Not a whole lot! I do know this; the scripture says, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” I also know that this preaching is not just a formal proclamation from behind a pulpit, but a regular communication of the good news, often in informal settings. We are to faithfully and consistently reason with folks from the scriptures, explaining and proving who Jesus is and why that matters to us. So, I know that we are to preach, formally and informally, and that what we are to preach is Christ, from the scriptures. God help me to do just that!
I also know that a “preacher”, a man called by God and set apart by His church for the formal proclamation of the Bible, is prone to preaching mistakes. I know that, and so does everyone who has ever heard me preach. I came across this post – “Top 10 Preaching Mistakes” – by David Murray. (Incidentally, Murray has written an excellent book entitled Christians Get Depressed Too. I highly recommend it. Not suggesting that preaching and depression are linked! Just making you aware of a good and available resource on a prevalent and painful subject.)
I’ve linked Murray’s post, but I’ll list his “top 10” here, along with his comments.
- Cramming: Squeezing all you have ever studied about the Bible over the years into 30 minutes.
- Skimming: Taking too many verses and simply skimming over the surface of the text, teaching nothing that someone with average intelligence would not have themselves have got from the text.
- Floating: The preacher says many things that relate to the text, floating or hovering above the text, but fails to show how they are anchored in the text.
- Proof-texting: Including lots and lots of texts from all over the Bible, and sometimes diverting hearers by expounding the proof texts as much as the sermon text.
- Quoting: Too many quotes from commentators, theologians, and other preachers from the past and the present.
- Lecturing: It’s difficult to define the difference between preaching and lecturing, but you know it when you see it/hear it. It’s about passion, eye-contact, persuasion, urgency, etc.
- Assuming: Our own over-familiarity with the text results in us assuming that our hearers know the background of the text, the meaning of basic key words and concepts, etc. May also result in Mach 7 preaching speeds. And don’t assume your hearers are all converted either.
- Confusing: Hearers are left confused usually because of a lack of structure or too complicated a structure (main points, sub-points, etc.); or sometimes there is a good structure, but it’s not sufficiently highlighted and emphasized so that hearers know where they’ve been, where they are, and where they are going.
- Spraying: Lots and lots of data, but no single dominant thought; it’s the difference between a shotgun and a rifle.
- Complicating: Instead of explaining the text, a preacher can actually make it more obscure. Usually involves words too big, sentences too long, concepts too abstract, language too philosophical/theological.