The Preacher's First MISTAKE

Like Us

Have you been making this mistake week in and week out?

If you heard that there was one mistake that you were making week in and week out — and that one mistake was dramatically hindering the effectiveness of your preaching — would you want to know what that one mistake was?

Or if you heard that there’s something that you’ve been doing for years that was causing a large number of the people in your congregation to tune out and start daydreaming about the rest of their day or week during your message, would you want to know what that one mistake was?

If you do, then you just discovered what that one mistake is.

Over the past three decades, I’ve listened to hundreds of preachers, speakers and teachers. And the number one mistake that they almost all make — and this even includes pastors of large churches — is they don’t hook their congregation/audience in the first few minutes.

Why? Because like experts in any field, they believe they know what the people listening to them need to hear. Just think through your own process of deciding what to preach on.

If you’re like most preachers, you have one of three primary processes.

1. What do I feel like speaking on?

2. What book (of the Bible) or topic haven’t I spoken on recently?

3. What are other preachers speaking on (i.e. you reference other pastors’ podcasts or websites)?

What do you notice about all three of those approaches?

Not one of them starts with the people you’re going to be speaking to. Isn’t that interesting?

I’ve taught communication for years, and I’m guessing you have too. So I’m pretty sure you’d never tell anyone that communication is all about what you want to say.

Communication 101 is about you and me considering the person (or people) we’re going to be speaking to and, based on whom they are and what’s going on in their world, deciding what we should to say to them. In other words, we start with them, not us.

Starting out a message without creating a hook is really hubris, if you think about it.

Bruce Johnson Bruce D. Johnson is a business growth strategist and the author of, “Breaking Through Plateaus." Bruce is an expert in the areas of business growth, strategic planning, leadership, systems thinking and development, positioning, and marketing to attract and retain more clients and customers.

More from Bruce Johnson or visit Bruce at

Please Note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, uncivil and off-topic. Read a detailed description of our Comments Policy.
  • Pstorpaul04

    I totally agree. I have always used interesting hooks and titles in rider to capture the interest of the pelople in attendance and it has been very well received.

  • G

    Looking at your one of three processes list shows the problem in Christianity today. The first and only process should be: “Lord, what would you have me speak on?

    • Duane G Henry

      I think the author of the article is more or less trying to make us think about how we say what the Lord wants us to speak on, not what to say. The Bible is a full wealth of knowledge. The Spirit gives us sensitivity as to which part of the Bible we should share. But I believe the Spirit also gives us creativity in how we share it. Even though that’s not spelled out in this article, that’s what I take away from it.

    • Geoff Warder

      Of course the question is “What do You want me to talk about?” Being Spirit-led does not mean abandoning good communication techniques. This article is not about what to say but how to be more effective by actually grabbing the audience’s attention. It doesn’t matter how Spiritual the content if the people aren’t listening,

  • Mike Stidham

    You neglected a fourth decision process with pastors…”What are the lectionary texts for this week?”

  • Paul

    this is a basic concept that was made applicable to those in church leadership and even secular teaching positions by Bruce Wilkinson in his book, The Seven Laws of the Learner. He discusses “creating need” in the listener so that they have an interest to hear what you’re going to say, but he goes way beyond this simple step and explains how to help the listener actually learn the material that you’re speaking. It’s good to keep your audience attentive, but what you really want is for them to leave and actually remember what you said. I highly recommend that anyone who wants to be a better communicator or better preacher read his book. It changed the way I thought about teaching and it is a great resource.

  • Deana Callins

    From the Inside-Out (in Christ). If our Spirit is healthy. All other things around us are and will become a Manifestation of our heal-thy spirit Life. The world is the opposite. It likes to look and appear Healthy on the “Outside”, but all things within are sick. And In ‘Need’. Of ONE; spiritual Thing. A Healing Savior to Dwell on the Inside. To make All Things (in us) New!
    In The Blessing of the Spirit which IS the riches and glory of Jesus Christ. There IS Jesus, Unity of the Spirit (joined together), peace, love, joy, and mercy without limits.
    But in the Flesh: there is strife, disputes, dis-ease, competing, Self effort, Self righteousness, Selfishness, and Self. In Christ we died with him from our old nature that gave dominion to the Flesh. And with him Raised to A New Life. Of Power In His Spirit. No more led by the impulses of the Flesh. But, Now (we are) led by the Spirit of Love!


WATCH: Tom McDaniels: Death Words

“God has spoken life over you and not death over you.”