For many pastors and ministry leaders, the deadline to speak or preach comes ruthlessly each week. We need new content, and we have to be ready to be faithful to our responsibility to invest in the people we serve. In the past few years, I have discovered that our end goal shapes the way we prepare and the message we bring. When your weekly goal is to impress people (you will never admit this publicly, it’s embarrassing, but often it’s true that we want people to like us and be impressed by our ability), you build your message with that hidden goal in mind. When your goal is clarity, you have more freedom to be yourself and do everything you can to help people understand the Biblical text and what’s applicable today from the text. Clarity as a goal leads us to celebrate people making much of God and less of us.
What we need to be chasing as we communicate is clarity. There’s nothing wrong with information, engagement, or humor. In fact, you need those elements in the message, but when those things get in the way of clarity, we fail the people we are serving. When people walk away from your teaching, they should be talking as much about Jesus as they talk about how you delivered the message. Here are some tips for making the chase for clarity a major goal for your preaching…
- Consider Less Topical Series and More Exegetical Series. // We (at our church) use both types of series, but we have made topical series the minority so we can work through more books and sections of the Scripture itself. When I choose to explore an entire book of the Bible or section of the Bible, the text drives the day’s topic and not my chosen subject. Both types of series are needed for the church body, but exegetical series will help you chase clarity of the text more than building a case for a topic with your audience.
- Promote the Teaching More than Yourself on Social Media. // Our ego is fed when we post a picture of ourselves and a quote we made on social media, but all that does is say to people they should look to you as the expert rather than the text you explored. Make much of your church’s work and the series you are in, not your ability to craft a statement. There’s nothing wrong with video clips or quotes with pictures; be careful not to get your message affirmation on social media reaction.
- Don’t Assume People Know the Bible. // Most people in the seats don’t know as much about the Bible as we assume. Most people are intimidated by the Bible. Make sure and fill people in when you use Biblical examples and theological terms.
- Edit, Edit, and then Edit more. // When you prepare to communicate, make sure you have enough time from when you write it to when you speak that you can edit and think about your transitions. I write on Tuesday each week, and I speak on Sunday, and I end up editing and adjusting, and praying all week. Give yourself time.
- Get Helpful Feedback. // You have to find a system that allows some other people to give you trusted feedback. Get feedback from people you are not worried about impressing! I stay connected in a community group, which helps me hear from some people in our spiritual family that hear my teaching. I also have a few trusted friends at church that can give me feedback. Not all feedback is helpful but even when it’s negative, listen for one ounce of truth and then put it away quickly. Your preaching will only improve through more preaching and discovering your personal perspective and voice.