Ever heard a preacher speak and said to yourself, "Wow, that guy is really into himself"? If you're a preacher, chances are someone has probably said that about you too. Keeping our egos out of our preaching is challenging. After all, it's just you and the microphone. What could be more self-centered than that? I have probably now preached about 400 or so sermons in my lifetime. I would like to think that in the course of preparing and delivering all those messages, I have learned something. So, let me share some suggestions about preaching and how it relates to issues of ego and self (not that anyone asked).
Reveal Something About Yourself - Although your ego has no place in a sermon, your personhood and unique journey with God does. My friend attended his church almost every Sunday during his pastor’s five-year tenure. After the pastor left, my friend felt as if he still knew nothing about the guy as a person. His sermons were mostly abstract concepts and illustrations, all involving other people, places and times. Many of the stories were obviously canned illustrations he found on the web. There was no sense of authenticity and therefore little connection between speaker and audience. So how do you include yourself in the sermon without making it all about you?
Don’t Hide Your Weaknesses – If you struggle with some issue or story, let the congregation know it. Believe me, they’re struggling with it too. If you don’t have an answer to a question raised by the text, admit it. Never give an easy pat answer or explanation. Never act sure about things of which you’re not. People know when you’re faking it. If your faith community is not a place where you can do that, something is really wrong. Deal with that issue in your congregation or consider moving to one where you can be honest. Life is too short to waste time playing the all-knowing pastor. Sure there are people looking for that, but there are thousands of pastors whose churches they can go to. You may just be the one person God has called to reach everyone else. Yes, I believe in strong leadership, but a guy named Paul once said when we are weak we are strong.
Never Assume People Know What You’re Talking About – The days of biblical and theological literacy are over. Don’t just spout out Bible names and philosophical concepts. It takes just a few seconds to add parenthetical expressions like; “Isaiah, who spoke for God a few centuries before the time of Jesus,…”; or “John Wesley, who started the Methodist renewal movement in England over 200 years ago…”; or “the Atonement, which is a term theologians use to describe what Jesus’ death did for us…”. Hospitality is not just about coffee. Brief explanations in our preaching go a long way to creating a welcoming hospitable atmosphere for everyone, regardless of their religious knowledge. It makes our churches seem less like exclusive clubs where one needs specialized knowledge to enter, and makes you less of the expert.
As a preacher or listener, how do these suggestions resonate with you?
That's it for now. Tomorrow, some tips about using illustrations.