Monday, July 16, 2007

Mistakes Preachers Make 1

I have expressed some of my opinions about preaching in previous posts. But I thought it might be helpful to list the mistakes that preachers tend to make in preparing and delivering sermons.

Let me make it clear that I am not setting myself up as the paragon of perfect preaching. But over the past 30 years, I have given more than 1300 sermons. And I've listened to hundreds more. As a student of the process of communication, I think I have learned a few things along the way.

Most of these mistakes I have made myself. Some I still may make from time to time.

Most of these mistakes are philosophical. That is to say that they are not errors in implementation. They are errors in thinking, mistaken ideas about preaching itself.

The first mistake is both philosophical and practical. Many preachers try to cram too much into a single sermon. It is connected to a misunderstanding about the purpose of the sermon and trying to "accomplish" too much in one sitting.

I will address the philosophical aspect of this in a latter post. Practically, most "speeches" should not try to communicate more than one main point. When a speaker tries to "transfer" too much information, the listeners go into cognitive overload and remember nothing.

As a young preacher (in my early 20s) I would try to "cover" the same "material" that later would result in three or four sermons.

Now, I am not talking about the length of the sermon. I am talking about the informational density of the sermon.

If the preacher thinks of the sermon as delivering information in a way similar to how a freight train delivers goods (which has its own problems), then the train should have very few cars (ideally, one).

I have much more to say about this, but I will save it for when I address the underlying philosophical problem.

So what do you think? What mistakes would you like to nominate for this series?

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"


Anonymous said...

This mistake: forcing a Biblical text with more than one important claim to reduce to one.

I did this for the first two years of preaching, then started allowing the narrative and the argument within a text play itself out in the sermon.

Pastor Rod said...


There are many mistakes, I think, that begin by forcing the text to fit some kind of preconceived notion.

Thanks for your contribution.



I have taught SS for over 30 years; and the same truths about content apply. Too many try to get it all in, instead of focusing on what can realistically be taught. Also, I suggest the speech be geared for the less educated. We're not there to impress, but to convey truth.