The following list is a little old (1999), but most of the advice is useful in any age. You can find the original at: http://preacherstudy.com/ezine7_h.htm#2
TOP TEN WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PREACHING THIS YEAR
There are many “top ten” lists being made today on many subjects. Here’s mine for preaching.
10. Read at least two books on preaching.
Hardening of the arteries can effect us as we age in life. Likewise, what has been called “hardening of the categories” can effect us as we age in the pulpit. We become very familiar with the way things work for us – so familiar, perhaps, that we lose that fresh sense of wonder that used to come as we prepared to preach. A fresh infusion of perspective is beneficial, lest we become predictable and routine. As I heard one homiletics teacher quip to his students who protested the cost of many books: “Buying books is cheaper than renting a moving van!” Online bookstores can help you here as can conventional ones. Used bookstores shouldn’t be overlooked if they have a “religious” section. If you plan this as a yearly activity you can watch for good books through the year and get them at reduced prices.
9. Establish a budget for good reference books.
Commit a few dollars a month out of your regular living if you can. If you are in a located situation, ask the church to give you a book allowance. It will pay them back many times over as your preaching improves. One of my teachers taught all of his students many years ago to keep a “want list” – a list of your most desired books. Discreetly see that your wife and relatives get a copy – those people who tend to buy you gifts for your birthday and other holidays. Then, instead of getting another tie that doesn’t match any suit you have you just might get a book. One time my wife surprised me with an entire set of Lenski’s Commentaries. Unknown to me, she had saved up for them and knew just what to get because of my list. Retiring ministers can also be a source of good books. Such men may sell or even give away their libraries and many would love to see them go to someone who would appreciate them. I’ve been on the receiving end of this twice in my 21 years.
8. Start a file system for collecting resources that works for you and stick with it.
I intend to take on the subject of ministers’ filing systems in a future issue of this ezine. For now I’ll just stress the need to have good material and be able to find it when you need it. I’ve tried a number of systems over the years and have settled on my own system that allows me to catalog both electronic and paper items painlessly and without hiring a full-time librarian. More in a future issue.
7. Make illustration collecting your passion.
Illustrating isn’t all of a good sermon but it often is a determining factor between good preaching and great preaching. Having just the right story or analogy at just the right time will do wonders for you and your hearers. Again, I plan to write more on this in a future edition, so stay tuned. For now, let me heartily recommend Parson’s Bible Illustrator (the Deluxe version) as the greatest single thing you can do in this area. It is reasonably priced and if I didn’t have it presently, I would make it a first order of business to get it. More info is available at:
(If the URL above wraps in your email, cut and paste the whole string into your browser.)
6. Carry a tape recorder and use a diary.
A tiny micro-cassette recorder is nearly always with me. If I’m in the car between appointments and hear something good on the radio, out comes the recorder and I have it on tape. If I have a good idea filter through my mind, the recorder is out again and I dictate the thought before it escapes. This tiny machine is with me when I walk every morning and it goes with me nearly everywhere else. I even take it on vacation. Good ideas have a way of disappearing if we don’t catch them.
This past year I began using a computer diary and found that if I transcribe these random things from the tape to the diary at the end of each day, I can take full advantage of them later. I use a little shareware program called “My Personal Diary 2000.” You can try it for 30 days free at:
5. Listen to and read great sermons.
When you hear or read someone else’s sermon you’re getting the best that preacher has to offer. Iron sharpens iron and listening to good preaching will sharpen you. There are many ways to do this including radio, tapes, and the web. If you hear a good sermon, take it apart and examine the structure. If it is really good, transcribe it and analyze it. You’ll benefit from the effort.
4. Subscribe to a good sermon service.
Most of us want to write our own sermons. I know I do. Realistically though, there are times I need help – at least I need a good idea or a fresh perspective. I preach over a hundred different sermons each year. I have a lot of good ideas but they are quickly consumed with that kind of schedule.
You say you wrote a really great sermon last Sunday? Great! Can you do it again this Sunday? What about next Sunday and the one after that? What about all those Sunday nights and those special occasions? What about those times when you are sick but you preach anyway? A good sermon service can help you stay ahead of the crush. Of course you will not totally rely on this any more than you rely on your commentaries or books. You’ll glean out the best things for you and your listeners – the things that are Biblically sound and honor God. You’ll weigh them carefully, correct them where needed, and filter them through your own unique way of communicating. But for a relatively small outlay, you won’t be caught again without good ideas and resources.
3. Mentor someone or find someone to be a mentor to you.
I hear a theme repeated often among those who write to me. Though they learned much in seminary, they learned more when someone personally tutored them. A young preacher can greatly benefit from an older, seasoned preacher. Likewise, an older preacher can find new energy and challenge in mentoring a younger man.
Choose your mentor carefully. When you find one, treat him with honor and respect.
2. Master your personal computer.
If my email is any indicator, many preachers out there would do well to heed this one!
Learn the programs that you use. Your word processor, your online Bible, your illustration database – whatever good software you find that works for you. The mechanic is a master of his tools. The artist is the master of his paints and canvas. You should be the master of your writing and speaking tools.
1. Ask God to work in your life and make you a better servant.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127: 1)
Prayer, discipline, integrity, honesty, humility and the reminder of Whom you are working for is critical to good preaching. Allow God to work on the man as you work on the message.
(c) Dave Redick, The Preacher’s Study, 1999.