Obviously, this list could be legion. Instead, I’ll share with you 16 things I’m resolving to do in my preaching this year:
1. Preach Christ. I continually need to remind myself of this – if people don’t hear Christ, my preaching is in vain.
2. Preach for Conversion. There’s a difference between preaching Christ and preaching for conversion. To be honest, I feel very awkward preaching for conversion, probably due to my little faith. This year, I want to continue to learn to plea with people to receive Christ.
3. Learn the art of story-telling. I think I have some of the basics of story-telling down, but I don’t often apply them to the way I preach narrative. I want to bring more drama to my preaching this year.
4. Memorize Scripture. I can’t think of a better way to aid my sermons than to know my scripture. This is an aid in preparation, execution, and organization alike – you’ve got to know the whole counsel of God before you preach it.
5. Spend more time in prayer than commentaries. I often find myself too caught up in textual peripherals, rather than spending time seeking the wisdom of the Spirit. I’d rather err on the side of prayer this year.
6. Strive for Brevity. I don’t think brevity is out of date – especially when trying to reach a secular crowd. But I have an easier time killing my writing babies than my preaching babies.
7. Create a feedback team. This is a painful step, but in my opinion live feedback is a better classroom than a classroom. As I look into MFA programs in writing, what I see are structures in place that encourage live feedback, not mechanical systems designed to produce writers. And hey – you could get that for free! It just takes a little humility.
8. Commit to recording illustrations. I am terrible at this. But this year, Evernote has made this process elegant, beautiful and simple. And…it’s free. Check it out.
9. Start reading what your community is reading. Often-times folks at church give me reading to do, and as of yet I haven’t carved out time to do it. But there’s no better way to know the heart-beat of your community, illustrate in a way that penetrates the heart, and understand the idols of your culture than to read what they’re reading.
10. Be rested for Sunday Morning. This entails being rested throughout the week, so when I try to go to bed at 9 on Saturday night, my body responds appropriately.
11. Listen, or watch, yourself. I always find it helpful to listen to myself after I preach, especially in help with preaching tone. Your tone always sounds different to you than it does to everyone else – and since it doesn’t matter what the tone sounds like to you, it’s important to hear it from a congregant’s perspective.
12. Take the necessary time to write your sermons. I often get to this at the very last minute, and it ends up being a stream of consciousness rather than a well-put together manuscript.
13. Keep things at ground level. Dick Keyes of L’Abri, in a recent talk he did on modern apologetics, noted that the biggest turn off to modern Christians is something non-vocalized: they don’t think it matters. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to 1. Show why your text matters at a personal, social and global level, then 2. Continue to bring everyone back to the sermon’s relevance throughout.
14. Focus more energy on introductions. See #13 – before I say anything, I’m committing to spend a whole lot more time introducing my sermons before I get into the text. This might seem unnecessary to long-time Christians, but it’s absolutely essential to preaching in a post-Christian context. We’ve got to prove that what the Bible says matters.
15. Keep learning. Unfortunately, I’ve not been a faithful learner, book-wise, this year, and I think my preaching always flounders as a result. I want to keep learning, so I can keep leading.
16. Be faithful, not fancy. One of the ways I’m trying to do this in 2014 is to structure my sermons around the structure of the text, rather than coming up with my own structure. So far, the people I’ve talked to love the change.