PUSH TO RESTART (3)
Revamp Your Preaching
Sometimes, we need a fresh start. When our lawn began losing its luster and bare spots started showing, weeds were multiplying and the grass did not look healthy in places, I picked up some materials on how to restart a lawn. It took some work and steady attention, and it never looked perfect, but after a few months its health returned and its “curb appeal” improved.
Churches become ‘stale’ and show signs of ill health; in fact, I think it is in their nature to spiral toward ‘losing their luster’ because they are made up of fallen human beings. The pandemic certainly accelerated the downward spiral by legitimizing laziness and indifference toward the church.
So how does a pastor restart a church he has pastored for years?
In the first entry of this series, we saw that looking at the church from a different set of eyes will help. How would the next pastor see the church if he arrived tomorrow? What would he do to get things going? Write down a list and pick one thing and get started.
Another simple step is to revamp your preaching. We get comfortable in our sermon preparation routines, allow our stories to grow outdated, write sermons out of habit – and, consequently, can lose our fire and enthusiasm out of dullness.
My preaching style at Fellowship in the early years followed the pattern of the great Southern Baptist preachers at the time. I learned how to alliterate my points, illustrate the truths, and expound the Scriptures using the reference books spread across my large desk. A pen and a yellow writing pad were the tools of the trade in those days (pre-computer).
When the church hit a plateau, and I was at a loss as to how to move it out of the dry spell we were in, one of the decisions I made was to redesign my preaching. I began listening to the sermons of other popular preachers, paying attention to how they presented and delivered their sermons. I found new ways to say what the Scriptures taught. Truthfully, I became more interested in what I was going to preach and how I would preach it.
The new enthusiasm showed in the congregation and new people started coming back for more sermons.
It may be, pastor, that your preaching style has attracted all it is going to attract. By shifting your preaching up a notch or two, your own excitement might draw visitors back to your services and (who knows?) some of the straying members may decide to wander back in.
Once I reached the age of fifty, I stopped listening to the older preachers and spent a few years listening to the young men who were attracting people with their sermons. Find a couple of younger men to listen to and analyze their preaching style; use what fits with your personality and conviction. We should never stop improving the one thing people expect us to be good at!
Here are some ideas I use when listening to a good preacher:
How does he get the crowd’s attention as he starts his message?
How does he introduce the subject of the message?
How does he use humor to keep the audience engaged?
How does he illustrate his points?
How does he make his point(s) memorable and actionable?
Does he make himself or God the hero of the story?
How does he handle Scriptural truth? Is he careful to stay with the text? Does he make Scripture authoritative and how does he do that?
You can write your own ideas; the point is, to revamp your preaching you will need to PUSH YOURSELF to listen to today’s effective preachers. Be careful not to copy them but learn from their example. If you are going to use one of their quotes, be sure to give them credit for it.
Here’s a good quote I heard yesterday from Eric Thomas (First Baptist Church Norfolk):
“It’s better to be a Daniel in a den of lions than to be a lion in a den of Daniels.”
His topic was prayer.
Dr. Donald Lynn Hardaway