How to Help Your Pastor Become a Better Preacher
I could probably call myself a “sermon junkie.” I watch several sermons a week on YouTube, and I’m blessed to belong to a church where the pastor is a good preacher. But there have still been seasons over the last couple decades where I’ve left the church after a Sunday service feeling like, “Eh…today’s sermon was okay. I’ve pretty much heard it before.”
One of the dangers we face the longer we’ve been in the church is losing the spark we had at first for hearing God’s Word preached so we could go out that very week and apply what we learned. My mission is to do all I can to protect my heart and yours from becoming stagnant or calloused when it comes to hearing and living out the truth of the Gospel.
If you’ve been in the church for quite some time, and have ever wished your pastor would preach better sermons, I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, and watch the video first, and follow it up with the 5 action steps.
Two caveats about the video:
- At the beginning of the video, I’m “acting irreverently” exaggeratedly and on purpose, to help make a point.
- If you’re a new Christian, you’re not the target audience for this post. If you’re a new Christian who is excited to listen to every sermon possible, and to hear and learn God’s Word so you can apply it in your own life, don’t ever stop! (And help the “been there – heard that” older Christians in your church to regain the joy of falling in love with Jesus and of telling others about Him.)
5 Actions Steps You Can Take to Make Your Pastor’s Sermons Better
#1 Pray often for your pastor and for your heart toward him.
Pray for God to bring skilled servants alongside him.
Even though Ephesians 4:12 says that pastors are to train and equip the saints for the work of the ministry, it’s often feels hard to find those saints who are not willing to let the pastor do everything. Pray that God will bring many good leaders with a submissive heart to follow his leadership as they lead others to do the same.
Pray for God to protect his heart.
I believe pastors are Satan’s prime targets. When praying for my pastor, I always think of James 4:6 that says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”(NIV) I want my pastor to receive nothing but grace and favor from God, so while asking God to pour out that grace and favor, I also ask God to keep him humble in the midst of a growing and flourishing church.
For your heart toward him:
Pray for a loving heart.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)
“Lord, help me to be patient while he cares for other sheep in the flock. Help me never dishonor him by what I say to others about him. Help me to trust that he truly has my best interest at heart, and help me to always hope for the best for him and his family.”
Pray for a submissive heart.
Hebrews 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (NIV)
Praying for your pastor will make you like him more, and it’s a simple fact that our ears and hearts are always more open to people we like.
#2 Examine your expectations.
Pastors have way more to do than to prepare sermons.
As much as I enjoy teasing senior pastors about the fact that they “only work on Sundays,” the truth I know is that their job is endless. True, each pastor needs to be diligent in studying God’s Word and allocating time in their schedules to prepare their sermons. But as a listener, if I remind myself that they have a full-time job even above and beyond sermon prep time, I find I can enjoy cutting them some slack.
Try preparing your own sermon.
Now do it 51 more weeks in a row. No repeats. In any arena, it’s way more easy to criticize others about something we’ve never had to do. I know how much time I take to prepare a weekly blog post. Just doing that and not having a church to run on top of it makes me appreciate my pastor’s weekly sermon preparation all the more.
#3 Bring a journal to church.
Ink makes you think. Ever since I started bringing a journal to church just for sermon notes, the simple writing it down helps me focus in the present moment, and remember what was said long after the moment.
#4 Ask yourself questions about the sermon’s content.
This tip has by far been the most life-transforming of all five action steps. It seems we are content to hear and learn about God’s Word, but that alone leaves us in the thorny soil. Asking the right questions (and of course answering them) moves us to action. Here are some general questions that fit all sermons, and at the end of this post, I have an example of questions I asked to “improve” my pastor’s Isaiah 6 sermon back in August.
Am I currently doing what he’s telling us to do?
Is there something I need to stop doing in order to apply this truth?
What can I start doing in order to live out this truth even more?
Who am I currently sharing this truth with?
How can I share this truth with others to make more disciples?
#5 Revisit the sermon.
Do you remember what your pastor preached 2 months ago? Even those who have the best memories won’t remember all of the points of every sermon. That’s why writing notes in a journal is so valuable. You can keep going back to it and remember or relearn how to apply the truth in different seasons of life.
Two other ways to revisit a sermon:
Talk it over with others who heard it.
In my church, we have a weekly small group ministry where we can join a group to further discuss our pastor’s sermons. Almost always, we learn things from other group members who heard different points from the same sermon. It’s also a great opportunity to mentor those younger in their walk with Jesus.
Post notes where you can see them.
Keep your sermon journal handy, or post sermon notes—especially the questions you’ve asked about applying the sermon—around your house, in your car—wherever you’ll see them the most. Review them often.
I can’t delay anymore in giving A HUGE THANKS to my pastor—Pastor Wes Bell of Harvest Chapel in Sandwich, IL, for his great preaching and church leadership week after week, and for trusting me enough to give me permission to use his sermon in a post that he knew was entitled, How to Help Your Pastor Become a Better Preacher.
Below are the basic sermon notes from my pastor’s sermon on 8-21-17. I give them to you as an example of how to practice action step #4: Ask yourself questions. Each of my questions follows the letter “Q”.
A “LOOK” AT ISAIAH – Isaiah 6:1-8
1. LOOK UP – WE NEED A RENEWED FOCUS ON GOD
- Isaiah first mentions that King Uzziah had died, and continues, “Regardless of what happened with King Uzziah, I saw the Lord.
- A great king may have left his throne on earth, but the greatest King was still seated on the throne of heaven.
- Get focused on God: Who He is, how big He is, and how great are His plans for us.
- The chief attribute of God is not mercy, grace, love, compassion, power or knowledge. The chief attribute of God is holiness.
- Q: Am I seeing God as holy?
- Q: What am I missing in seeing God as holy?
- Q: What circumstances am I focusing on more than on God?
- Don’t let the imperfections of people keep us from pursuing/focusing on God.
2. LOOK IN – AND GET CLEANSED BY HIS GRACE
- Seeing God for who he is causes us to see ourselves for who we are. Isaiah confessed he was a sinner in this chapter, just like Peter did in Luke chapter 5.
- In the presence of God — Pride suddenly melts away and you become aware of your own sinfulness, your own inadequacy.
- The more I know of God the less I think of me.
- Because Jesus died for us on the cross we can be in the presence of God. We need not forget where we have come from, and what God has saved us from.
- Any time of day, and in any location, you can enter into God’s presence.
- We must hunger and thirst for more of God, more of his grace, more of his power, more of his love — we need more of God’s presence.
- Q: How desperate am I to see God and to know Jesus more?
- Q: Do I act like I’m convinced that I need His mercies every day?
- Q: Am I actually taking the time to focus on His mercies every day?
3. LOOK OUT – SEE THE NEED AND BE READY TO GO!
- When you have a one-on-one encounter with God, it affects the way you spend the rest of the day. It affects your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
- It’s impossible to turn away from the needs of others when you have had a personal encounter with God’s goodness.
- Here is how you will know that you are running on all 8 cylinders in your relationship with God: It doesn’t matter what God asks you to do you will do it.
- God has not assembled us here to play it safe, to be a country club, and has put us together to turn this community upside down with the message of hope that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ!
- Q: Where is God sending me?
- Q: Am I willing to go anywhere He says?