The preacher settled into the driver seat after gathered worship one Sunday and asked his wife, 'How many great preachers are there in the world today?' His wife smiled and replied, 'One less than you think.'
Maybe you have heard that little story somewhere before. It makes the rounds because preachers are prone to exaggeration; not only in the stories that we tell but in the way we think about ourselves.
I have a calendar reminder that pops up once a week. It says 'you are not as good at preaching as you think you are.' Now to be fair to myself, there are more than a few weeks where I don't feel that my ego is out of control. But the note is always a helpful reminder not only for my soul but also for my development as a communicator and connector.
You are not as good of a preacher as you think you are. Now, I am neither your wife nor am I your mama. So I'm not here to poke around at your ego. I want to help you close the gap between the preacher you are and the preacher you want to be. So I've pulled a few things out of my homiletical toolbox and brought them here to share with you.
1. Replace Your Last 30 Minutes of Prep With Prayer
You know that you should pray more before you preach. But when do you actually do it and how long should you go? Here's a suggestion - take the last 30 minutes of your preparation on Sunday and pray. You can pray through your notes but consider setting them aside to spend time with God. Remember who he is; talk about how you feel; ask for his help; ruminate over his promises. Enjoy him through prayer as a way to expand your soul before everyone gathers for worship
2. Reinterpret Your Nerves
Most preachers get nervous before they preach. Some of us more than others; and new environments are more nerve-wracking than familiar places. But the gravity of the task and the vulnerability it takes to stand up in front of people creates tension that manifests itself physically.
One of the ways athletes deal with their nerves is to change how they interpret what they are feeling. Instead of being nervous about failing, they focus on the excitement of the task ahead. So instead of interpreting your pounding heart as a sign of impending doom, look at those physical manifestations as side-effects of your excitement and enjoyment.
3. Be Generous
You have put so much time and energy and effort into your sermon. You have lived in the text and slaved in your homiletical kitchen to whip this sermon together. You want people to take what you hear and do something with it to change their lives.
But what if they forget what you said before they leave the room? Or what if they don't even bother to show up in the first place? It's one thing to say that you want more for your people than you want from your people. But is that the genuine posture of your heart? I know you want to be generous so start here - give anyone and everyone listening to you all that you have and expect nothing in return. Be grateful for the opportunity and give each person more than they expect from you.
4. Don't Talk Right Away
Someone asked me how I can tell if someone is nervous when they're preaching. I know before they've strung their first sentence together. If you jump into your message the moment you hit the stage, I know you're freaking out a bit.
So slow down. Get your Bible and your notes set up (unless, of course, you are not using notes). Stand there a few seconds and take in everything. Smile. And then get started.
5. Say Thank You
Communication is not enough. If you want people to listen to you, you must make a connection with them. Stepping into a pulpit or standing behind a lectern with a generous heart is a good place to begin. Saying 'thank you' at the beginning of your message is a way to put words to how you feel on the inside.
Before you ask people to open their Bibles or jump into your story, why not look at everyone and simply say 'thank you for being here.' They are giving you their time - what an incredible gift - so it only seems right to give them your gratitude.
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