The 10 Biggest Mistakes Preachers Make

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Even the best preachers fall into patterns that make them less effective. Check out these 10 preaching mistakes, and discover tips for how to improve your preaching this Sunday—and every Sunday. 

Mistake #10: Being unclear about what you believe is Good News.

"To be unclear is to be unkind."

Not only is that true when telling someone our expectations or giving directions, but a lack of clarity in our message is also unkind to our listeners. 

If we're not clear, neither will they be. 

How do you get clear? Start with what you believe

  • In the Sunday's lessons, what is the Good News that God offers? 
  • Do you believe that Good News? Believe it enough to proclaim it to all the world?

Then ask yourself, "What do I want them to know?" 

Let those answers guide your sermon, then filter your content through that focus, and your clarity will increase significantly.


Mistake #9: Believing your message isn't good enough.

Does your message contain Good News? 

Do you believe that Good News? 

Do we need to hear that Good News?

Then it's good enough.


Mistake #8: Presenting someone else's work as your own.

You would only do this if you're making Mistake #9.

Trust the message God has given you. Give credit for others' thoughts and words where credit is due. 


Mistake #7: Comparing yourself to other preachers.

This mistake also relates to #9. Were you called to preach? Do you trust God is equipping you for the work you are called to? Then rest in that truth.

Learn, practice, and grow perpetually, of course. That's why we're here.

But let your best, empowered by the Holy Spirit, be enough.


MISTAKE #6: We Preach "AT" our listeners

If we preach "at" our listeners, then we're not including ourselves as people equally in need of God's redeeming grace. Every effective sermon is preached in empathy, not judgement. 


MISTAKE #5: Squeeze sermon prep in between everything else we have to do.

Why is sermon prep so often the "movable feast"? 

Yes, we can be flexible to some degree about when we do our prep, but too often we flex it the point that it's inconvenient to us or our families.

What does that say about how we much we value our preaching and the stewardship of our time? Preaching, as seriously important as it is, should not always be the center of our family's universe.


MISTAKE #4. We Don't tell our lay leaders and/or superiors what we need to prepare adequately.

It's almost embarrassing for many to admit they have to prepare. And that it takes time to craft an effective sermon.. 

A lot of time. Proportionately, more time than almost any other single aspect of ministry.

But that time spent is our ministry. For which we are compensated. And which is not an add-on to our job description. We do not volunteer to prepare in our spare time. So why don't other things get put behind preaching in the priority queue instead of in front of it?

Because we don't admit the time our preaching requires to those who need to know. Including, often, ourselves.

To prepare effective sermons week after week without sacrificing our families or sanity, we must communicate the time and preparation necessary—and guard that time as the ministry priority that it is.


MISTAKE #3. We Don't read scripture for fun.

Scripture isn't just a means to a sermon's end.

Scripture is our story. 

Scripture is our life.

It's our life in God.

That's fun.

Let the Scripture live in your life beyond just the text for your sermon.

Mistake #2. We Don't pray.

To pray is to respond to God who is trying to get our attention, who makes us think of the idea to pray in the first place.

It's rude not to listen when someone is speaking to us. Even when that someone is so soft-spoken S/He can be hard to hear. Even when S/He speaks in silence—and changes our spirit into G-d's without our even noticing it.

When our preaching and pastoral life is rooted in prayer, preparation becomes communion rather than a chore and preaching becomes an offering rather than a performance, Our perspective is re-oriented to Christ rather than on ourselves.

MISTAKE #1. WE Forget why we preach.

Why do we preach?

When we avoid Mistakes #2 & 3 above—and incorporate Scripture and prayer into our life consistently—the Good News is planted and grown and sown in us over and over. In turn, we know and can preach Christ, offering a harvest of mercy, forgiveness, grace, and truth to our listeners.  


Avoiding these mistakes brings us closer to being authentic preachers, 

true to God, ourselves, and our vocations. 

When we preach authentically

we proclaim with our lips what we believe in our lives, 

and it all fits together as One.


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