Preaching the Word of God is one of my favorite things to do. It is an honor and a blessing to be chosen and used by God to proclaim His message of salvation to others. While preaching is a great enjoyment, preaching is something that does not come naturally. Preaching well is something we develop and grow in over time.
In this article, I want to share with you five “things to avoid” in preaching. Many of these I have learned through my personal experience in preaching, and others I have learned through the testimonies and experiences of others.
Avoid Being Somebody You’re Not
In today’s world, we have many sermons from some of the greatest preachers in history readily accessible— Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Lloyd Jones, etc. We can learn so much about the art and craft of preaching by reading and listening to these preachers. However, if we’re not careful, the temptation for us is to try and “become” these preachers.
God has created each of us uniquely with a distinct personality and specific gifts and strengths. One of the greatest misfortunes we can incur upon ourselves is to try and be somebody we’re not. Brothers, strive to be who God created you to be. Allow your personality to unfold in the pulpit. Preach to your strengths, trust God in your weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9), and avoid being somebody you’re not.
Avoid Making Illustrations the Focus of a Sermon
Illustrations can be a helpful part of any sermon. Illustrations can help clarify a point in a passage of Scripture. Illustrations can help us visually understand in our minds what the Scripture is teaching. While illustrations are helpful, we need to avoid making illustrations the focus of our sermons.
In every sermon we preach, the text is to be central. Scripture is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16-17); our illustrations are not. God has called us to preach His Word, not our illustrations. It is the exposition and application of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit uses to transform our lives. Let’s strive to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) with illustrations in their proper place.
Avoid Being Too Complex
This is one of the lessons I had to learn early on in my preaching. When I first started, I tried to show everything I possibly could in the text. I tried to explain every detail, and I tried to show the method of how I came to each point. In other words, I was very, very complex in my preaching.
Brothers, what our people need most from our preaching is not every detail in the text, and certainly not our method by which we came to each point. Instead, our people need the diamond, the crown jewel of each text—Jesus, our Lord and King. Let’s give our people Jesus and the glorious life he has for us by calling us into allegiance with his plan.
Ministry can be very demanding. It requires long hours, sacrificial service, a faithfulness and love to one’s family as well as the church, and so much more. The time to write a sermon seems almost impossible at times. The temptation for us in these times can be to find a sermon elsewhere and preach it because of a lack of time.
God commands us not to steal (Exod. 20:15). Simply put, plagiarism is stealing someone else’s work and using it as our own. God is not pleased when we plagiarize someone else’s sermon. There is a place to seek the counsel of others in preparing a sermon (Prov. 15:22), but what we must avoid is passing off someone else’s work as our own. Study hard, schedule and guard your time to study, and when ministry requires more than usual, rest in God’s grace and preach Jesus to the people He has entrusted to you.
Avoid Being the Hero
As preachers, we want to be careful and avoid speaking too highly of ourselves. The pulpit is not the place to boast in ourselves, our accomplishments, and portray ourselves as the hero. The metanarrative of Scripture communicates this profound truth: Jesus is the hero of the story.
The Apostle Paul says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). When we preach, we want to draw our people’s attention to Jesus and how he has made redemption possible for us! Jesus is the hero of the story. We are called to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it is my prayer that God will use my experiences to teach and guide you in your journey to become a more faithful preacher. May God be gracious and kind to you, brothers, as you seek to honor him in your preaching.
Ryan Casey is the Student Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, Illinois.