading a puritan who is no longer alive or the most recent blog article. Good writers are excellent readers. And good teachers/preachers are excellent students/faithful sheep.
Read books. Sit under solid preaching. Listen to strong preachers. Teach. Preach. And do so consistently, whether on Sunday mornings or to your family and of course, always to yourself.
Learning in the Midst of the “First”
While many of us maybe can’t remember our “best”, we all remember our first. The first time, we walked up to the podium, leather-bound “preaching” Bible and notes anxiously gripped in our hand as we fought the temptation to vomit. Yep, I said. And let’s be honest, many of you can relate.
Maybe your first sermon was awesome, but I doubt it. Mine sure wasn’t. I was in college when I first spoke to a group of high school students at a FCA meeting. It was early in the morning, I was nervous, and the kids were probably really bored. I had 5 pages of single spaced notes for a 15 minute devotional for a FCA meeting. What in the world was I thinking?!
It wasn’t clear. I had too much material, and I tried to say too much. It wasn’t relatable. It wasn’t memorable. People connect with story. And they will remember a good story, so tell one. And it definitely wasn’t exegetical. I jumped all around the Bible with too many verses.
Learning from Other Preachers
Of course, so many great pastors and teachers I don’t know have influenced me. But the greatest influence has been those closest. Men who I’ve been blessed to sit under week in and week out. Pastors I know. Ladies who have discipled me. Ladies who I disciple. Perhaps, you’ve had the same experience?
Your community influences your teaching. Change happens in the context of community. Growth happens in and through suffering. Suffering begets glory. Just look at the cross, brothers and sisters. The suffering of our Savior preceded of the glory of King Jesus.
So I’ve been shaped by suffering and those who have both endured with me and encouraged me. Mostly by men and women who you probably haven’t heard of, but yet, in mentioning them – I hope you’ll consider those men and women who have and are shaping you in similar ways.
Mark Hitchcock is an exegetical preacher, verse by verse – every single week. Jay Risner is a Gospel preacher. I’ll always remember him saying “never move beyond the Gospel.” Matt Chandler is an incredibly compelling preacher. Jen Wilkin is a studied teacher of the Word. Brady Goodwin a compassionate shepherd as he preaches. Matt Younger is transparent in the pulpit. He often has reminded me “to not take myself too seriously” but of course, to always take the Gospel seriously. Mike Dsane is clear and consistent in his preaching. And my husband, Tanner, is Gospel-drenched in his sermons. Last month, he said “In the Gospel, we get to come out of hiding.”
I share some of my greatest influences both as a way of example and encouragement. Consider who is shaping you as a preacher. Pray for them and thank them for their ministry. Listen to and learn from other preachers. And remember, whether you preach on Sundays as a pastor, on the playground with your kids, or at work – this preaching work is a Kingdom work, for the Gospel of the Kingdom is at hand.