10 Preaching Mistakes Everyone Can Avoid

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Ten tips that are easy to remember, but are equally easy to ignore!

If you want to help your hearers focus on God, and think on God when they leave your sermon, here are 10 things that you CANNOT do…

10. Over-repeat yourself. There is repetition for emphasis, and then there is repetition for annoyance. Discern between the two by listening to other preachers.  Perhaps you should ask your wife if you over repeat yourself. Wives are great assets to pastors because they will often tell you the truth. Church members are often overly-kind except for the few “preaching experts” in every congregation.

9. Form your own sermon points first, and then find a text to fit your points. Rarely will you find a text to fit your points; instead, in order to make the text fit, you will pluck the text out of context. The text should form your points, instead of you forcing your points onto a text. If you force your points on a text, it is impossible for the Christians in the pew to submit to your teaching and enjoy the Lord through the specific text you are preaching from.  (Granted, you are probably still preaching truth that is found elsewhere in the Bible; at least, I hope!)

8. Be very animated like Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. Everyone will either enjoy you or be terribly annoyed. If they leave the service thinking about you, regardless if it’s positive or negative, your sermon failed. Remember that the goal of preaching is to excellently allow the Word of God to stand on its own. So don’t be distractingly animated, and do not wear flashy suits or style your hair in a flashy way.

7. If you have a dry, boring personality, be overly-boring. Do not talk in a monotone voice. The goal is to excellently allow the Word to stand on its own, not to make the most-wonderful book ever written the most-boring book ever written. You may be so concerned with detracting from the Word that you just want to stand up and read in a monotone voice. Don’t do it because there is no proof in the Scriptures that any of the prophets, Christ, or apostles did such things when they spoke. In other words, when you overly-bore so you won’t detract from the Word, you actually detract from the Word, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. If you are a master of the English language like Jonathan Edwards, then you may be able to get away with this. If Edwards had preached like Whitefield, he may not have lead anyone to the Lord, for souls would have been too mesmerized by him to get to Christ.

6. If you have a humorous personality, be overly-humorous. The goal is to get your hearers to enjoy the Word of God, not to enjoy you. If they leave thinking “what a funny preacher,” then you preached a terrible sermon. The Word of God must be on their heart and mind when they leave; and if God is not on their mind when they leave, then they shouldn’t be able to lay this at your feet.

5. Preach your opinion or your various hobby-horses instead of what the text in front of you actually says. How can you excellently allow the Word of God to stand on its own when you ignore how God the Holy Spirit originally inspired the literary makeup of the text in its specific historical context? If the Word of God needs your innovation, then it is no longer the Word of God. The most-powerful interpretation is the interpretation that the text demands, not what we can speculate, dream up, or spiritualize. If the text demands spiritualizing, then spiritualize; however, if there is no warrant from the text, then you do not have authority to spiritualize. If you spiritualize without textual warrant, then you are detracting from the text. If your hearers listen and try to enjoy the Lord through your spiritualizing, and you have went beyond the text, then it is impossible for them enjoy the Lord through the text you are preaching.

4. Use Greek and Hebrew so your people will be impressed with you.  Do you know Greek and Hebrew?  Do your people know Greek and Hebrew? If not, then why in the world would you use Greek and Hebrew in your sermons? Do the exegetical work during your study time; and only use Greek and Hebrew in your sermon whenever it is absolutely necessary in order to communicate the text. This rule is true: Most pastors that I hear using Greek and Hebrew in their sermons do not know Greek and Hebrew, and most Greek and Hebrew scholars that are pastors do not use Greek and Hebrew in their sermons. I recommend not using Greek and Hebrew because if you do not know Greek and Hebrew, then you will probably misuse it. Here is a good rule of thumb: prepare and preach your sermon as if the original author of the Scripture is in your audience. If he and God the Holy Spirit can say “amen” to your sermon, then you have succeeded, but remember that both of them know what they intended; and they are fluent in the biblical languages!

3. Ignore the people who will be listening to your sermon. I preach in a rural church in Kentucky; and if you preach in a church in a large city, the language that both of us are allowed to use will be very different. Big theological words are intimidating in my area. By-words such as “crap,” “p*ss,” “s*cks,” cannot be said from the pulpit unless you want your people leaving thinking about the dirty words that you used. Furthermore, I’ve heard in Australia that you can say “sh*t” from the pulpit. I would be voted out of my church before I finished my sermon if I used such language.  If it is possible that it will offend, then don’t use the language! You will not know this though if you do not consider your audience. Furthermore, your illustrations should be understandable to your audience. If you are preaching to the elderly, they will not understand a reference to the Twilight Saga, Tupac, 50 Cent, etc., but you can probably reference Johnny Cash. If you are preaching in a city, farming references may not be easily understood. Consider these realities when preparing your sermon.

2. Regardless the age of your audience, you must get them to enjoy the Bible. This is the Holy Spirit’s job, not yours. Teaching children that the value of the Bible is bound up in its literary make-up, cool battle stories, or miraculous elements will not help your audience to truly enjoy the Bible; it will merely help them to enjoy the genres or stories of Scripture. Any atheist can enjoy these elements; however, Christians should ultimately enjoy the Word of God because it is the Word of God.

1. Tell a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text. Why would you use a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text? You want your hearers to think on the text, not on something else. Whenever you detract from the text, you are only doing the Devil’s and their flesh’s work for them; because, they don’t want your hearers to focus on the text either.

What are your thoughts about this list?  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He’s currently the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of "10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped." Jared is married to Amber and together they have three children. He has a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Trinity College of the Bible, an M.A.R. in Biblical Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.Div. in Christian ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), a Th.M. in Systematic Theology (ABT) from SBTS, and he’s currently a PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS.

More from Jared Moore or visit Jared at http://jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com

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  • PJ

    These are great reminders for all who have been entrusted with teaching the Word of God. Christ must increase and we must decrease.

  • Guest

    It also helps to teach the proper word of God, for the New Covenant, which Jesus taught in the four Gospels..His words are the requirements for the Covenant, which was sealed with His blood….the majority of christian churches which follow sunday are basing their teachings on pagan Rome of seventeen hundred years ago, and following the sun god, which prompted the change to sunday back then, at the expense of observing the Holy seventh day Sabbath…wake up you wannabe christians…..Jesus said “to enter into life keep the Commandments”, and “if you love me keep my Commandments”..he did not say nine of them..but all ten..remember salvation is through the Son of God, not the sun god!

    • Glenn

      the problem with your argument is that it goes against the liberty we have in Christ.  Didn’t Paul say that each needs to be convinced in his own mind when it comes to the day he or she chooses to worship?  also, don’t forget that the very earliest of church historians and extra biblical sources specifically stated that the Christians met the first day of the week to give honor and worship to Jesus.  I think, but don’t hold me to this, that it was . . . because Jesus ROSE FROM THE DEAD on the first day of the week is why Christ followers met on the first day of the week.  It had nothing to do with anything pagan.  So please, my friend, don’t try to push your legalism here.

      • Josh

        Mine is not an argument, it is fact…you are regurgitating what you have been taught by the mainstream wannabe christians..time you read Jesus words in the Gospels, then you would see the truth of which I am speaking, and quit following the pagan, false teachings of pagan Rome..only then will you know the truth and it will set you free!…Ps..your church historians and extra Biblical sources are no speaking of what is in the Bible…they cannot show you in the Bible where the fourth Commandment was ever cancelled..NOWHERE…Jesus kept it, Paul and the rest of the Apostles kept it, and did not substitute the first day of the week for the Holy seventh day Sabbath..of course they would not because it is God’s Holy ten Commandments, with the Sabbath being the fourth…so do yourself a favour and reach Jesus words for yourself, in the Gospels, as this is the whole foundation for Salvation, and the New Covenant!

  • Jeffparksjr5

     Isaiah 41 bring forth your Idols did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. Spalms 115 and Spalms 135 their Idols are FALSE they can’t speak, hear, nor smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their Idol down like a scarecrow it can’t move, speak they must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.
    John 10 Jesus Christ says his sheep HEAR HIS VOICE and if another person TRIES TO PREACH to them they WILL FLEE from him. Jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their OWN AUTHORITY what will you do when your judged my word is not INSIDE them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes BACK in TIME.
    Mathew 16 Jesus Christ claims to be the son of man. 1 cor 2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 14 says the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 states lying prophets of ISRAEL say GOD says GOD says but my word is not inside them. They wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. All of this is EASILY verifiable.
    Mathew 10 says you should hear an internal voice that defends you and tells you what to say when taken to court preached to by the holy ghost. Mathew 12 Jesus states he is preaching by the holy ghost. John 14 states holy ghost comes in future and is from someone else. Now refer back to John 10 about hearing from someone else and fleeing. John 5 states son of mans voice goes back in time. Mathew 16 Jesus claims to be the son of man.
    1 cor 2 holy ghost is familiar with the story about a man on cross from READING about it. Isaiah 65 written in front of me is listed here and also what is not written is hidden from my eyes therefore not familiar with it found in the same chapter. john 7 Jesus says if you knew scripture you’d know if its his word or GODS words. john 12 Jesus admits the voice heard is NOT his. John 10 people point out that Jesus tries to make himself appear to be GOD.

  • aussieaussieaussie

    Just saying; i’m from Australia andd we never say s*it when at the plpit. Thaankls for the great tips on what not to do during yuor first sermon though. I havve found these to be very helpful. God bless.

  • Matthew Holly

    I strongly disagree with your 9th point. Making your outline and finding text to support it is not preaching from God’s word, but from your own. How can the Holy Spirit work in you and others without first looking to scripture to convey a message. This is God speaking through you, not the other way around.

    Grade: 10
    Age 16

    • AZHusker

      The author listed things you should not do, so you’re actually agreeing with him, as he said not to “Form your own sermon points first, and then find a text [ie Scripture] to fit your points.”

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