Last year we launched something we call Preaching Cohorts to develop current and future preachers. We have a goal of planting 1000 churches in the next 40 years, which means we need to raise up hundreds of men who are equipped and qualified to preach and teach God’s word.
Qualified doesn’t mean you have to be the next (insert your favorite mega-church pastor) to plant a church. But it does mean there is a threshold of ability which is appropriate for the scope of the ministry God has called you to. For some, reaching that threshold comes more naturally. For other, it takes more work. Preaching is both a gift you have and a skill you develop. And the latter is true regardless of your level of the former.
There are 3 BASIC WAYS you can develop in preaching (these aren’t revolutionary, but they’re worth repeating):
1) Read and listen to sermons of great preachers
I’ve found even the most experienced and gifted preachers do this. When they get tired of listening to guys who are alive, they dig up dead ones. Two things I’ve learned: Listen to several different preachers, not just one or two. I learned this from Tim Keller: “When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise.” Listen to people outside your tribe. Don’t just listen to the guys you like. If you like Mark Driscoll, listen to Andy Stanley. Different tribes have different emphases in preaching. If you can’t learn from people outside your tribe, you’re limiting your growth.
2) Read books and articles on preaching
Here are the top resources we recommend in our preaching cohorts, more or less in this order:
- Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching
(THE bible on preaching for the last 25 years)
- Bryan Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching
(another basic text w/ a focus on Christ-centered, expository preaching)
- D. Martin Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers
(unsurpassed in addressing the life of a preacher)
- Andy Stanley, Communicating for a Change
(especially his “Me–We–God–You–Us” approach)
- Tim Keller, Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World
(Rumor is Keller has a book on preaching coming out as early as next year. In the meantime, this is an entire class that he taught at RTS. It’s a lot to listen to, but worth every minute.)
For all the listening to sermons and reading books, there is no substitute for actual preaching. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that you don’t become really good at something until you’ve done it for at least 10,000 hours. I find that both challenging and encouraging. Aspiring preachers should take every opportunity to preach, even if it doesn’t seem worth it. I remember a time I got a preaching gig at a small church. There were maybe 30 people in the room, half of them over 100. I’ll never forget when one of the little old ladies came up to me afterwards. She said, “Great sermon, pastor.” When I thanked her, she proceeded to tell me she couldn’t hear me because the battery in her hearing aid was dead.
Which leads to an important caveat: there is no substitute for good feedback. Preaching one sermon with good feedback can be more productive than preaching dozens without it. A lot of aspiring preachers run to an empty pulpit where they’ll get to preach, when they’d be better off running to a full one where they’ll get to learn. Find a church whose teaching you respect that has a vision for developing preachers.