Can We Get Better at Preaching?

I read a blog post by a seminary professor that humorously answered this question by saying, “No, of course not. I’m just doing this for the money.”

Why would I suggest that preachers should intentionally strive to get better in their ministry of preaching?

First Timothy was Paul’s letter to his true son in the faith, Timothy. His purpose was to give instruction on church matters and how a pastor like Timothy should conduct himself with and in front of his congregation. There was indecision in Timothy’s heart, perhaps because of his age, and Paul sought to embolden him to give himself to his preaching and teaching ministry. Through concentration and perseverance, young Timothy would make visible progress in his preaching and teaching ministry (v.13).

The call to improvement in preaching has nothing to do with age but everything to do with attitude. (If the relevance of this imperative to improve doesn’t apply to every preacher, then how could we assert that other parts of 1 Timothy are relevant to pastoral ministry today?)

We’ve all heard the old adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks. But this is only true if the proverbial old dog thinks that new tricks are only for puppies. An old dog can possess the attitude of a puppy and learn every new trick that he needs to learn.

I remember someone saying this: “The apostle Paul has no category for a preacher who thinks that he has peaked in his preaching ministry.”In other words, Paul’s admonition to Timothy to make progress in his preaching and teaching ministry was a universal imperative and one that every herald of the gospel must take seriously.

The Progress Project

Preachers seem to live Sunday to Sunday. Our lives are defined by those times when God’s people gather and we proclaim to them the riches of Christ Jesus.

I have humorously told my family for years on Saturday nights late in the evening, “I’m about to get my game face on.” But there is a sense in which I feel like an athlete getting ready to compete, or like a solider preparing for battle. Maybe those aren’t the best metaphors but somehow they resonate within me.

HOWEVER…as a preacher of the gospel, I am not defined by any single day but rather all of my days in which I discharge my stewardship as a herald of the truth.

Each day takes on even greater importance when I embrace the call to make continual progress in my preaching. This is what Paul enjoined Timothy to do in 1 Timothy 4:15 with these words:

 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

The things referred to were listed a few verses earlier: public reading of Scripture, exhortation, and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). In other words, Paul had in mind Timothy’s ministry of preaching and teaching, which was at the heart of his pastoral ministry.

The practice of these things, the immersion of one’s self in them, and the subsequent progress and growth–it’s not just something one day a week. Rather, it is something we do everyday. That’s why I am maintaining that preachers are defined by every day, not just Sundays.

For this reason, I invite you to join me in the Progress Project, an on-going pursuit of improvement in one’s preaching. Let’s ask ourselves this question everyday: “What can I do today to get better in my preaching?” And at the end of everyday, let’s ask ourselves: “What did I do to improve my ability to study, understand, and share the truth of Scripture to God’s people each week?”