An Open Letter to Next Generation Preachers
I have been preaching on a regular weekly basis for the past 12 years first as a youth leader, then a campus missionary, a youth pastor and now as the senior pastor of Victory Greenhills
I have made so many mistakes in preaching for the past 12 years that I have kept preaching tapes of my early days in ministry somewhere nobody can see.
But I thank God that I am part of a church who has loved, coached and accepted me as a preacher. I was given the privilege to sit and learn from some of the greatest preachers in the country today. Without their coaching and impartation – I won’t be preaching with the same conviction and power. I am forever grateful for men who paved the way and gave us a platform (literally) to preach the word of God.
Today, I want to write to next generation preachers as a brother who has been disciplined, coached and mentored in the area of preaching. If we were to sit down and talk about preaching, here are some things I wish to say to you:
When Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples – He told them, “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME, THEREFORE, GO!
We are given the power by God himself to preach the word. Preach with power and authority because the message of the gospel is something we shouldn’t be ashamed of. It has the power to transform and change people’s lives.
Let me share with you a quote that gives me the chills all the time. This is from Richard Baxter:
“In the name of God, brethren, labor to awaken your own hearts, before you go to the pulpit, that you may be fit to awaken the hearts of sinners. Remember they must be awakened or damned, and . . . a sleepy preacher will hardly awaken drowsy sinners. Though you give the holy things of God the highest praise in words, yet, if you do it coldly, you will seem by your manner to unsay what you said in the matter. . . . Speak to your people as to men that must be awakened, either here or in hell. Look around upon them with the eye of faith, and with compassion, and think in what a state of joy or torment they must all be for ever; and then, methinks, it will make you earnest, and melt your heart to a sense of their condition.”
One of my most memorable moment was when I was tasked to preach my first sermon in the church service. Before going up the pulpit, Pastor Ferdie, my pastor looked at me and said with the most intense stare I have ever seen, ” Dennis, preach like this is your last message!!!”
2. Let your preaching flow from the text.
Your preaching should come from the text. Don’t use the Scripture to back up your point, rather make a point using the Scripture text.
A lot of preachers today tend to fall into the trap of reading an excellent article or remembering an illustration and then finding a way to back up the article or story with a verse. That could be good practice for motivational speakers but not for preachers.
Preachers preach the word. The preacher wrestles with the text like Hulk Hogan wrestled and found a way to body slam Andre Giant. A preacher researches the text like how a man who finds a way to win a woman’s heart. A preacher listens to what God wants to say in the text like a sick man wanting to know the true condition of his health from his doctor.
Best preaching and preachers make the Bible come alive. The people listening to a man who is passionate about the word would come home and say, “I want to read my Bible now because of how the preacher expounded and found gems and presented it to us today.” That should be your goal as a pastor – let the people fall in love with the Word of God that they go home wanting to read more of it.
3. Rake in the hours.
Young man and woman of God, find opportunities to preach the word. It takes thousands of hours (10,000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell) if you want to excel in the skill you are practicing.
That means grab opportunities to teach and preach the word. Whether it is one to one, in a small group, in your church events, teaching a class. Be hungry to learn and rake in the hours of sermon preparation and to revise the sermon. Get into the grind of studying Christian classics and learn from great preachers. Preach in season and out of season. If nobody wants to listen to your preaching yet, preach in front of the mirror. Ask feedback from loved ones who will be brutally honest and give you tips to make you a better preacher.
4. Preach the Bigger Story within the Story
Yes, your preaching will have the same story line every week whether you are a Pentecostal preacher, a 3 point Evangelical preacher or a Scholastic type of preacher.
Here is the thread of the story of your preaching every week:
1. Show people the gravity of sin.
It could be laziness this week, prayerlessness the next week, idolatry the next, unforgiveness and then lust. To make the news good, they need to know the bad news. There will always be a tension to your preaching and all of the time it is tied up with the sins that we commit as people.
2. Show that Jesus is the answer and the hero.
All preaching must end with the people realizing that Jesus is the hero and not us.
When you preach a how to message – remind your people that apart from Christ – you can’t do it. When you preach a faith message – let them see that miracles that happen in your life are not proportionate to the size of your faith but rather to the size of your God.
Jesus should and will always be the hero. Not you, not the congregation, not their will – only Jesus. Let Jesus stand out every week in your message.
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