5 Things That Will Make You A Better Preacher

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In 1 Samuel 13.19, we find out that when the Philistines conquered and enslaved Israel they took out all the blacksmiths so there was no one around who could make weapons so that people could fight and win and re-gain their freedom.  Today, the church is in a similar position – very few preachers are actually equipping the church to fight, to beat sickness, to win against poverty, to conquer a poor self-image, to defeat discouragement and despair.  Most Christians are still tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine because they have never been equipped to stand.

Now a lot of that can be the individual’s fault – people who don’t go to church, or who go once a month, they will never be in a position to be equipped, and that destructive doctrine that we can live the Christian life on our own without a local church is still doing the rounds sadly.  But as a preacher, you can take steps to make sure that your preaching is equipping people to do the works of ministry.

1. Preach What You Know

You have a wealth of knowledge – sicknesses you have defeated, attitudes you have laid down.  For the Word to be effective it has to become flesh – let people see how the Word has become flesh in your life.  Share your victories, share your learning curve.  Let people see that you are moving forward and growing in grace!

2. Make it practical

You have to preach the Word, but you also have to interpret the Word and apply the Word.  So for example, you could preach on 1 Cor. 13 and preach that “Love is patient”.  That’s the Word.  Now tell people what it means: patient means steadfast under pressure, so when you love someone you put up with pressure and you are still the same.  Then you apply it: so, in your marriage, don’t snap at your wife when she has a bad day, show love and be the same – be patient, be steadfast.  Let your people know what the Word means and what it means for them.

3. Give Your Message A Title

The title clarifies the thought.  Spurgeon said he would rather nail a 10 inch nail into someone, rather than throw a box of thumbtacks at them.  That’s true – your message needs to be one clear point.  Giving your message a title helps you focus on what you are saying.

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Don’t just expect to walk in the pulpit and share and be a success.  Prepare: study the Scriptures you are going to use, meditate on them, plan what you are going to say, consider and pray about what personal illustrations to use, on what other illustrations to use.  Consider carefully the interpretation and application of the Word of God.

5. Start Well

Start by introducing the topic you are preaching on and let people know why it is important.  That will mean that you are engaging them from the start.

Role of the Pastor 5: Feeding the Sheep

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Shepherds have to feed the sheep.  That should be obvious, but there are a lot of pastors who are not feeding the sheep.  You cannot exaggerate how important it is for the pastors to feed the sheep.  You just cannot overestimate how important this is.  Your preaching to the gathering of the saints is so important – it is one of your primary roles, your key functions as a shepherd, to ensure the sheep are fed.

Earlier we discussed leading the sheep and how important that is, but you cannot lead people you do not feed.  Some people are trying to lead people they don’t feed, and they become controlling and harsh.  If you feed people, they will follow and your church will grow.  If you give people good food, your church will grow.  Some people might not like the food, some people aren’t sheep they are goats – let them go, but keep feeding the people and you will attract a flock.

Parents have authority over their children because they feed them.  When you leave home, get a job and feed yourself, your parents authority diminishes.  Feeding is so important for leading, so important for pastoring.  Jesus told Peter three times in a row: “Feed My Sheep”.  Feeding is vital.

Every pastor must be a preacher and your preaching is where you feed the sheep.  This is key. And we are living in the age Paul warns Pastor Timothy about:

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4.3-4)

People seem to rather go to a service where they are anointed with oil, where they are given a prophetic word, where there is gold dust and barking dogs, where they are taught about secular psychology and fables made up by men rather than listen to the Word.  The temptation to reduce the preaching of the Word and replace with entertainment.  Some pastors are preaching less than 6-10 minutes on a Sunday morning.  That is not feeding the sheep a meal, that is a bag of Doritos!  That is not a meal!  That will not give the sheep strength to receive healing, to advance the kingdom, to enjoy their career, to love their families.  You need to feed the sheep. You must preach the Word!

Here are three things I believe are vital to a successful feeding ministry:

1. Preparation. You must prepare what you are going to feed to ensure the sheep get a healthy, living and balanced diet.  You cannot just walk into the pulpit and say what you like.  There has been a move recently to see notes as fleshly, but taking the time to prepare is never fleshly – it’s godly.  I preach in months – each month has a theme that fits into the theme for the year.  I am all about building something into people’s minds.  Me just shouting about my hobby horse is not good enough.  You need to plan, research, prepare.  What Scriptures are you using, in what order, what is the point you are making.

2.  Keep to the point.  People like rabbit trails and side points occasionally.  Imagine they are like salt and pepper.  Just a little to give it flavour, but if you are continually going off point you haven’t prepared enough.  It takes me a whole day at least to prepare a message.  Lazy preachers and lazy pastors don’t prepare the food and don’t season it.  They are feeding their church Iceland frozen chicken nuggets and wonder why the church are spiritually malnourished. 

You are called to feed the sheep.  You are called to prepare the best for them.  Choose your points, meditate on your points, consider how the sermon is structured.  Introduce the sermon by telling the people what you preached last week and how it links to this week, tell the people what your points are and where you are going with the message – it’s a good habit to help you keep on track.  Then preach.  Then conclude well.  Prepare and plan how you are going to end.  Will you end with an appeal to change, will you end with an illustration that they are going to take away?  You need to decide before hand.

Of course, someone will tell you that planning is not spiritual, that you should just open your mouth and let it flow.  There are times when that is what to do.  There are occasions when the Lord will lead you a different way.  But mostly when people do that they ramble, they drift, they make no clear point, but rather a hundred different little points none of which impact anyone’s life for the better.  Here’s a revelation: the Holy Spirit can guide the planning!  Let your planning be Spirit-led and you find you don’t have to “go with the flow of the moment” in the pulpit so much any more!

I think some preachers need a big sign at the back of the church that says “WHAT IS THE POINT?” so when they are preaching they know they are making a point!

3.  Let the sheep feed from you.  Jesus said something that requires a lot of consideration: if you don’t eat my flesh you are not part of me.  Sheep need to feed on the shepherd.  What do I mean?  You need to let them see and let them hear that the Word works for you.  If you are teaching healing, talk about a time you laid hands on someone and they got healed.  Let the people see you are talking about what you know.  When you preach on loyalty and are calling for a commitment to the church, let the people know how committed you are.  You need to be careful doing this because your goal is to preach the gospel and teach the kingdom, but principles without practical application wash over people’s head.

At our summer conference once, we raised an offering and it was very low.  It was just under £300 which was very low for the amount of people in the room, and low compared to the costs we needed to pay.  In addition, I was the one who put in £200 into the offering.  So I got up and I told people that I believe in this conference and that if I could put in more money than the rest of the room put together there was a problem.  We received a second offering that came to a lot higher, and I have heard many testimonies of people who received a great return from that offering.  By showing people that I work the Word, I am encouraging – which literally means giving courage to – people to work the same principles.

Remember your examples are not the message: they are the encouragement to get the message.  You teach the Word, but in teaching the Word you have to show that you believe it’s integrity and you are not preaching what you do not practice, but rather you preach what you practice.

Planning Your Preaching (Benjamin Conway)

Planning Your Preaching!

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One of the things that I often get asked is “how can I preach better?” or “how can I preach with a better response or better results?”  The fact is that preaching the gospel is the power of God – that’s how people get saved, get healed, get transformed.  Preaching is one of the single most effective uses of your time as a pastor and leader.  It’s that simple.  There is a move in some churches today to denigrate preaching and to minimise it’s power – some people are maxing their preach time to 8 minutes.  Wow!  If you want to be soaked in the Word I believe you should take at least 45 minutes.  I preach over an hour nearly every single week because I know it’s the Word of God that lifts and transforms and builds people up.

A lot of people spend a lot of energy and effort into planning the sermon, and absolutely that is correct, but planning a single sermon is great if you are a travelling evangelist, but for pastors you need to be planning more than one week in advance.

Firstly, as the lead pastor of a church, realise that you will always be and always should be in charge of the preaching in your church.  I have been to churches (and even pastored one) where the eldership or the deaconate were in charge of the preaching calendar, the rota of speakers.  One church I know pastored a council worker to come and “preach” about how awful his wife was for divorcing him.  No!   The lead pastor of the church is in charge of the preaching.  Absolutely, ridiculously in charge of the preaching.  No one gets to preach in the pulpit unless you give the say so.  It’s that simple.  The lead pastor is the shepherd of the flock and is the guardian of the sheep.

I take that approach in Tree of Life Church.  If I ask someone to preach, I am more than happy to ask them to preach on whatever I want, I am happy to ask for their notes before they preach.  Obviously with guest speakers like Arthur Meintjes who I have heard again and again and trust to bring a complete work message, I give a lot more latitude but to a new preacher within the church, I am ridiculously careful.  Why?  Because I am accountable before God regarding what is spoken at the church.

All preaching must be brought into the bigger picture of the church.  At Tree of Life Church our bigger picture is to “inspire people to dream, to challenge people to live the dream”, so I (Benjamin Conway) have to look at my preaching every week and ask myself – am I inspiring people to dream?  Am I challenging people to live the dream?  If not, chuck it in the bin as it is not helping the Tree fulfil God’s will.

So, preparation has a massive role to play: not just preparing the message, but preparing it to fit in with the bigger picture.  Then there is the theme for the season: what are we doing as a church right now?  So at the moment (May 2013) at Tree of Life Church we are hammering home the truth that there is a lot of deception in a lot of the church and that a great deal of this deception is basically obscuring the cross of Christ.  So, every sermon preached in May will be about deception and every sermon preaching in June will be about the complete work.

You need a preaching calendar.  You need to include important dates (not just Christmas and Easter, but Valentine’s Day, New Years’ Eve and September.  When the schools return after summer, lots of people come back to church and you need a powerful series to get them energised for church).  You must have a preaching calendar.  You must not just get in the pulpit and “allow the Spirit to lead you” – it will lead to the same message week after week and your church will have no direction.

I have already penned our preaching calendar for 2014.  Our theme is “Identity” and we have 12 months in which we are going to learn about our identity as reborn human beings.  Our summer conference for 2014 is sub-titled “We are Jesus on the earth!” and will be about our identity as the image of God on earth.  In August our worship leaders are going to find songs that fit in with our identity.  Our leadership conference will be grounded in identity.

Identity inspires people to dream, so the theme of the year fits perfectly with the overall dream of the church.  This planning is so important because to fail to plan is to plan to fail: so many charismatics just give us a piece of their mind when preaching – sort of a stream of consciousness from the pulpit.  It doesn’t help.

Then when planning the month around the monthly theme, I consider what the Bible says about the monthly theme and then consider what I want the people to know.  Good teaching should give information that people don’t have and press people to make a decision they haven’t made before.  So, for example, next Sunday morning, I am preaching on how it is deception to believe that you can have a harvest without a seed.  The information I am going to give people is show them all the different ways Christians try and get a harvest without a seed, and the decision I want people to make is to sow a seed into the kingdom (not necessarily money, but an action of faith and love).  Now I know that, putting the sermon together is much easier.

Not only that there is continuity from week to week.  If another person in the church preaches, they get to know the calendar and have to fit in with it.

Any questions about preaching or sermon preparation?  Please ask them below, I will answer all of them as best I could.

(Benjamin Conway preaches 3 times nearly every weekend, in Watford, Guildford and Dagenham.  Every month over 2000 people download or stream one f his sermons online from their church website, www.treeoflifedagenham.com.  These messages are free of charge because God’s Word is free of charge.)