By Sam S. Rainer III
Perhaps the title of this post should be: 3 disciplines often missing from my preaching. I can certainly grow in these areas.
However, I don’t believe I’m alone. Through my interactions with other pastors, I have found there are many of us missing three disciplines in preaching. What are they?
- Preaching with patience. I must credit my friend, Kevin Smith, with this one. We recently spoke together on a panel, and he hammered this point. He was kind, but it hit me hard. Pastors teach their congregations the benefits of patience, and they also expect patience from their people. However, how often are we patient in our preaching? We must teach patience by showing patience. There is a time to be pointed and prophetic. But more often than not, the pulpit should be a place of patient and loving preaching.
- Incorporating historical examples. People prefer the here and now, and it makes sense. We don’t live in the past. However, there is much to learn from the past. Many preachers today use current events in their sermons, or simply something that happened that week to them. I do the same because it helps connect the text to the lives of my congregation. Researching historical examples takes more time; it’s harder because you have to teach history while at the same time connecting the illustration to the text. The problem with using only current stories is your people miss out on the metanarrative of God’s mission throughout history. When you incorporate historical examples, you demonstrate how God worked in the past. When your congregation understands how God worked in the past, they are more inclined to get excited about how he works today.
- Using an economy of words. Every word in a sermon is important. Longer sermons are not necessary wrong or bad, but too many sermons are long simply because of too many unnecessary words. When I preach 30-minute sermons, I’ve found these sermons have a precision to them. When I preach 45-minute sermons, I’ve found these sermons tend to have two or three sections that drone on. Few preachers can maintain an economy of words for forty-five minutes. Better to go shorter and be more precise.
Obviously, these three disciplines are not the only things missing from preaching today. What would you add?
Also, they are not the most important pieces of preaching. If you’re a lay person reading this post and your pastor goes for too long or doesn’t use many historical examples, then don’t be too hard on him, so long as the truth of God’s Word is consistently taught.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.