When I first became a pastor I knew next to nothing about preaching. My first sermons were painful.
I soon realized that my Bible knowledge and education were not going to cut it alone. I needed help fast.
Then I discovered what I am going to tell you is the number one thing young pastors can do right now – today – to get better at preaching if you aren’t doing this already.
Disclaimer: I am under the assumption that you are already pursuing a deeper relationship with God through prayer and reading scripture. This should be a given. If you are not pursuing this first, you do not belong preaching on any stage.
So – besides pray and study – what is the best thing that you can do to get better at preaching today?
Listen to great preaching!
This may seem like a no brainer for some for some of you, but how much preaching are you listening to?
The best thing you can do to get better at just about anything is to surround yourself with people who are good at it and learn from them.
A long time ago that used to mean that you had to fork over a lot of money for conferences or traveling hundreds of miles to visit different churches, but not anymore.
Podcasts are amazing and FREE!
You can attend churches around the world any time, anywhere, on your phone, iPod, computer, tablet or TV.
When I first discovered podcasts, my life changed. I searched and found as many good preachers as I could and devoured every sermon I could. In the first day I probably listened to 20 sermons. In the first week, about 100.
The more I listened, the more I learned.
I analyzed why these preachers were so compelling and dynamic. I took notes on how they brought scripture to life. I saw how they told stories and used illustrations. It was the best preaching school I could have imagined.
Sermon Podcast Listening Tips:
Subscribe to video podcasts, not just audio. Preaching is more than just an auditory experience. Good preachers Preach with their bodies as well as their mouth. Not all churches do a video podcast, but subscribe to it if they do.
Look at the iTunes Top Charts under the Christianity category. The pastors on this list are there for a reason. They are all phenomenal communicators who draw a large audience. You may not agree with all of them theologically, but thousands of people download their sermons for a reason – they are world-class speakers. Which brings me to my next point…
Subscribe to preachers from different camps. If you are a hard-core reformed guy, don’t just listen to reformed preaching. If you are charismatic, don’t just listen to charismatics. Get a healthy perspective of pastors from all different traditions and backgrounds. You will get a better picture of what works, what doesn’t, and how to make your preaching your own instead of copying everyone else in your tradition.
Find opportune times in your schedule to listen. Instead of listening to the radio in the car, I listen to preaching. I also listen when I am going for a run or doing yard work. I know you are busy, so find times to fit this habit into your schedule.
Listen in double time. Want to listen to more preaching in less time? You can listen at 2x speed. Try it out if you haven’t. You will be surprised how easily your brain adjusts to pick everything up. This makes a 60 minutes message only 30, and a 30 only 15! I bet some of your church members wish they had this option for your sermons! (I like the Down Cast app because you can listen up to 3x if you want).
Don’t listen to all of them. If you subscribe to a lot of podcasts, you will not be able to listen to all of them. That is OK. Be selective. Listen to what intrigues you and pass on others. Every once in a while I go through my podcasts and clean house because there are a lot I haven’t had time to listen to.
Don’t just listen to the most recent stuff. A lot of pastors have sermons from the early years of their ministry available. Go back and listen to their old stuff. Then listen to the new stuff. You can see how they grow and change over the years.
Who Am I Listening to Right Now?
I rotate a lot of pastors in and out of my podcast list. But as I open up my Podcast App this morning, here is the list of pastors I see:
- Andy Stanley – North Point Community Church in Georgia
- Matt Chandler – The Village Church in Texas
- Todd Cook – Sagebrush Community Church in New Mexico
- Judah Smith – The City Church in Washington
- Leonce Crump II – Renovation Church in Georgia
- Steven Furtick – Elevation Church in North Carolina
- Craig Groeschel – LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma
- Rick Warren – Saddleback Church in California
- Don Wilson – Christ’s Church of the Valley in Arizona
- Mark Driscoll – Mars Hill Church in Washington
- Perry Noble – NewSpring Church in South Carolina
- Derwin Gray – Transformation Church in South Carolina
Whether you are a young pastor or old, if you are not listening to preaching podcasts, start today. Pull up iTunes or a podcast app and start subscribing.
Start listening to good preaching on a regular basis and you will be shocked by how much your own preaching improves.